“Great Balls of Fire” passed over Linville: Part II

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Continued memories from fellow students during Jerry Lee’s time at Linville:

Presley Parks: “Man, we wanted to break his fingers, ‘cause all the girls were crazy about that joker.”

Jon McKinnie: “Jerry Lee and I teamed up to win the school’s talent contest that year. He was older than me, but he still took time to advise the kid. We practiced on the stage in the gymnasium. He could make that old piano walk across the stage. Obviously his musical skills overcame my lack of vocal talent.”

Richard Lowery: “The teachers eventually locked the gymnasium to keep Jerry Lee from destroying the old upright piano in there. After lunch periods, one could hear strains of “The Double Eagle,” as Jerry Lee pounded it out on the piano.”

Mary R Smith: “Jerry Lee was in the 8th grade with Fred and me. I remember Jerry Lee and Fred in the Home Economics room together cooking, though I can’t remember what they cooked. All I remember is that he stayed in the gym playing the piano.”

While at Linville, all the girls swooned over Jerry Lee, especially Dorothy Barton.

Gloria Dawn Love: “Also I remember I was sitting in the old ninth grade classroom the day he and Dorothy left school to go get married.”

Their marriage was short-lived, divorcing within a year. Jerry Lee was on a marital roller-coaster ride resulting in six marriages, including his second cousin (third wife).

Gene Barron: “Jerry started out locally playing with a guy named Al Jordan. Al was great on the fiddle. They called themselves “Al and Jerry,” playing around Monroe on the Ouachita Valley Jamboree for many months.”

That’s All Right, Mama!”... When Jerry Lee heard Elvis Presley on the radio, he realized he should take a shot at this. A small company in Memphis, called Sun Records, had signed Elvis to a recording contract. Jerry Lee and his father financed a trip to Memphis with money they earned by selling 33 dozen eggs at Nelson’s Supermarket in Ferriday.

Gene Barron: “With Elvis hitting it big, Jerry told Al Jordan that they needed to go to Memphis and see if they could get recorded. Al had a family and couldn’t afford to go. So Jerry went alone, and the rest is history.

“Much later, when Jerry Lee held a show in Monroe, he was about to play the fiddle when he saw Al in the audience. He announced, “Here I am, going to play the fiddle and I see in the audience one of the greatest fiddlers ever. Come up here Al and help me.” They played a tune together.”

The afternoon of Tuesday, December 4, 1956 remains the most famous date in the history of Rock and Roll. That was the day “The Million Dollar Quartet” jammed in Sun Studio! Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash sang, played and had a good time together. Luckily, Sam Phillips let the tape machine run... which “The Quartet” didn´t know about.

Now it was time to let Jerry Lee show his skills to rock and roll. With his cousin J.W. Brown on bass, Jimmy Van Eaton on drums, and Roland Janes on guitar, Jerry Lee cut a rock version of the song “Whole Lotta’ Shakin´ Goin´ On.” On a single take, they recorded one of the most legendary rock and roll songs ever! Jerry Lee claims that they didn´t even know the tape machine was running. And as they say, “The rest is history.”

So Linville School’s brief exposure to Jerry Lee Lewis in 1952 was only a preview of the man-child who turned the musical world on its ear. Probably what was a brief moment in time for him brings a smile and happy feet to all of the Linville students who experienced his music.

Union Parish native, Jon R McKinnie’s career has taken him throughout the world. Jon & his wife, Phyllis Richardson, moved back to Union Parish about four years ago. Jon currently serves as President/CEO of Union Parish’s Chamber of Commerce. Jon can be reached at president@unionparishchamber.org