‘Jerry Lee owed four million dollars to the revenue and they had taken the house, the ranch, the memorabilia, the cars and seized bank accounts’
Sligo-man Cavanagh, a top promoter who had previously staged Irish shows for Jerry Lee, agreed to take over management of the American music icon.
Kieran then rented a modest house in Dublin’s leafy Foxrock for the controversial musician, whose death at the age of 87 was announced on Friday afternoon.
“I got a call out of the blue one Sunday from Kerrie, who was Jerry Lee’s wife at the time, telling me they were in Dublin and asking me to meet them in Jury’s Hotel in Ballsbridge,” Kieran explains.
“They told me they had lost everything in America. Jerry Lee owed four million dollars to the revenue and they had taken the house, the ranch, the memorabilia, the cars and seized bank accounts.”
Cavanagh agreed to take over the management of Jerry Lee’s career and a deal was negotiated with the IRS in America.
“They agreed an amnesty. If he paid them one million dollars in a 12-month period they would give him a clean slate and release his property outside Memphis.
At the end of a year of touring we had made enough money to do the deal with US Revenue.”
Kieran started off with shows in Ireland for Jerry Lee, whose hits include Great Balls of Fire, before moving on to the UK, Europe and South America.
As the manager of one of the world’s most revered rock and country stars – nicknamed ‘The Killer’ for his dynamic and wild piano playing – Cavanagh soon found himself hanging out with stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Ronnie Wood, who idolised Jerry Lee.
“In 1993, Bruce Springsteen was playing in the RDS and I got word through his management that he wanted Jerry Lee to come to the show and maybe do a song with him,” Kieran recalls.
“So, I took Jerry Lee over to the RDS and we watched the show from the side of the stage. About an hour and a half into the show Jerry said to me, ‘Who’s this kid, he’s good?’ He didn’t know who Bruce was, so I explained that Springsteen was one of the biggest artists from America. Later he went on and did a couple of songs with Bruce.
“A week later we were over in London doing the Mike Aspell TV show and Ronnie Wood came with us because he was a huge fan of Jerry Lee’s. We were staying at The Dorchester hotel which the TV company had booked for us.
“I was sharing a suite with Jerry Lee and his wife, Kerrie. Springsteen’s manager came knocking on the door. They were in the same hotel. He said to me, ‘Listen Kieran, I’ve got this nuisance fan downstairs in the lobby that just wants to say hello to Jerry Lee. He’s a fan of Bruce and Bruce has met him and said hello, now he wants to come up and meet Jerry Lee. Do you think he would say hello and sign something? I asked Jerry Lee and he agreed.
“A couple of minutes later a knock came on the door and it’s Bruce Springsteen with his wife, Patti. He was the fan! Then we called Ronnie to come around and we sat there with the boys and their wives shooting the breeze. Looking back, it was pretty special.”
Lewis, who was married seven times, led a turbulent life filled with controversy that included being blacklisted for a period after it was discovered that at the age of 22 he had wed his 13-year-old cousin.
Over the decades he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal disputes and physical illness.
Jerry Lee Lewis won three Grammys and was the last survivor of a generation of performers that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.