The Killer’s in the House: A Jerry Lee Lewis Halloween Haunting, Part One

Jumping or Levitating?

A blues singer named Bob Geddins wrote the song Haunted House. The same guy wrote Tin Pan Alley, the wonderful Sam Cooke vocal Fool’s Paradise and Mercury Blues which just about everyone has sung. Haunted House is kind of an odd number. So many of these horror genre songs fit neatly into the minor key tradition that when one is a straight forward honkytonk boogie like this one my ears automatically perk up.

Bob Geddins

Other singers have covered the song over the years, but in his usual fashion ol’ Jerry Lee takes it and makes it his own. Jerry Lee has a way of ruining a song. It must be a little like having a daughter who goes out with the one boy you don’t want her to go out with, because after him she’s through.

Musically though that’s what makes Jerry Lee great. In this he has no peer. Jerry Lee Lewis has never sung a song he didn’t sing the hell out of. This is a throw away song if I’ve ever heard one and Jerry surely knows it too. It’s hard to imagine him even remembering this 1973 session.  He’s cut hundreds of songs and this is just some old jump blues number about a haunted house. But listen to how he sings it.

He sings (but doesn’t say) “I just moved into my new house today,” and by the end of that short first verse, with keys being pounded on and a hot band chuggin’ behind him, has informed us it’s haunted, which makes apparently little difference to him. Haunted House is quite possibly the unintentional anthem of American Exceptionalism. Written by a poor black man from Texas and sung by a poor white man from Louisiana who both rose above and put their indelible marks on the world around them. I can’t imagine either giving up their hard earned home just because they found themselves sharing it with a ghost. He relates the whole tale with the drama of telling it to his barber; nonchalant, slightly incredulous when appropriate and a good dose of swagger. He even gets to name drop himself in the middle – something no one else does quite as well as the Killer. The song ends up as the musical equivalent of a guy walking into a movie 2/3rds of the way in, looking at the screen for a minute and then deadpanning the twist to everyone before walking out. It’s just too cool for me.

Photograph: Jamie-James Medina

Working people’s dreams are quiet and humble affairs, but they’re also considered hard fought and paid for when achieved and neither man nor spirit will wrest it away easily.

Post Script ~ The great guitar slinger Roy Buchanan does a frighteningly good job on the song himself. His guitar is plain wicked and the fine pianist he shares the recording with gives us a taste of what could have been had he and Jerry Lee put out a true duet recording. It’s really too bad.

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About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Country, Honky Tonk, Music, Radio, Rock, Rockabilly, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Killer’s in the House: A Jerry Lee Lewis Halloween Haunting, Part One

  1. Bruce says:

    Here’s a bit more about Bob Geddins

    “Bob Geddins was largely responsible for developing blues in the San Fransisco-Oakland area in the late 1940’s into the late 1950’s. Largely unknown today except by deep blues record collectors, Geddins struggled to record a number of good local talent. Artists like Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Hawkins, K.C. Douglas, Mercy Dee Walton (a personal favorite), Johnny Fuller, Juke Boy Bonner, Big Mama Thornton, and other singers who were virtually unknown-all recorded for Geddins on his various labels. Geddins himself (along with his brother on vocals) is even heard on the track “Irma Jean Blues”, something he would do when the mood struck.

    A TV/radio repairman by trade, Geddins would start up a record label when he had the necessary cash, only to see his labels go out of business, usually because he had no real distribution-he was the sole distributor of his artists. Another reason his labels didn’t last was someone would cheat him in a shady business deal, but Geddins would persevere and start up another label when he could. Geddins realized that there were few labels catering to the population which had moved there looking for work. He was basically a one man record label-even owning his own pressing plant.”

    A throw away song, hardly! Jumpin Gene Simmons (Ya, Gene Simmons from Kiss borrowed Genes name) took it to #11 in August of 1964. Like Jerry Lee, Gene also recorded for Sun (or at least had a recording contract with them) but “Haunted House” was recorded and released by another Memphis label “Hi Records”

    I believe the original version was recorded by Johnny Fuller and released on Speciality Records in 1958. I looked, but could’t find an earlier version by Fuller or Geddins

    The Roy Buchanen version really cooks, but I guess I’m still pariial to the Johnny Fuller version with it’s cool scream and chicken scratchy guitar and of course this version by Jerry Lee

    Thanks for the post and the great picture of Bob Geddins. I wonder where that was taken it almost looks like he’s sitting in the middle of the street doesnt it?

    Oh by the way Jerry Lee is the ghost, dead a long time ago, we just haven’t figured it out. Go get em’ Rick Rubin.

  2. Chris says:

    I remember John Anderson covering this in the 80s. I thought it was kind of an odd choice at the time, didn’t realize he was cribbing the Killer’s version.

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