I knocked on his bedroom door, reinforced by iron bars. He lay there in the gloom, bullet holes in the walls, a rummage sale of memories stacked on the shelves and on the walls; there would have been more, but the IRS had raided him across the years. Hank Williams, his photograph draped with a black ribbon as if the man in the bed was still in mourning, looked down on me from the edge of a chifforobe. The man himself, even in pain from a half dozen ailments, was still handsome, his hair still thick and wavy but silver now, no longer that burnished gold that had made even the church ladies feel a little funny during “Great Speckled Bird.”
“Never did see him…play for him,” he said of Williams, and it seemed so odd to hear regret in that man’s voice that I actually wrote the word—REGRET?—in big letters on my legal pad. He did just about everything else in his life he ever wanted to do, did some of it almost perfectly, most of it wildly and with feeling, and some of it…well, he had a good time in the chaos, doing that, too. He was only seventy-seven then, but seventy-seven for Jerry Lee Lewis is like being seventy-seven in dog years. Still, all the pills and whiskey and needles and more, from all those nights on and off stage, had only laid him up, not put him down. The jealous husbands had not left a mark on him, after so much time.