Jerry Lee Leodhasach RIP

26 11 2022

Rock ‘n’ roll fans across the world are mourning the recent passing of notorious piano-burning wild man Jerry Lee Lewis – aka “The Killer” – who smashed the hit parades of the 1950s with “Great Balls of Fire”, “Whole Lotta Shakin'” “Breathless”, “High School Confidential” and many others.

Sadly the demise the same day of the Killer’s less successful Outer Hebridean cousin went largely unremarked, despite his own not inconsiderable fame on the islands’ music scene of the 1950s.

Jerry Lee Leodhasach was born in 1935, in a black house in Ferrydelay, Lewisiana (a hillbilly township up behind Newvalley), to religious parents:  Maìri Oighrig, who spoke in Tong, and Eldermordo, an impoverished sharecrofter, lay preacher and Sunday carryout bootlegger. The young Leodhasach used to earn a few pennies helping do the bobbans in local weaving sheds, which gave him his nickname of “The Filler”. 

Jerry Lee demonstrated great musical talent at an early age, so his parents mortgaged the family bog cotton patch to buy him a melodeon.

Leodhasach’s parents envisaged a life in the church for their wee cove, and sent him to learn to be a precentor at Pentlandroadcostal Cuiream College, Waxahairidhnabeiste, in the State of Texel. But while studying the Psalms by day, Leodhasach was sneaking out at night to the honky-tonks, fluke joints and bothans of Bennadrove and Newmarket, learning to play rhythm and Brues, drinking 4 Crown and generally being a wee bleigeard.

Expelled from college for precenting an treasamh sailm tharais air an fhichead in a bogie-wogie style, Leodhasach decamped to the city of Melbost, and got a job at Sin Records, working for legendary producer Psalm Phillips. 

It was at Sin Records that Leodhasach met 3 fellow lapsed precentors, each on their way to becoming megastars in their own right: Elvis Praisley, Carl Parkends and Johnny Drarsh (aka The Man In Back).

The foursome recorded several advertising jingles for local radio station Isles AM, mostly promoting discounted trailerloads of manure from the Teedees’ farm, and soon became known as the Minging Todhar Quartet. 

Although Jerry Lee’s first solo smash came with the Country and Westren-tinged ‘Al-Crae-zy Arms’, it wasn’t long before he began a seemingly unstoppable succession of rock ‘n’ roll hits, including:

Great! Bell’s Road’s On Fire (about the day the Gas Works went up in flames)

Huidh Cove Confidential

Breathanas (an Tighearna)

Whole Lotta Shearing Goin’ On

Good Collie Miss Maw-lly

But Jerry Lee’s chart-topping run famously came to an end during a tour of Grimshader in 1958, when an outraged local tabloid press revealed that he had married somebody who wasn’t his cousin.

The scandal caused a nosedive in The Filler’s chart performance and ticket sales, but his stage shows remained as dynamic as ever. In 1964 he made a record that to this day is a benchmark for live performance.  Despite being recorded in a seedy dive just off Stornoway’s notorious Sraidanrubha-perbahn (aka Point Street)  with an audience of 3 dockers, Johnny Geeper and a stray ram, and with a pick-up band he’d met 5 minutes beforehand, “Live At The Star Inn” proved to be a classic. To this day it is rated “no bad” in DD Morrison’s “500 Most Mediocre Live Albums of All Time”.

(It was long rumoured that Jerry Lee’s backing band on the album were Star Inn regulars The Peatles. In fact, The Filler was backed by up-and-coming Skigersta beat combo The Niseachville Teens).

Later in the 60s Leodhasach’s career recovered when he reinvented himself as a Country and Westren artist, and got regular gigs playing wedding dances and supporting top country stars like Boxcar Willie and Philomena Begley whenever they came to the Town Hall. 

Such was Jerry Lee’s success as a country artiste that in 1973 he was even asked to play the Grand Ole Opry-house, the famously malodorous public toilet/drinking den on South beach quay that was also a bastion of Stornoway’s conservative Country and Westren establishment – the very people who who had condemned him in his rock ‘n’ roll heyday. 

Leodhasach played a blinder of a gig at the Grand Ole Opry-house, cheerfully disregarding all the conditions agreed with the management before he’d gone on stage:  “No cussin’, no rock ‘n’ roll, and no sneaky swiggin’ from thon secret emergency half bottle of Trawler Rum that D*gg*m D* keeps in the cistern of the cubicle at the far end”.

Despite his rejuvenated career, however, the Filler’s mental state remained volatile, and his copious intake of Fasinex, 4 Crown, organophosphate dip and Stewart’s Cream o’ the Barley did nothing to improve matters.

In 1976 he even turned up at the gates of Elvis Praisley’s residence (Gressland) waving a drenching gun, only to be told he was a week early for the fank.

Leodhasach famously invited his cousin, ‘The Killer’, over to Stornoway for the 1979 Mod, where together they blew Runrig away with a selection of rock’n’roll classics including ‘Lewis-ille’, ‘Me and Bobby McBhrakkie’ and ‘Tattie-Frutti’. 

The night subsequently descended into chaos when the two Jerrys took on the massed choirs in a street fight outside the Clachan. The fisticuffs were later immortalised in the 1989 BBC Alba film ‘Great Brawls of Choir’, starring Dennis Quaystreet.

Jerry Lee Leodhasach’s funeral service in his home town of Ferrydelay was conducted by his other cousin, disgraced ex-BBC Alba televangelist Jimmy Lee Bleigard.

If you don’t have any of Jerry Lee Leodhasach’s records in your collection, we recommend you get straight down to MacIver & Dart’s today (unless it’s Sunday) and get yourself a copy of his excellent “best of” compilation “All Filler No Killer”

But let us leave you with the Filler himself’s own words, from his 1958 hit  “(Downstairs in the) Lewis Bogie”:

My name is Jerry Lee Leodhasach ‘s cha teid mi air adhart aig na h-òrduighean

But I’ll play youse “Cailleach Crùbach” on this here accordion

Well they shakin’ in the Macs and they shakin’ in the Star

Yeah they shakin’ in the mornin’ when they desperate for a jar.

It’s called the Lewis Bogie, in the Lewis way

Well it’s the Bogiest Bogie Wogie in-a Storno-way

Well down in the New Lewis before it was Ùr

The cats done a dance that was fleekeen poor

You stagger to the right, take a deoch of 4 Crown

Then you shout “balach ‘nog!” and you fall right down

It’s called the Lewis Bogie, in the Lewis way

Well it’s the Bogiest Bogie Wogie in-a Storno-way

etc

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