Ferriday, Delta Music Museum's Hall of Fame (02.03.2002)

Source: Tim Congdon (New York Representative of the Jerry Lee Lewis Fan Club)

(photographs copyright 2002 by Tim Congdon)

 

On March 2nd, the town of Ferriday, Louisiana was just itching to see the return and reunion of their favorite sons, the three cousins- Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart. Along with Pee Wee Whittaker, they were scheduled to be inducted into the Delta Music Museum's Hall of Fame. The new museum was the first stop of the Louisiana Calvalcade, a tour de force conceived by W. Fox McKeithen, the Louisiana Secretary of State that would make several stops in the ensuing weeks in notable Louisiana destinations, culminating in Shreveport, at the home of the famous Louisiana Hayride. (The Hayride was one of the first venues in which Jerry Lee Lewis first appeared.) Mr. McKeithen's office and staff, headed by Amy Edwards, had been working on this promotional tour of Louisiana for many months and it turned out to be a great time in Ferriday, despite the absence of Jerry Lee.

the sign entering ferriday
jimmy and mickey sharing a moment together
mickey up on the stage autographing something for a fan

Present among the large crowd, besides Mickey and Jimmy, were Cecil Harrelson; J.W. Brown, and his wife, Lois; Omar Rivers, guitarist for Hank Williams's Driftin' Cowboys; Roy-El, a Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley impersonator; Donny Swaggart, Jimmy's son; Hunter Hayes, a young 11 year old concertina player whose Cajun music stole the show; Pee Wee Whittaker's widow and son, who accepted the award posthumously for Mr. Whittaker; and last but not least, Jerry Lee's niece, Marian Jean Terrell. Marian Jean, along with her mom, Frankie Jean Lewis Terrell, runs the Terrell's Drive Thru and the Lewis House, the home and museum of Jerry Lee Lewis's family which includes not just "The Killer" but "The Thriller", Linda Gail Lewis.

are jimmy and mickey
j.w. brown with his wife, lois, and cecil harrelson holding the cup
jimmy with his wife and son holding his award

Marian Jean took us all up to the celebration where I ran into Cecil Harrelson along Louisiana Avenue. He pointed out the Arcade Movie Theatre, where he and Jerry Lee, his boyhood friend, would go see movies for 9 cents! And just past there was Duke's Department Store. "One day," as Cecil relates, "I was in the department store talking to the girls who worked there and in comes Jerry Lee. I said 'Look out ladies, here comes the Killer!' and after that, I started calling him Killer all the time. When Jerry Lee was talking to people, he'd just call them 'Killer,' too, and that tag has stuck on Jerry Lee ever since." Then, I had the pleasure to meet Secretary McKeithen and Ms. Edwards before bumping into Omar Rivers and his wife, Mary. And it was hard to miss Roy-El with his lovely escorts.

cecil, jimmy and j.w. brow
roy orbison-elvis impersonator called Roy-El with his 2 escorts
tim congdon and cecil

Soon Mickey and Jimmy showed up and we all went into a bank next to the new museum, which used to be the old Ferriday post office. There I got to meet Mickey and Jimmy and went along with them and the entourage into the museum. It was really nicely done with great exhibits from the careers of the four inductees, but everyone was wondering where Jerry Lee was. Back outside at the stage, it was announced that Jerry Lee wasn't coming. Rumor had it that he just didn't like the small twin engine plane they had waiting for his flight to Louisiana, but in reality the contract that the State of Louisiana had signed with Jerry Lee stipulated that he was supposed to have a full-fledged jet, even stating the make of plane they agreed to send. The memory of the wreckage of prop-jets Jerry sold in the past to Ricky Nelson and to the Lynyrd Skynyrd band perhaps had something to do with his reluctance to board a plane other than that which the State had promised.The show went on with Al Embry accepting Jerry's award and Jimmy and Mickey each doing a song or two after some kidding back and forth. The show ended with Mickey doing a version of "Great Balls of Fire" in the stead of his cousin.

church where the lewis family attended services when jerry lee, linda gail and frankie jean were kids
he marble plaques in front of the museum with pictures of the 3 cousins and pee wee whittaker engraved on them

After the show, many of us returned to the Lewis House where J.W. and Lois Brown showed up along with Cecil and Jimmy with his family, and Mike McCall, the editor of Country Music Magazine. It was a nice little gathering that went on into the evening with Marion Terrell and his wife, Frankie Jean being gracious hosts to all. Since Jerry was not there, when it came time to call it a day, I was given Jerry's old bedroom, filled with all his things, and slept in his former bed. It was a strange feeling to wake up the next morning in his bed, in his room. It was even stranger to walk out into the house only to find the place was deserted and I was locked in, behind bars, in the Lewis Family museum! I called out all over the house and found no one! Luckily, the phone rang and it was Frankie's daughter melinda calling from Florida. I answered the call and she told me where the key was so I could unlock the bars and find my way to the rest of the family!

marian jean, frankie's daughter, with w. fox mc keithen
al embry accepting jerry lee's award from the state of louisiana since jerry was not there
part of the museum exhibit for jerry lee

All in all, it was a great time in Ferriday, and I would recommend to anyone travelling that way to stop in town and see the new Delta Music Museum and The Lewis House, where sermons Jerry Lee wrote in his own hand while a student at the seminary are kept and displayed along with tons of the best Jerry Lee memorabilia you might ever find. Sunday morning, the streets were empty and Ferriday was like a ghost town. I headed off to Meridian, Mississippi to visit the Jimmy Rodgers Museum. But that's a whole 'nother story. Tim Congdon