Been a Long Time Since I Rocked and Rolled …
I saw Jerry Lee Lewis perform again last night (the second time this year). I’ve loved his piano-playing since I was a kid. The guy who opened for Jerry Lee, Jacob Tolliver, was amazing. He said something that really struck me … and I’m going to talk about it.
Tolliver said that we were all privileged to see a part of music history that night … and that it was a privilege that he, himself, sometimes forgot and took for granted. That really hit home as I looked around at the intimate venue, which was not sold out … and that hurt my heart.
There is no retirement plan for guys like Jerry Lee or other architects of rock music. They didn’t have jobs where they paid into Social Security. In order to have income, they have to keep playing. And when they’re gone? A lot of people will never know they were even there.
During his set, Tolliver played a Carl Perkins song, “Born to Boogie” … and I had to explain to someone sitting behind me who Perkins was. She appeared to be about my age and had literally never heard of the guy who wrote “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Oddly enough, the entire thing took me back to a maddening evening with an old boyfriend. We had been to see Ringo Starr a couple of weeks before, and were just leaving a Bryan Ferry concert when he said “So, please promise you won’t make me go to any more old fart concerts this year.”
He completely failed to see the importance of the artists … that they were part of music history and their work mattered. He just knew they did “old stuff.” In hindsight, I should have dumped him right there and then.
I have been blessed to see performances by B.B. King, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Doug Kershaw, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Narvel Felts, and many others who paved the way for today’s rock musicians. They are the reason that today’s rock musicians are who they are … whether or not they recognize it.
One day, the won’t be here anymore. Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, George Harrison, Sonny Burgess … I could keep listing those pioneers who have gone on before I ever had a chance to see them.
Don’t skip these opportunities, friends. If you care about music, see these treasured gems of early rock while you still can.
(Photo of Jerry Lee and his band by the author)