Our Low Country correspondent, ” Col.” Nanker Phledge, gets the Good Word as Rev. Wirtz puts the fodder where the lambs can reach it!
” Mr. Phillips was the only man that Jerry Lee still would call ‘ Sir ‘ .” – Mike Cooley- ” “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”
There’s a scene in ” Great Balls of Fire ” where Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Studios who discovered Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins, is rhapsodizing over his other client Jerry Lee Lewis’ playing with ” a black left hand, and a white right hand”, seemingly drawing from the best of classical, pop, blues, and gospel to create his own inimitable sound, which some were already calling ” rock and roll “. Regrettably, the Killer’s demeanor and demons kept him from fortune, but his fame lives on in the art form for which he, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry are rightly called Creators, and in the keyboard stylings of contemporaries like Cocoa Beach, Florida’s own Reverend Billy C. Wirtz. The Rev was at his righteous best on Saturday night, knocking out the lucky attendees of a private party in the Robert E. Lee Room of Charleston, S.C.’s lovely Mills House hotel, where a step outside onto the wrought-iron balcony places you in the footsteps of General Lee as he gave his Secession Speech to a cheering throng in the run-up to the Civil War.
The revelry was triggered by the 60th birthday of trial lawyer/ Nassau County, FL socialite ( now there’s an oxymoron)/ bon vivant Teri Sopp, who commissioned the Rev to save any souls left standing after a Massive Night on the streets of Chucktown.
Drawing upon the legacies of the Killer, Brother Ray, and Fats, as well as his own hilarious repertoire of modern-day chronicles of South Florida living– when he lead the crowd in a chorus of ” drive, Granny, drive ” while peering through an imagined steering wheel, we could all relate– Billy C. kept the dance floor jumpin’ and sides bustin’ with his social commentary, crowd engagement, and deft handiwork on the keys. Blazing through signature tunes ” What I Used To Do All Night Takes Me All Day to Do “, ” Stairway to Freebird”, and ” Granny’s At the Wheel “, as well as Jerry Lee’s ” Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On “, Billy gently poked fun at conservatives, religion, pop culture, and commercialism ( his ” Waffle House Fire” is a crowd pleaser) with Parkinsonian gesticulation and comic facial expressions that punctuated the lyrics. Victor Borge meets Mojo Nixon!
As the charming Aiken, S.C. native wound up his set to rousing applause, I drifted out to the balcony and stood in General Lee’s steps, gazing down Meeting Street toward St. Martin’s, wishing Billy C. were in the pulpit the next morning spreading his irreverent gospel.
” Four generations/ whole lot has changed/Robert E. Lee/ Martin Luther King/Proud of the glory/stare down the shame/ duality of the Southern Thing” — Patterson Hood