Swiss - Lausanne and in Geneva (1966)
©All photos and text are copyrighted by PIERRE PENNONE . Any unauthorized use of these photo's is strictly prohibited.
35th anniversary of my 1st JLL show
November 13th will the 35th anniversary of the first JLL show I had the luck to attend. It was followed by more than 50 other shows over the years, but that one remains like the first girl close to my heart and the story need to be told. I was 19 at the time, living in Lausanne, Switzerland. When I heard that Jerry Lee was coming in Europe for a tour organized by the Colin Berlin Agency in the UK, I thought that the best way for me and other fans in the area to see the Killer was to organize a show in our home town. I quickly had contact with people in France who had exclusivity for the continent (in fact only one show in Paris was scheduled for November 8). Things worked out quite well but they wanted half of the fee paid in advance, which I could not afford. Thus, I found a business man in Geneva who had the money and was ready to promote a show in Geneva, while I would promote the one in Lausanne. I took the risk and we signed contracts just two weeks before the scheduled date of the show, Sunday November 13 1966 with a show at 3 pm in Lausanne and at 9pm in Geneva (both cities being 40 miles). With all the fans we worked days and nights making promotion, putting posters on walls, distributing advertising material in front of all high schools, etc And on the day the theatre, Palais de Beaulieu, was sold out with 1800 fans ! Same for Geneva at the Salle de la Reformation. Just imagine how crazy it was for a 19-year old fan to mount a deal like this ! But let's say that things were much easier then than it is now, there was not the security paranoia, the hyper sophisticated sound system. But let's also say that the organization was OK but not professional, heart replaced expertise !
Jerry Lee had been in the UK for four weeks with three one-week engagement in two different clubs each night from October 16 to November 5, than he played great shows in Birmingham, Wimbledon, Paris and on the eve of his trip to Switzerland he doubled with a show in Coventry plus a midnight show at the pop mecca of swinging 60's Carnaby Street, the Flamingo. A few hours later, around noon Jerry Lee and entourage landed in Geneva airport, along with buddy Cecil Harrelson, two regular Memphis Beats members, Herman "Hawk" Hawkins on the bass and Morris "Tarp" Tarrant on the drums, plus an agent from the UK agency and a road manager. Tarp and Hawk were easy to recognize as they were on the cover of the recent Memphis Beat LP. The British guitar player who had made the rest of the tour didn't come for these last two dates. After a quick stop at the hotel, all made the way to Lausanne's Theatre de Beaulieu. I remember it was an icy day and I crossed my finger that nothing bad happened on the highway. Jerry Lee was in good shape, very relax and it was a dream to have my first talk ever with him backstage. I made two requests : Milkshake Mademoiselle, which was unissued at the time but he couldn't remember the words, and Lonely weekends, which he promised to play. But soon I had to introduce the 2 Memphis Beats members (bass guitar and drums set had to be borrowed from a band playing the first part !) and Jerry Lee. It remains in my mind like it was yesterday how Jerry Lee shook my hand on stage in front of 1800 people and many friends and family members !!! Jerry Lee was dressed with a black tuxedo, white shirt, black tie and black boots. I just had time to jump into the hall to see my first Jerry Lee's show, in fact I had only seen the Killer moving on a silent black and white 8mm. private movie made in 1964 (I saw that at Martin Affleck's home in the UK the previous summer, Martin was running the UK fanclub). Jerry Lee opened with Little Queenie. Being backed by only a bass and drums, the sound was dominated by Jerry Lee's piano like on early SUN recordings, but it filled the hall quite well and the audience was soon standing up and cheering. He introduced You win again which was very well received by the audience, but nothing compared to the first notes and words of Mean woman blues which was very popular after the recent hit of the Star Club live album. Next came Your cheating heart with the audience clapping hands during the whole number. This was followed by the well-known long piano intro to What'd I say with Jerry Lee's hands and feet flying around the microphone on the keyboard. Another Ray Charles's hit followed, Sticks and Stones, with great drums work from Tarp. Great balls of fire followed with great piano breaks and my favourite live song, the wild High school confidential. Jerry Lee had left his jacket for a while and he was really hot and wild with the audience in the palm of his hand, shouting "Jerry Jerry !" between songs. Jerry lee introduced the next song as a special request : Lonely weekends ! He had not forgotten and it was a long version with plenty of fast and slow tempo with piano breaks, that was FABULOUS ! A surprising country song came next : City Lights. This was 18 months before Jerry Lee had his success in the country field of music, but this shows that he always was playing country tunes well before 1968. The anthem Whole lotta shakin' goin' on came next with all the audience jiving and screaming "shake baby shake" along with Jerry Lee. He jumped on the piano while Tarp was standing on top (I say on top, not in front !) of his drums, the wildest scene I ever saw ! He left the stage but came back to play a wild and fast Good golly miss Molly, and finished the show with Jenny, Jenny. It took about 20 minutes to have the first person in the audience leaving the hall, all kept screaming for more. Believe me, that was a great show ! I regret that the recording I asked a friend to make from the PA was a mess in terms of quality (but a good recording exists of the show in Paris 5 days before), and also that video did not exist so I could share memories with others! Never mind, I have a film printed in my mind !
A 2nd show at 9 pm was played in Geneva, just as wild. Unfortunately, the promotion had been made by the local Elvis Presley Fan Club and they had the bad taste to advertise their club with Elvis name across the stage, but Jerry Lee didn't mind. Before this 2nd show I had a chance to make an interview with Jerry Lee backstage, but somehow only the last minutes have remained after those 35 years, it finishes with an invitation to come back to Switzerland and do some skiing, but Jerry Lee answered that he would sure break his neck. After the show, Jerry Lee and all others were invited by the business guy who advanced us the money at a night club he owned. Jerry Lee's records were played during the whole party. We were some twenty guys sitting around a relaxed and enjoyable Jerry Lee . Tarp was particularly a warm person to talk with, he was wearing a beard from the rehearsals in September of Catch my soul. Jerry Lee had just shaved his beard which we can see on the live "By request" album recorded a few weeks before on September 7 and issued in December.
Next day, they all flew back to Memphis with ten days of rest before another set of dates in the US. From 1968, Jerry Lee made hits after hits in the country field and he would not come back to Europe for 6 years until 1972 apart from an aborted TV show in 1968. That was definitely too long for me and I was lucky (again !) to visit him in the summer of 1971 with shows in Indiana followed by an invitation on his plane to fly to Memphis and I was invited at his home on the Coro Lake. But that's another story, folks ! Of these 35 years, I can say one thing : Jerry Lee is not only the greatest talent in the world, he is also a big, big, BIG hearted man !