FERRIDAY, La. -- Frankie Lewis Terrell puts under her party of whiskey, close the door the home window to she drive-through liquor store and also walks next door to begin the tour of 712 Eighth Ave., the family home that came to be a museum.

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Pictures of very first cousin Mickey Gilley sit atop a table. The birthing quilt that the very first cousin Jimmy Swaggart lies ~ above the very bed where, Frankie claims, the televangelist was "conceived in sin." and then over there is the kitsch of big brother Killer: the golf clubs native O.J. Simpson, the Killer"s rifles, his baby shoes, and, maintained for posterior uh, posterity: the Killer"s potty-training toilet.


"That," states his baby sister, her chest swelling with pride, "is where Jerry Lee Lewis the Ferriday, Louisiana, learned to execute his business."

Perhaps no town in America revels much more in the messiness that life -- particularly the resides of its favourite sons -- 보다 Ferriday, five miles native the Mississippi flow in northeast Louisiana. And also certainly no solitary family has produced, in one generation, 3 pop society figures as well-known, talented and notorious as Gilley, Lewis and Swaggart. Native one little place, one little family, came three southerly archetypes: tortured nation music singer, over-the-top rock star and disgraced preacher.


The Ferriday 3 they are called in these parts, together if the very first cousins to be defendants in a criminal conspiracy. But there was nothing planned about "this crazy city or our stunner family," states Frankie. Instead, writes author Elaine Dundy in her background of Ferriday, lightning "not only struck double in the same ar it struck 3 times."

And if those 3 bolts began some wildfires, well, all the much better for Ferriday. Damage can it is in entertaining. Everyone here seems to keep a damaged piano that is deemed a relic due to the fact that it was supposedly damaged by Jerry Lee"s ungodly banging top top the keys. In a city of only 4,500, two competing museums -- one run by the Ferriday elite, the other by a devoted relative -- trade in controversy.

"All 3 are type of notorious, i m sorry is good," says Amanda Taylor, the Concordia Parish librarian who aided put together one of the museums. "People room not interested in perfect people."

Locals brag that this town, a crossroads 100 mile northwest the Baton Rouge, 80 miles southern of Monroe, has constantly been a semi-wicked place, a mixture the hell-raising Friday night and Jesus-praising Sunday morning.


Here, in ~ the junction that U.S. Highways 65 and also 84, good and evil, in all their forms, seem come intersect: morality and promiscuity, holiness and also sin, God and the devil. Together opposing forces naturally conflict. However viewed in the Louisiana light, they space as close as cousins.

Before 1900, there to be no town, just the Helena Plantation. Then J.C. Ferriday encouraged the railroads to pick his field for your shops. In 1906, Ferriday to be incorporated.

The brand-new town was vast open. Southerners, Northerners, railroaders, genuine estate speculators, whites, blacks, Jews, Italians, even Chinese and Mexican immigrants moved here. Timber carriers took the best wood out. Breweries and also baseball bat factory opened. In the 1920s, Gov. Huey long made Ferriday for sure for slot machines, and also the gamblers arrived.

Coming come town

Swaggarts, Lewises and also Gilleys had actually been lured to city to choose cotton and also bootleg whiskey. They remained to construct families. In 1935, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Lee Swaggart were born; your mothers, Minnie Bell Swaggart and Mamie Lewis, were sisters. Mickey Gilley -- whose mother Irene was sister come Jerry Lee"s father, Elmo -- came into civilization less than 12 month later, in 1936.

The household was more colorful 보다 rich. Arthur Gilley, Mickey"s father, ran a taxi service and chased women. Elmo Lewis go odd jobs and also spent time in jail. Son Swaggart had a few businesses, play the fiddle yet eventually determined to scratch out a living together a minister.

The branches of this expanded family, together Frankie Lewis Terrell explains it, had much in common: they combated violently (Mickey"s mommy once take it a shooting at one of her husband"s mistresses), drank and gambled come excess, thought in voodoo and also never to let go Sunday services at the Assembly that God church on Texas Avenue, wherein all 3 cousins performed. Mickey, Jerry Lee and also Jimmy knew to stay on the white next of Mississippi Avenue, yet nevertheless found comfort and musical impetus at Haney"s huge House, a black nightclub.

While Swaggart taken into consideration a country music career and Gilley and Lewis summary contemplated the ministry, every three came to their callings early. Swaggart claims God first spoke to him once he to be 8. Lewis was so gifted by age 9 that his dad mortgaged the home to buy a piano.

Each the the 3 high school dropouts completed lasting fame and fleeting success. Gilley, a Grammy winner, has had 17 records go to the top of the nation charts. As a televangelist, Swaggart constructed one that the biggest ministries in the world, his confront once displayed on televisions in much more than 100 countries. Lewis recorded the rock requirements "Great Balls the Fire" and also "Whole Lotta Shakin" Goin On" and, because that a time, rivaled his friend Elvis Presley.

Never close cousins

The King and also the Killer, in fact, were born in the very same year, had actually fathers in jail, experienced older brothers die in childhood, and also learned to sing in black color clubs and also white churches. Only Jerry Lee would certainly be almost ruined through marrying a 13-year-old cousin.

Early ~ above in Ferriday, scandal was far away. However the cousins" relationships were never easy; each has actually taken credit for the others" at an early stage successes. Jimmy quiet brags of having actually talked your third-grade teacher right into passing his cousin right into the following grade. Jerry Lee has said he assisted his cousins make their very first country and gospel albums, respectively.

In his autobiography, "To overcome a River," Jimmy write of his resentment at making $30 a week together a country preacher once Jerry Lee to be taking home $80,000 a month. He also blames his kinship through Jerry Lee because that the conservative Assembly the God"s initial refuse to ordain the in the late 1950s.

In an ext recent writings, Swaggart, who many locals believe was the most musically talented of the trio, accuses his cousins the "buying the lie of the devil that offer God is a life that poverty

and hardship." Jerry Lee"s retort: "Mickey and also Jimmy, lock don"t have actually the depth ns have. I acquired all the talent. Castle just got the scrappings." Mickey, for his part, refuses to perform or talk much with either.

Beyond their differences, though, the cousins were bound with each other by a desire to leave each other, and their hometown, behind: "Sometimes we let our desires run away with us together we talked of leave Ferriday for the bright lights of new York, Los Angeles, or Nashville," Swaggart wrote recently. "We want to be any kind of place but Ferriday."


All 3 made it out. Lewis resides in Mississippi, Swaggart in Baton Rouge, Gilley in Branson, Mo. Many of their family members are dead, or long ago moved away. Yet Ferriday never ever renounced its renowned cousins. Their names decorate indicators leading right into town, and its 2 museums draw a tiny but secure stream that visitors.

At the Ferriday Museum, a converted bank lobby opened in 1995 in ~ the direction that the room of Commerce, join is free and hours are daytime only, 9 to noon and 1 to 4 daily. The exhibits in its two-room display screen area, placed together by a committee of five citizens, take the sunny view.


There space no overt references to the trio"s troubles: the secret arson that destroyed Mickey"s failing club outside Houston; Jerry Lee"s marriage to a 13-year-old cousin and also the questionable circumstances bordering the fatality of an additional wife; Jimmy"s taste for prostitutes, exposed in 1988 in a new Orleans motel. Volunteer staffers comment on these topics if pressed, however make clear that the museum"s attractions room its donated pictures and also mementos.

Under glass is a huge diamond "MG" that Mickey has actually worn approximately his neck. In a corner sits one old piano the Jerry Lee"s, its tricks broken. The jacket from an early album that Jimmy"s, "Some gold Daybreak," hangs on a wall. Jimmy"s wife, Frances, even passed follow me a copy of the only picture of the 3 cousins together as adults, bring away a decade earlier at a rare family members occasion.

"Everything here is fine researched and also accurate," says librarian Taylor. "But you go on down to Frankie"s place. You"ll listen a the majority of stories. You need to decide for yourself which ones come believe."

The Lewis House, together Frankie"s museum is known, doesn"t open until 1 p.m., and also the door remains unlocked previous 8 -- also later through appointment. 712 Eighth Ave., where Jerry Lee spent several of his youth, is difficult to miss. There"s a bright orange round of fire top top the mailbox, a piano sculpture ~ above the lawn and a blue sign listing Jerry Lee"s best-known songs.

Inside, Frankie says, "The stuff below is really real, an extremely old and very strange."

Memorabilia originates from both family and also fans. Over there is a tiny Rock cookbook autographed and also sent by president Clinton, who phones at least once a year. 5 of Jerry Lee"s marriage certificates room on display. Frankie even keeps a check for $10,403.99 that Elvis made out to she in 1971. ("He was on medicine then," she explains. "Elvis thought I was offering him a car.")

Family secrets

Frankie states she respects the city museum, yet says it"s also conservative for she taste. She delights in exposing she family"s secrets. She maintains the Lewises are Jewish (an delinquent Jerry Lee has actually publicly denied), and also openly speculates the he eliminated one that his ex-wives. Nevertheless, brother and sister continue to be close; the Killer visits a couple of time a year.

"You"re talking around a male who dram piano 15 hours a day," she says. "He"s a little loony."

Her theories about the cousins are both emotional -- Mickey has actually an inferiority complex; Swaggart was disgraced because he never had actually a girlfriend together a teen-ager and was not enabled to drink Coca-Cola -- and also biological. Why is the family successful? "I think it"s from all the cousins marrying," Frankie says. "There are cousins marrying that no one talks about in our family. They maintained the genes all pure. With pure gene you gain some distinct traits.

"You likewise get a lot of sadness."

Neither Ferriday no one its favourite sons are what they supplied to be. The Arcade Theater, whereby Jimmy an initial heard God, is gone. A couple of years back, the town"s submachine gun-toting mayor, called Sammy Davis Jr., was indicted. "You don"t even have lot music anymore," says Gene Tumminello, who volunteers at the Ferriday Museum. "No one is to teach it, not even at the high school."

In Baton Rouge, Swaggart quiet sings and also plays the piano on Sundays, but before a small congregation in a mainly empty complex. Jimmy Swaggart Ministries never recovered native the exposure of his sin in 1988.

Jerry Lee Lewis tho performs, yet his job never totally recovered native the revelation the his marital relationship to his cousin 40 years ago. Financial troubles dog him, states his sister, and also the Killer has expressed his disgust through the demon influence of famous music.

Mickey Gilley shed millions in a problem with the companion in his Pasadena, Texas, roadhouse, commemorated in the movie "Urban Cowboy." on July 4, 1990, it melted down; the reason has never ever been determined.

Gilley, though, seems the many comfortable through the town. He has an excellent relationships through both museums, and fliers because that his Branson theater room readily obtainable in Ferriday. This spring, the city renamed a street for him.

"But ns don"t think it"s basic for any of them, and they can"t rely on each other," says Frankie.

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Meanwhile, the museum are growing slowly. The Ferriday Museum is starting to acquire bus tours, and also Frankie says she might open branches that the Lewis residence next year in Nashville and also London, spreading the story of she family"s pain.

"That"s all ns do: offer booze and talk around this family and also this city all the time," she says, sighing. "It"s fun, and heartbreaking, to relive the music. Ns hope the for somebody, it"s precious it."