Jerry Lee Lewis’s killer concert in South Shields

Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis

Today we conclude Kenneth Connelly’s nostalgic journey back to the ‘60s, and the time he was in the Latino – waiting for a mystery singer, called Jerry, to take to the stage.

“Somebody standing close said ‘look who’s here,’” recalls Kenneth.

“‘It’s Eric and his tall mate, come to see the cabaret’ said a glamorous lady in a blonde bob and lipstick-tipped Woodbine, who was holding a pint of Federation bitter.

“That’s class for you, not to mention the balancing skills.

“As the dialogue became more explicit, not even the names Eric Burden and Hilton Valentine meant much to me in those day. I imagined they must be from the same shipyard.

“Now, after a few quickly-dispatched refreshments, and with time passing, I began to think about the last bus.

“You will well understand that chicken and chips, Guinness, Federation bitter and two rum and black currents are notoriously-strange bedfellows – I think it could only have been the vinegar on the chips.

“Ten bob really did go a long way.

“I was at the point of bailing out for the last bus when the lights dimmed.

“Not being sure whether it was my lights or the house lights, I stared hard and held on tight as the spotlights picked out a rickety-looking stand-up piano as the tuxedo man boomed ... ‘it’s cabaret time’.

“The hubbub around the plushly-carpeted venue grew into muted applause, and out of the darkness came a young man with floppy curly hair and casual jacket, squinting in the limelight as he gave a toothy, lopsided grin.

“As he stood awaiting the ‘lions’ the introduction continued ... ‘ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce a young man who’s come a long way to entertain the folks of South Shields.

“‘I know you’ll give a warm Geordie welcome to this boy from Louisiana, USA ... The Killer ... Mr Jerry Lee Lewis ...’

“Louisiana boy waved – and the ‘lions’ waved back.

“A momentary silence, as he got comfy.

“Riding side-saddle on the piano stool, he placed his left hand on the keys.

“His right hand was aloft with that ‘you folks ain’t seen nothing yet’ look in his eyes, and in supremely confident fashion, he hit the keys, with his right hand traversing the entire scales.

“Winifred Atwell was never this casual.

“As the first honky-tonk chords of the stand-up piano reverberated, he rose from his stool, kicking it away in one movement ... ‘Ah chewed ma nails and twiddled ma thumbs’ ... and we were off on a musical experience I have never seen before – or since.

“Now you may say I was young and impressionable, and that Russ Conway was also a big name, but this boy really let it rip.

“Goodness gracious great balls of fire” was sung and played with such electrifying rhythm, that the hair on the back of your neck didn’t just stand up, it gave you a slap.

“You shake my nerves and rattle my brain – too much lovin’ drives a man insane.”

“With knowing smiles the ‘lions’ nodded to each other in approval.

“There would be no sacrifice tonight – the boy hadn’t just done good, he’d brought the house down, and did so many encores the piano must have been begging for mercy.

“What a performer! They wouldn’t let him go.

“After nearly 50-odd years I can still see him, I can still hear him, and I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

“I danced the melody and the moves the whole five miles back. The bus had long gone – and so had I.

“Long live the Latino – in your dreams bonny lad.”