Killer handshake at Hernando’s Hideaway

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, November 2, 2022

By Ricky Swindle

Muffler Shop Musings

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Rest in peace, “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis.

The last man standing of The Million Dollar Quartet has left this world to see The Man in charge.

That ol’ boy from Ferriday, LA, shook up the world with that pumping piano and his wild man antics.

It’s always amazed me that those three cousins – Jerry Lee, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart – grew up across the river from Natchez and rose to worldwide fame from just humble roots.

Like them are not, you have to admit those old boys could flat natural play and sing. All three of them could beat the 88 keys off any piano they came across.

I’ve never had the opportunity to cross paths with Jimmy Swaggart, but I did get the chance to meet and visit a few minutes with The Killer and Mickey.

I spent a little time years ago in Branson with Mickey. He was a soft spoken fellow with a kind of aw shucks attitude and he genuinely enjoyed playing music and meeting his fans.

He was a great businessman and never lost sight of his upbringing and where he came from. He just sat back and carried on with me about everything but music. He was a kind individual to carry on a conversation with.

Now “The Killer”, I met him in the late 80s about 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the parking lot of Hernando’s Hideaway in Memphis.

I was a young man and caught a ride up there with my Daddy’s best friend, Stanley Goodwin. The Hideaway was an after hours place that a lot of boys from Batesville frequented often. They were well acquainted with the owners, staff, and patrons including their most famous patron, Jerry Lee Lewis.    

Back in the day, folks didn’t gripe much about second hand cigarette smoke because that’s just the way it was. Those old bars were like wading through a fog of smoke at times and if you didn’t smoke, you just dealt with it the best you could.

About 2, I needed fresh air and told Stanley I was stepping outside for a breather. So I edged my way through the packed out house and headed for the exit.

I got outside and was just sitting on the hood of Stanley’s car and getting a little air when I saw this fancy Excalibur car with the chrome side pipes coming from the hood and down the side of the vehicle. I was thinking mercy what a fancy looking car pulling up in here.

I kept watching and a lady was driving and she opened the door and got out. Then the passenger stepped out and I thought, well I be dang, that’s Jerry Lee Lewis.

So I hollered across the parking lot “Hey, Killer” and he yelled back “Hey, Boy”. I told him “I’d sure like to shake your hand” and he said “Well you can’t do it over there so come on over here, son”.

So I walked over there and he was dressed in a tux and his wife, at the time, Karrie, told me “Jerry just flew in from Vegas and he’s tired and we just stopped for one drink.”

I said “Yes ma’am I understand” and I reached out my hand to him and he grabbed me with a grip of all grips. The man was stout in his right hand and he kept holding and squeezing my hand harder and harder.

I thought he was going to break my hand but I never gave notice. Just told him how nice it was to meet him.

Now, Jerry Lee wasn’t a very large man in stature and here he was in a parking lot with a 6 ft. tall, 200 lb. young man he’d never met, he was sizing me up and I knew it. I just kept holding his right hand.

He said “What are you doing out here Boy?” I told him it was just a bit smoky in there and I was catching a breath. I told him I’d rode up there with Stanley and he asked “Stanley, who?”

I told him Stanley Goodwin from Batesville and his grip let up and he said “Ol’ Stanley’s in there?” and I said “Yeah, him and J.W. Luttrell are at the bar.”

He said, “Dang Ol’ J.W. here, too?” I told him yeah, at the bar.

He said “Well, who are you son?”  I told him I’m Ricky Swindle from Batesville, Hubert’s my Daddy. He just laughed and said it’s great to meet you son.

Then Karrie said, “OK, you had your visit so go on over where you was.” Then Jerry’s chest pokes out and he said, “Woman, I’m talking to a friend, so you go in there and bring me and this boy out a cold beer”.

He was serious and I said “That’s okay, Killer, don’t want you getting in no trouble.” He said “Son, I am Jerry Lee Lewis, I am trouble. She’s gonna get us a beer and we’re gonna drink it right out here.”

A couple minutes later, here she comes toting the beer. I spent another 15 or minutes or so shooting the bull with him and that ol’ gal was just eyeing me down. I shook his hand again, the regular normal way this time, and we parted ways.

I walked back in and told Stan and JW I talked to Jerry Lee out in the parking lot and they were waiting on him to walk in but he never did. I walked back outside to look and that Excalibur car was gone. I figure that ol’ gal was hostile and they hit the road.

I watched many interviews with him this past weekend and in one of them he said “I’ve never hidden anything, I lived my life out in the wide open for all to see.” I give him that he sure did.

Being 22 years old and marrying your 13 year old cousin is not something a completely sane individual would do in my opinion, but he didn’t think nothing of it.

Times have changed and I’m glad they have because a 22 year old should not have any relations with a 13 year old whatsoever, but things were different back then.

No one really speaks much about a 15 year old Loretta Lynn marrying Doolittle Lynn and him 21. Wasn’t right in either case, in my opinion, but it was a whole lot of that going on decades ago.

I saw another interview where the guy said Jerry Lee had to have bodyguards and they were not there for his protection, they were there to protect you from him. I laughed and thought about that night 30 some odd years ago in that parking lot and that little fella doing his best to break my hand. But it all turned out well. Made for a good story I think.

For all he was, he was definitely a true musical talent, a pioneer, an innovator. The man knew how to reinvent himself. When he lost his rock and roll career, he became a country music hit maker. I’d rather him sing “Me and Bobby McGee” or “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” than anyone.

The best music he’s ever recorded is his gospel tracks. He has an entire album he recorded in a church full of folks in DeSoto County in the early 70’s. I’ve listened to it countless times.

This is for you, Killer, the last verse to “That Lucky Old Sun.”

“Show me that river, take me across. Wash all my troubles away. Like that lucky old sun, ain’t got nothing to do but roll around Heaven all day.”

Take care of yourself folks and tune in this Saturday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Q105 FM, and FaceBook Live for this year’s Civitan Radio Day.