Jerry Lee Lewis, Arrested at the Gates of Graceland : Interview with Jerry Lee Lewis
September 2, 2017
The police report on the incident stated that the Breathalyzer test yielded negligible results, but that Lewis was obviously tanked on something and that he was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and driving without a license. After the infraction Lewis most likely returned to his home to rest.
On November 23, 1976, less than 12 hours later, he was holding court at The Vapors, one of his favorite Memphis nightspots. For reasons that are still debated, Lewis decided to leave the Vapors at about 2:30 a.m.
Precisely 2:50 a.m., almost 24 hours later to the minute, he again pulled up to Graceland, this time in a new Lincoln Continental. The car wasn't the only thing that had changed from the night before. Lewis' manner was markedly different. He was armed, angry, and obviously inebriated -- a dangerous combination for a man mere mortals call 'Killer', He was outta his mind, man', recalls Loyd. 'He was screamin', hollerin', and cussin'.
'Get on the goddamn phone. I know you got an intercom system. Call up there and tell Elvis I wanna visit with him. Who the hell does he think he is? Tell him the Killer's here to see him'.
Loyd panicked. 'I just put my hands up in the air and said, 'Okay, okay, Jerry, just take it easy', Loyd retreated to the guard booth and picked up the house phone. One of 'the boys' answered and Loyd apprised him of the situation. Loyd was advised to call the cops and wasted no time in doing so.
Jerry Lee Lewis, Arrested at the Gates of Graceland: The Police arrest mug-shots.
Moments later Elvis himself rang down to the guard booth. Loyd recalls their conversation precisely. 'Elvis was on the line and he said, 'Wh-wh-what' -- see, he used to stutter a lot when he got upset -- 'Wh-wh-what the hell's goin' on down there, Harold?' 'I said, 'Well, Jerry Lee Lewis is sittin' in his car down here outside the gate, wavin' a derringer pistol and raisin' hell', 'Elvis said, 'Wh-wh-what's that goddamn guy want?' (I said) 'He's demanding to come up and see Elvis'. 'He said, 'Oh, I-I-I don't wanna talk to that crazy sonofabitch. Hell no, I don't wanna talk to him. I'll come down there and kill him! You call the cops, Harold', 'I told him I already did and he said, 'Good. When they get there tell 'em to lock his butt up and throw the goddamn key away. Okay? Thank you, Harold', (Elvis is said to have watched the 'whole drama on his closed-circuit monitors').
Officer Billy J. Kirkpatrick was the first to arrive on the scene. Though Lewis was still seated in his car, Kirkpatrick knew he was armed and approached with caution.
The Lincoln's sole occupant sat staring out the front window. When the police got to the open driver's side window, they found that the man was Jerry Lee Lewis, balanced on his knee was a chrome-plated, over- under style .38 caliber derringer pistol. Kirkpatrick ordered him out of the car, but Lewis would not comply', (Kirkpatrick) had to pull him outta the car', remembers Loyd.
'He told him to keep his hands on the steering wheel where he could see 'em. Jerry said he just wanted to see Elvis, but Kirkpatrick told him to shut up. Now, Jerry, he had tried to hide his pistol by puttin' it in between his knee and the door. But when Kirkpatrick opened the door, the damn gun fell out onto the floorboard (laughs).
Kirkpatrick picked up the gun, and it was cocked and loaded', Mr. Lewis was extremely unstable on his feet, his speech was slurred, and his breath smelled of alcohol. Mr. Lewis was apprised of his rights and was arrested for carrying a pistol and being drunk in a public place. The police report states that on closer inspection, Kirkpatrick noticed that the front passenger window of Lewis' car was smashed in. This accounts for the deep gash on the bridge of Lewis' nose, obvious from his mugshot. According to Kirkpatrick's report, the injury was sustained 'from broken glass resulting from attempting to jettison an empty champagne bottle thru (sic) the closed window of his '76 Lincoln', Kirkpatrick and four other officers took Lewis away immediately. But Loyd would receive another visitor before night's end. He explains', When the wrecker came down and towed Jerry's car away (at approximately 4 a.m.) they hadn't much more than gotten outta sight when another car comes flyin' up the driveway and two guys got out. I recognized one of 'em as Jerry Lee's dad.
'He was laughin', sayin', 'Ha, ha, ha, ain't this some crap, man? I just got word that they've taken my son to jail. This guy with me here, he just got me outta the Hernando jail. I just got out, and Jerry done gone ahead'. Sure enough, Elmo Lewis -- age 78, no less -- was arrested at 7:30 p.m. on the 21st for speeding and driving while intoxicated. He spent two nights in jail and failed to make his court appearance scheduled for the morning of 23rd. Like father, like son, indeed.
Here is Jerry Lee Lewis' own account of what happened, as related by Kay Martin: the president of Lewis' fan club .... 'Elvis called him and asked him to come out to the house to talk to him. Jerry was out on the town and by the time he got to Elvis' house, it was much past when Elvis had expected him and Elvis was asleep. Jerry had driven up after a sheriff from MS had given him a brand new handgun, but since Jerry did not have a permit for a concealed weapon, he had it on the dashboard of his car, as the sheriff had supposedly suggested. The guard at Graceland asked Jerry what he was doing with the gun, and sarcastically Jerry said he hadn't brought it to kill Elvis, so the guy should chill out. He didn't. He called the cops. Jerry was PO'ed, but the gun stayed on the dash the whole time. The situation blew over because it was a tempest in a teapot.
The sheriff who had given Jerry the gun cleared it up, too'.
Linda Gail (Jerry Lee's youngest sibling) interpretation of November 23rd also tells a similar story. 'Jerry Lee admitted to me that he had been partyin' and drinkin' and that he was a little bit out of it', Gail recalls', but he swore his intentions were good. He's very misunderstood, you see. It's a shame really', By Linda Gail's account, it was Presley who wanted to see Jerry Lee. (As told to her by her father and as he describes in the video below) He was depressed and called over to the Vapors hoping that Jerry Lee would come to Graceland and keep him company. She insists that Loyd never even informed Presley of Jerry Lee's arrival and that Jerry Lee grew belligerent only because he feared for what Presley might do if he didn't see him.
'I believe, really and truly, that the people who were associated with Elvis at that time were trying to manipulate him. He was supporting all of them financially, and it was in their best interest to keep him isolated', Linda Gail continues', Jerry really had no motive to lie. Why would he leave a place where he was having a perfectly good time to go down to Elvis' house and make a scene? It just doesn't make any sense. He had his whole entourage with him, and a couple of girlfriends and they were having a great time. There was no reason for him to go down there other than that he was concerned for his friend', Linda Gail's voice takes on a halcyon quality when she remembers Elvis and Jerry Lee's friendship. She speaks of their mutual respect for one another and tells stories of them riding motorcycles together and even going on double dates.
'Those two guys really did love each other', she says. 'I do believe my brother just wanted to check on Elvis. He went there to cheer him up and kinda bond with him again. I guess everybody over at Graceland didn't want the two of them to get together because Jerry was really havin' one big party at the time. If he and Elvis had started runnin' the roads together, can you imagine what that would have been like? It probably would have been more than Memphis could have stood'.
I called Lewis' production company hoping to get an account of that infamous evening from the Killer himself. I didn't get very far. 'We don't need all that bullshit from y'all', barked an anonymous voice at the end of the line. 'That's in the past. If you wanna write something, write something positive, okay? Thank you much'. Click.
The Million Dollar Quartet
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley dropped in on Sam Phillips to pay a social visit while Carl Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks with Lewis backing him on piano. The three started an impromptu jam session, and Phillips left the tape running. He later telephoned Johnny Cash and brought him in to join the others. These recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, survived, and have been released on CD under the title Million Dollar Quartet. Tracks also include Elvis Presley's 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Paralyzed', Chuck Berry's 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man', Pat Boone's 'Don't Forbid Me' and Presley doing an impersonation of Jackie Wilson (who was then with Billy Ward and the Dominoes) impersonating him on 'Don't Be Cruel'.
Buy Million Dollar Quartet CD
About Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis (born September 29, 1935) is an American rock and roll and country music singer, songwriter and pianist. An early pioneer of rock and roll music, Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2003, they listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology #242 on their list of '500 greatest albums of all time'.
Hits and awards
Between 1957 and 2006, the date of his latest release 'Last Man Standing', 47 singles plus 22 albums (The Session counted as 2 albums) made the Top Twenty Pop, Jukebox, Rock, Indie and/or Country charts in USA or UK. 14 reached #1 position. He's had nine official gold disks, plus unofficial ones issued by his record company Mercury for albums which sold over a quarter of a million copies. His 2006 duets CD Last Man Standing has sold over half a million worldwide, his biggest selling album ever. Jerry Lee Lewis is also among the Top 50 all-time Billboard Country artists. It is also rumored that the soundtrack album to the movie, Great Balls Of Fire, has now sold over a million copies. The original Sun cut of 'Great Balls of Fire' was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and Jerry's Sun recording of 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On' received this honor in 1999. Only recordings which are at least 25 years old and have left a lasting impression can receive this honor. Along with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, Jerry received a Grammy in the spoken word category for the very rare album of interviews released with some early copies of the The Class of 55 album in 1986. On February 12, 2005, Jerry received the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award the day before the Recording Academy's main Grammy Awards ceremony, which he also attended, picture below. On October 10, 2007, Jerry received the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters Award.
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