HERNANDO, Miss. (WMC) – The line went to the end of the parking lot at Hernando Funeral Home on Thursday, with hundreds coming to pay their respect to music legend Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I rode my motorcycle down here last night, 700 miles,” said Monty McIntyre from Ravenswood, West Virginia. “I’ve listened to his music for years and years, and I felt like when he passed away that I needed to be here.”
The doors were open just under three hours for Lewis’ visitation, but fans like McIntyre arrived hours before that.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, we spoke with fans of all ages who came to pay tribute.
“His piano playing will always be around,” said Jimmy Bailey of Coldwater. “People will recognize it and know him.”
“My parents listened to his music when I was a kid,” said Juliette Campbell, who’s originally from France but now lives in Tunica County.
Juliette and her husband Kyler, a Mid-Southerner, have shared lifelong love for The Killer’s music.
“Especially in Europe, not only in France, but many French people like him,” Juliette said. “It’s good to be here for representation for France.”
“He had that wild charisma, and he had so much personality that nobody else did,” Kyler said. “He did what he wanted to do. He was a rebel.”
As wild as Lewis was in his prime, the display inside the funeral home was simple.
Though our cameras weren’t allowed inside, we went through the lines ourselves.
Inside was a closed wooden casket with a bouquet of red roses on top.
Draped across the bouquet was a ribbon that read “This is our Killer.”
Other multi-colored flower bouquets, shaped as music notes, lined the path out of the funeral home.
“You just got to put a smile on your face because I know he’s in a better place,” said Jim Hagmaier.
For those who had a personal relationship with Lewis, like Hagmaier, Lewis’s driver for 15 years, it’s the little things he’ll miss.
“We had good times,” Hagmaier said. “Just me driving and him telling me the stories, that’s what matters, the stories of the old days.”
Those old days were an inspiration to Jerry Phillips, son of the legendary producer Sam Phillips with Sun Records.
“[Lewis] was a big influence on my life,” Phillips said. “He and Elvis and those guys would come over to our house when I was growing up, hanging out there to just hand out and then come to the studio. I’m sad he’s gone, but… this is a cliche but none of us are getting out of here alive.”
Fan, friend, or family, all said their goodbyes Thursday, but all know the legacy of Jerry Lee Lewis will live on for generations.
“There’s nobody that could play like he could play,” McIntyre said. “I’m wondering if someone will ever show up again, another Jerry Lee Lewis.”
“Everything he did right, everything he did wrong, the whole deal, made who Jerry Lee Lewis was,” said Phillips. “If he hadn’t made all those mistakes and made all the right decisions, he wouldn’t be Jerry Lee Lewis.”
The doors at Hernando Funeral Home are now closed for Lewis’s visitation, but the tribute still continues.
Action News 5 will head to Lewis’s birthplace in Ferriday, Louisiana, Saturday, where The Killer will be laid to rest.
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