For Myra Williams, the most monumental things in life happened to her as a teenager: at 13 she got married, at 14 she had her first child, at 17 she lost that child and at 19 she gave birth to the second.
Williams, que ahora tiene 78 años y vive retirada con su tercer marido en Atlanta, corotagonizó in 1957 uno de los primeros escándalos de la historia del rock, cuando se fugó de casa con el primo de su padre, Jerry Lee Lewis, y se casaron secret. But in reality, neither she nor her name mattered much. The British press, which discovered the story and published it when the musician was touring the country and exploited the event, dubbed it child bride, the “child bride” of Jerry Lee Lewis, who died last week at the age of 87. When in 1989 history comes alive thanks to the film big ball of fire, in which Winona Ryder, then 17, played the child bride, Williams’ point of view didn’t matter at all either. In the film, a watered-down view of the relationship was given, without asking questions such as consent of a minor and it was packaged as one more madness from the rocker who set the pianos on fire.
It’s only now that Lewis is dead and Williams has decided to speak out that this story is being re-contextualized. It is a parallel process to that of another very similar episode, the marriage between Elvis and Priscilla Presley, who was 14 when she met the musician. He was 24, doing his military service in Germany, and he told his father, “She’s very mature for her age.” Baz Luhrmann lost the opportunity to delve into the problems of this relationship in the 159 minutes of his film Elvis or even to reflect something from his point of view. We will have to wait for its release the film that Sofia Coppola is preparingbased on Priscilla’s memoir, which is titled Elvis and meand that they have Priscilla herself as an advisor and executive producer to get that angle.
Myra Williams also wrote a memoir in 2016 titled The spark that survived in which he explained how he “crawled out of the dark” to get out of that marriage. After Jerry’s death Lee Lewis gave a few interviews. “They called me the child bride, but in reality I was the adult of the couple and Jerry was the child,” he said a few days ago in The LA Times. “When I look back, how can you defend yourself when you are 13? There’s no excuse for it to go”, testifies the old woman who, after divorcing Lewis, had another very brief marriage which she calls “her mistake” and a third which lasts until today. In the article, Williams explains that, despite her teenage years, she was responsible for buying the wedding house and car and managing the family’s finances and the musician’s career. he went to the bank with several bags of notes to deposit them, not realizing that the police were following him.
The two met because Williams’ father, JW Brown, was also a musician. He was the one who picked up his cousin Jerry, then an unemployed musician in Mississippi, and took him to Memphis to play sessions for Sun Records. Cousin Jerry moved into the Williams house and there was Myra, looking particularly childish and only five feet tall, the same height she is now. The wedding, which took place a few months later, actually looked more like a kidnapping. In the book, Williams recounts it this way: “He had been to Louisiana and when he came back he called me in his car and showed me something. It was a marriage license. To get it, she went with a friend of hers who pretended to be me in court. He brought a license to marry us. I looked at him and said, ‘Jerry, are you crazy? Daddy will kill you.” The next day, the musician asked Myra if she wanted to go to the movies and she said yes. “So I got in the car and he went straight to the pastor who married us. I guess I had it all figured out. I was like a fawn dazzled by the headlights of a car. I looked up and I thought, ‘Oh my God, where am I? What’s going on ? How can this happen?”
As she predicted, her father’s first instinct was to kill Jerry Lee Lewis, and he actually tried to chase him with a shotgun. By then, the new marriage had already fled, thanks to a tip-off from Sam Philipps, the owner of Sun Records, who was also responsible for appeasing the bride’s father. After a few days they came back and arranged it as a transaction. “Take care of my little girl,” Brown asked the man who had just run away with his 13-year-old daughter.
The wedding took place in December 1958. Just two months earlier, Elvis Presley had enlisted in the army and left for Germany in a highly publicized episode. It left a hole in the charts and everyone in the music industry knew who was called in to fill it: Jerry Lee Lewis, who had just finished recording breathless Yes Large balls of fire. In May 1959, with all the winds in his favor, Lewis embarked on a European tour starting with the UK. From what his wife was, they both got off the plane in London and she walked away from the press, but a reporter from the Daily mailPaul Tanfield approached her and asked who she was. At first she replied, “I’m nobody.” But then she admitted, “I’m Jerry’s wife.” And how old are you? he asked. “Fifteen,” she replied, putting two more and thinking it made things more respectable that way. The British press investigated and discovered that Lewis had not only just married his cousin’s 13-year-old daughter, but was also legally married to his previous wife, Jane Mitchum, with whom he also had two children, Jerry. Jr. and Ronnie Guy. . At 22, Lewis was in her third marriage. In fact, it was one of the defenses the rocker’s environment made when the news broke, that Lewis couldn’t be a bigamist because when he married his second wife he was actually still legally linked to the first, Dorothy Barton, to whom he was married at 14.
The couple and the musician’s entourage barricaded themselves in the Westbury Hotel in London as all phases of the scandal unfolded outside. The cinema had already known several decades of events of this type, but the rock n roll I was still young and the rules were still hanging. Nicknamed The Killer, Lewis, who had managed to market himself as both a frenetic escape guy and a God-fearing good Southern boy, didn’t have the best publicists either. What they proposed was to hold an hour-long prayer session before giving the first concert in London, which was only half full and included shouts of “Cottage!” (crib thief) public. Police showed up at the Westbury to see if UK law was being broken and complaints reached Home Secretary Ian McLeod. And while all of this was going on, they say Myra was locked in a room watching children’s television. Commercial radio announcers refused to play Lewis’s songs, and his cache dropped noticeably. Eventually, after just three gigs in the UK, the couple and the whole crew had to return to the States.
Less than a year after the wedding, the couple’s first child was born, who died three years later from accidental drowning. Williams spoke of this tragedy in her book and of the years spent in this marriage until the couple separated in 1970. As Lewis’ addiction to various drugs worsened, the beatings and physical and psychological abuse also began. . The same year their marriage ends, she has to call the police because he throws her to the ground and threatens to kill her if she ever dares to leave him. When she had proof of one of his many extramarital affairs, she hired a detective and was able to file the divorce papers with him. The judge granted her a minimum pension for the eight-year-old daughter they had in common, and she got a job as a receptionist. “Not that there were many offers for the ex-wives of,” he said in a interview in 1989.
“His personality has become petty. And unpleasant. It was like a different person,” he said. The LA Times. Still, Williams credits this episode of her life with her resilience for the next six or seven decades. “Yes, it was turbulent as a teenager being a wife and a mother, but in going through it all, I found my strength. Now there is nothing that can bring me down.”
The couple maintained some contact through their surviving daughter, Phoebe, until ten years ago Lewis married his seventh wife, who happened to be Williams’ sister-in-law, and they they broke up.
Several ramifications emerged from the 1958 scandal. Who noted all this better was the entourage of Elvis Presley, who handled the situation with Priscilla Baulieu in a much more controlled way. Although they continued to see each other, she lived with her parents and he had many other side relationships. The couple didn’t wed until 1967, when her father pressured the star to give his daughter a ring. It is also clear from the Lewis scandal that, well publicized, a tumultuous episode in the life of a musician also bears fruit. Andrew Loog Oldham thus led the Rolling Stones’ career in their early years, selling them to the press as dangerous creatures, the complete opposite of what Brian Epstein was trying to do with the Beatles. The girls girlfriendOf course, they continued to proliferate in locker rooms, and so did abusive behavior, often romanticized as romantic relationships.
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