Myra Lewis Williams, also known as Myra Gale Brown, was the third wife of late rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and, more infamously, his 13-year-old cousin at the time of their marriage.
So what happened to him? Williams, 78, said in 2016 that she was “here” all the time – but apparently no longer had a relationship with her notorious ex-husband after 2015.
Lewis, who died on Friday aged 87, resisted professional exile in 1958 after a reporter covering his arrival in London inquired about the young girl in his entourage who eventually introduced herself as ‘Jerry’s wife “.
The ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ hit killer had eloped with Myra Gale Brown in December 1957, the result of a romance that developed when he moved into the Memphis home of Myra’s father, JW Brown, who was Lewis’ cousin and bassist, according to Lewis’s obituary in The Times.
Lewis was 22 and Williams was 13, and the press harshly criticized him when it was revealed that she was also his second cousin and that Lewis was still married to his second wife, Jane Mitchum, when they met. married.
The revelation resulted in the abrupt cancellation of Lewis’ tour; he was blacklisted by the radio and his earnings plummeted overnight. (Couples married young in his Louisiana hometown of Ferriday, and he first married when he was 16 and had seven wives in his lifetime.)
He continued to record music and perform in theaters during this time and made a comeback about a decade later.
“When Jerry Lee and I went to England, there were a lot of problems… The press made me look like an attractive Lolita, which was as far from the truth as you could get. Remember that gossip are not the gospel,” Williams wrote on Instagram in 2015.
“It was really rock ‘n’ roll’s first scandal,” Williams told Georgia’s Gwinnett Daily Post in 2016. “What was happening at the time, rock ‘n’ roll was coming on very, very strong. The preachers hated it. The radio stations that didn’t play it hated it. They called it the devil’s music. It was gross, crude and ridiculous what it did to teenagers. They didn’t know what it was going to become. .”
The 1989 biopic “Great Balls of Fire,” which starred Dennis Quaid as Lewis and a 17-year-old Winona Ryder as Myra, was based on Williams’ first book of the same name. But it didn’t go deep enough in exploring Lewis’ indomitable character. Instead, director Jim McBride, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jack Baran, “ends up simply satirizing argyle innocence and goofy ’50s exuberance,” according to the Times review.
“‘Great Balls of Fire’ is the cartoon of rock movies, with Jerry Lee Lewis reduced to the screen as Roger Rabbit,” wrote Times music critic Robert Hilburn at the time. “Jerry Lee Lewis may be many things, but it’s not just a cartoon.
Williams addressed their scandalous relationship again in her 2016 memoir, “The Spark That Lived.” While promoting the book, she took to Instagram to spread some of the sordid details. She described the memoir as her story “about overcoming life’s worst tragedies and your own stupid decisions”.
“I’m here! With a new memoir, The Spark That Lived,” she wrote at the time, sharing an image emblazoned, “What happened to Myra?” in an old photo of her and Lewis.
“If you think you know [my] being my first cousin’s bride of 13 years, you’re gonna be surprised,” she teased. “My 1988 book and resulting movie, Great Balls of Fire, was just the beginning. Now I’m older and wiser, and [not] malleable in the hands of others. This time, nothing is forbidden. I think this book will warm your heart, tickle your funny bone, and touch your soul. I hope my story helps you deal with your own ups and downs. If I can survive life’s worst tragedies and my own stupid decisions, so can you.”
For her part, Williams said she was not a fan of her first book and its film adaptation because they were someone else’s idea of how this part of the story of his life should be told, the Post said. She also described herself as “the adult in the relationship” with Lewis. (She filed for divorce in 1970, citing allegations of abuse and adultery.)
Her second book chronicles her experiences of becoming a mother at 14, then again at 17 and losing their son Steve by accidental drowning in 1962. She also describes Lewis’ drug addiction, victim of abuse, divorce and jumping into a rebound marriage, said the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“That’s basically what this book is, that’s what happened, that’s how I handled it and here I am today,” she said. “Not only did I survive it, but I’m doing better after going through it. I am stronger and appreciate different things in life that many people take for granted. … I guess I lived like a trial by fire. You come out of the fire you do.
“It’s the book I wanted to write at the time. I’m really glad I didn’t because it got better with age.
In a separate Instagram post from 2015, Williams opened up about her later relationship with the rocker, sharing a photo of them with their daughter, Phoebe.
“Because we have a daughter, Jerry and I have stayed in touch for many years,” she wrote. “Phoebe used to work for him and when I visited him I always saw him too. However, since he married a few years ago to my ex-sister-in-law, who was not yet ex when they met (yes , you read that right), Phoebe quit working for him and I haven’t seen him since. He’s not a part of my life anymore. I find it nice and quiet to live like this.”
As of Friday afternoon, Williams had not released a public statement about Lewis’ death. His Instagram account has been inactive since early 2016.
Lewis married four more times. Two of those unions ended in untimely deaths for the wives, and his fourth and final marriage was in 2012. It was to Judith Brown, who was the ex-wife of his cousin Rusty Brown, the younger brother of Myra.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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