Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Unconquered Book Tour Release Day Blitz



About the book: The new biography Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley tells the story of Ferriday, Louisiana's famous cousins. With three personal journeys set alongside important landmarks in pop-culture history, author J.D. Davis presents a unique tale of American music centered on the trials, tribulations, and achievements of three men who remain truly Unconquered.

Three cousins, inseparably bonded through music. Each became a star; their story would become a legend. J. D. Davis's enthralling new biography of famous cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, born within a twelve-month span in small-town Louisiana during the Great Depression, draws from exhaustive research and personal connections with friends and family. Davis recreates the irresistible and life-changing power of music that surrounded the cousins as boys and shaped their engagingly distinct paths to fame. With three personal journeys set alongside important landmarks in pop-culture history, Davis presents a unique tale of American music centered on the trials, tribulations, and achievements of three men who remain truly Unconquered.

Based on his love of music, American rural life, and history, J.D. Davis has spent several years earnestly researching Louisiana’s famous piano-playing cousins, men about whom he has read and to whom he has listened since childhood.

A fan first and foremost, Davis’s expertise on these three famous cousins has continued to grow. He has devoted considerable time, energy, and resources to writing a book that tells the remarkable story of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley.

The Story

In 1935 and early 1936, three cousins were born into tight-knit families in Ferriday, Louisiana. Rare piano talent, strong parental relationships, the Pentecostal church, family struggle, and a variety of musical influences worked together to produce men who changed twentieth-century music and culture. The individual stories of these three cousins illustrate their varied paths from small-town America to a world stage. Woven together, the collective story becomes even more compelling and amazing.

UNCONQUERED is a story so unlikely that it would not be believable if written as fiction. It tells of rock ‘n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, and country music star Mickey Gilley. These very different men, raised in the same time and place, with similar talents, were fated for entirely different destinies even as their lives would always be profoundly intertwined. Born into poverty, each man, in his own way, would become an iconic figure blessed with the ability to thrill and inspire.

The story's touchstones of music, perseverance, and faith could wield such force only in the American South. There, in the Louisiana lowlands’ Concordia Parish, their story began in the midst of the Great Depression.

Ferriday, Louisiana

Nestled away in Concordia Parish, just a few miles west of the Mississippi River, lies the little town of Ferriday. Only slightly over a century old and with only a few thousand people in the immediate area, it has surprisingly spawned several well-known personalities, including journalist Howard K. Smith, socialite Ann Boyar Warner, and musician Peewee Whitaker, among others.

It is also, most notably, the hometown of famous cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, the subjects of UNCONQUERED.

Ferriday's citizens are warm and generous, similar to those in most American small towns. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the state-supported Delta Music Museum, which honors the three cousins and other iconic music figures of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta region, including Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Conway Twitty, among others. In addition, if one is able to schedule a visit or drop in at the right time, he or she might want to visit the Lewis House Museum (operated by Jerry Lee Lewis's sister, Frankie Jean, and her family).

Author Update - How are Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley related precisely?

One of the most intriguing facets of these three men is their kinship. In Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, their ties are explained. An easy-to-follow diagram is also provided to ensure that readers clearly understand their familial relationship, as it is not a simple one.

Leroy and Arilla Lewis had eleven children. Among them were Elmo, who was Jerry’s father; Ada, Jimmy’s paternal grandmother; and Irene, Mickey’s mother. Therefore:

  • Jerry and Jimmy are first cousins, once removed (Jerry’s father and Jimmy’s grandmother were siblings) 
  • Jerry and Mickey are first cousins (Jerry’s father and Mickey’s mother were siblings) 
  • Jimmy and Mickey are first cousins, once removed (Jimmy’s grandmother and Mickey’s mother were siblings) 
In addition, Jerry’s mother, Mamie Herron Lewis, and Jimmy’s mother, Minnie Bell Herron Swaggart, were sisters – two of seven children of John William and Theresa Herron. Accordingly, Jerry and Jimmy are also first cousins on the Herron side of the family and double cousins overall.

The relationship between Jerry and Jimmy is particularly fascinating, made all the more compelling by the similarities of their DNA. As many people with whom we have spoken have declared, their stories, both separately and together, would seem unbelievable if written as fiction.
Sales/buy now link for Unconquered (When you buy the book you also get the free gifts that go along with it.)

Excerpt - Jimmy Feels Conflicted Playing Secular Music 

"Come on, Jerry, hurry up!" yelled Elmo as he stood waiting beside his old car. "We're gonna be late and we still need to pick up Jimmy Lee." Mamie was already ensconced in the passenger side of the front seat and Frankie Jean and Linda Gail were seated in the back. Jerry stumbled from the house, licking his fingers and rubbing his hair, trying to make it lay down in accordance with Mamie's wishes. He hopped into the back seat of the car, excited to head out.

They picked up Jimmy outside his little house just a few blocks west and started off on what proved to be a noisy ride. Jimmy, who was quieter than his cousins, listened to them banter while he and Jerry talked about who else might show up that night for the talent competition, who might stand the best chance of winning, and what songs each contestant might play.

Jerry played well that night, as usual, exhibiting once again the skills that already set him apart from other musicians, as his hands found and left the keys with lightning quickness. On this night, he banged and pounded and played with ferocity.

Then it was Jimmy's turn. As the more solemn and serious of the cousins ran his fingers up and down the piano, a strange feeling overtook him and allowed his hands to fly over the keys with increased ease. It was something he had felt before, but this time it was stronger than usual. As he played the notes of "Drinkin' Wine Spo-dee-o-dee," he found himself able to execute runs on the piano that he'd never pulled off before. The crowd was cheering as Jimmy's hands moved across the keys, and he sensed he had been taken over by a force he could not explain.

For Jerry, such a happening would have been exhilerating, but for Jimmy it took on dark and fearsome undertones, for it seemed to him that he was being anointed by the devil. Then he finished and the crowd cheered, standing and clapping and whistling. Jimmy tried to smile in acknowledgement but he was terrified. 

About The Author: J.D. Davis was raised in Quitman, Texas, a quiet community in the northeast part of the state. Having grown up in a small town in the rural South—similar in many ways to the cousins’ hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana—with many similar influences as the cousins, he has meaningful insight into these three men.

Davis attended the University of Texas on a full academic scholarship, received a B.A. with highest honors in economics, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He later received a master’s degree from SMU.

As a successful businessman, Davis achieved the highest credentials as an actuary and became a principal in a large firm while still in his twenties. He currently manages an employee benefits consulting practice that covers the southern region of the United States, with offices in four cities.

Davis remembers his father watching Jimmy Swaggart on television and being intrigued by the evangelist's magnificent piano talent. As a teenager, Davis became a huge fan of Jerry Lee Lewis. He first attended one of Lewis’s live performances as a college student and was awe-struck to see this man put on a breathtaking performance. Davis grew up listening to country music of the seventies and eighties, when Mickey Gilley was consistently producing number one country hits. He became fascinated by the ways these three very different cousins achieved and dealt with eventual success and has been a dedicated fan for years.

Davis has worked with a talented team of many. His editors included Elizabeth Kaye, an award winning journalist who has often written about southern music and southern preachers. As a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, she interviewed Sam Phillips and gathered firsthand experience of Jerry Lee Lewis when covering sessions at which he played with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison. As a contributing editor to John Kennedy’s George magazine, Kaye wrote extensively about Billy Graham and his son Franklin, traveled on several missionary trips with Franklin, and worked with ABC’s 20/20 to produce and write a major Billy Graham profile.

An interview with JD Davis
1. Your favorite gadget –
(Laughs) Does a lawn mower count as a gadget?

2. Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I typically write at home, in small increments of thirty to forty minutes each.

3. Where is one place in the world that you would really love to visit someday?
I like to travel to historical destinations more than purely recreational ones. I was fortunate to travel to Paris as part of a college-credit trip and was amazed by the city. I have not yet been to Rome but assume it would produce a similarly-profound impact.

4. One of your favorite quotes –
Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.
– Bill Russell, legendary Boston Celtics basketball player

5. List three books you just recently read and would recommend?
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Empire of the Sun Moon, by S.C. Gwynne
Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson

6. List three of your favorite movies.
Schindler’s List
Shawshank Redemption
The Godfather

7. An actor or a book character you have a crush on –
(Laughs) I was fascinated with the character Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

8. What movie or TV show have you watched recently and really enjoyed?
I don’t see many movies but I recently enjoyed The Descendants.

9. Where can your readers stalk you?
(Laughs) Readers can follow me and the progress of the book on the book's website and on Facebook.

10. What inspired you to write your first book?
After reading extensively about these men, visiting their hometown, and getting to know their family members, I realized there was a fascinating story to be told. While much had been written about them – particularly about Jerry Lee Lewis – I found, to my surprise, no one had ever integrated their three lives together. The way their stories interlock really is the compelling story, in my opinion, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell it.

11. What books have influenced your life most?
The Bible has clearly had the most influence on my life out of any book I have read.

12. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
I enjoyed writing every chapter in Unconquered. One of the most enjoyable was Chapter 10 – Music, which talks about the early musical development of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley.

13. Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
After reading extensively about these men, visiting their hometown, and getting to know their family members, I realized there was a fascinating story to be told. While much had been written about them – particularly about Jerry Lee Lewis – I found, to my surprise, no one had ever integrated their three lives together. The way their stories interlock really is the compelling story, in my opinion, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell it.

14. Where are you from?
I was born in Dallas, Texas. However, I spent my childhood from the age of three through eighteen in the small, northeast Texas community of Quitman, with a population of approximately 1,800 people.

15. What inspired you to write your first book?
After reading extensively about these men, visiting their hometown, and getting to know their family members, I realized there was a fascinating story to be told. While much had been written about them – particularly about Jerry Lee Lewis – I found, to my surprise, no one had ever integrated their three lives together. The way their stories interlock really is the compelling story, in my opinion, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell it.

16. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
This is a not a story of good and bad, or right and wrong. It is a deeply human story of aspirations and success and failure. It is a tale about family, music, and perseverance. The reader will be moved and inspired by the journeys of these three men, who came from nothing, rose to the top of their respective fields, and faced a variety of profound challenges along the way. My hope is that the reader will come away with a deeper appreciation of these three men and a fuller understanding of the many factors that shaped those unique individuals who came from the Depression and post-Depression era South.

17. What book are you reading now?
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.

18. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Not right now. While managing several hundred sources for my current book, my reading on other topics slowed in the last few years. Mostly what I read in the time I have are works by established authors.

19. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
In my thirties, I decided to expand my knowledge on topics outside of my profession and immediate set of interests. So I pursued a Master’s degree at Southern Methodist University where I found a great deal of support from professors in areas such as theology, history, philosophy, and the like. It helped me challenge myself to explore new pursuits, which ultimately led to writing my current book.

20. Do you see writing as a career?
Writing for me is still an avocation, rather than a vocation. With continued development and the possible success of my first book, it is feasible that writing could become more of a career pursuit.

21. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
At this point, I am quite satisfied with the outcome of my current book. If starting over from scratch, there are many things I would change about the process of writing the book, but I don’t think I would change much in the book itself. But even now, having completed the book, I feel it does a good job of accomplishing several complicated – even competing – objectives.

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