NIU English instructor writes book on Jerry Lee Lewis
By CHRIS KRAPEK
Joe Bonomo has been thinking about Jerry Lee Lewis his whole life.
The English instructor has been listening to Lewis' 1964 album "Live At The Star Club" for years and considers it to be one of the best rock and roll records of all time. When an editor approached Bonomo about writing a book on one of the founding fathers of rock, "Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found" was born.
"I spent a great summer just listening to that record over and over and writing about it," Bonomo said. "It was a great gig."
Instead of dwelling upon Lewis' notorious sex scandals, an issue that the author says has been written about ad nauseam, the book focuses on the bigger context of the rockabilly's rocky career. On the same day Lewis was recording the live album, The Beatles were filming the opening scene for "A Hard Day's Night." The "Great Balls of Fire" singer's career was nearly through and Beatlemania had just exploded.
"He was essentially tarred and feathered by the American press," Bonomo said. "He wasn't selling any records and was considered a lecherous has-been."
The title "Lost and Found" arises from the idea that even when Lewis was at his most down, he was able to make his best album.
Although he tried to get in contact with Lewis himself, the author was denied an interview by the singer's lawyers within 12 hours of the request. Over the course of the year that it took to write the book, Bonomo was able to track down members of Lewis' backing band, The Nashville Teens, and a German producer who mixed the classic album.
"I was able to talk to a lot of people who had a lot of instrumental things to do with his music," he said.
Bonomo is certainly no stranger to writing about rock and roll music. His 2007 book "Sweat" was a 7-year project about perennial American garage band favorite The Fleshtones. Currently, he's working on a new book about AC/DC's 1979 album "Highway To Hell," due out in May.
The Ohio University alum, who is married to English professor Amy Newman, is constantly working on personal essays and always runs his work by his wife, in its best-dressed form, of course. Bonomo seems to truly appreciate two creative minds in such a close proximity.
"It's fabulous," he said. "I'm very, very lucky to have a wife who's not just a great writer, but a great reader a great editor."
Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost And Found by Joe Bonomo will hit the stores in November on Continuum Books.
Here's a couple of reviews to whet the appetite:
The compelling story behind the greatest live record ever! Thoroughly researched and beautifully written. They should teach this book in schools. —Blaine Cartwright, Nashville Pussy
Joe Bonomo looks at Jerry Lee Lewis' wilderness years—how the Killer got there, and what he had to prove afterward. He manages to tell the (fascinating) back story while capturing the excitement of what may be the greatest live album ever recorded. —James "The Hound" Marshall
Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found is the greatest book ever written on the making of an album. It also dispels any lingering doubt about the profound musical impact of Jerry Lee Lewis. —Josh Alan Friedman, author of Tales of Times Square