Tender ballads were best left to the old folks….cuz the fact remains that probably the greatest piano player to have ever live…..and definitely the true “King of Rock n Roll”, Jerry Lee Lewis…..who was pretty much all about lust and gratification…..with his leering tenor and demanding asides….along with his violent tempos and brash glissando…..plus his cocky sneer…..and his crazy blond hair…..for he was a one-man stampede….. who made the fans scream and the keyboards swear. His live act was so combustible that during a 1957 performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” while on The Steve Allen Show, chairs were thrown at him like buckets of water on an inferno. I can speak of this because The Killer performed at the Delta Tau Delta (my fraternity) Spring Formal at the University of Texas in 1967…..and the show was the hottest….most entertaining…..energetic and fun inducing event that I have ever been at in my 75 years. From that day forward….Jerry Lee Lewis has been the real King of Rock N Roll to me. Now, I never saw Elvis live…but I’ve seen The Stones, Beattles, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, The Who, Led Zepplin, The Grateful Dead, Chuck Berry and more….and none of them live hold a candle to The Killer…..so, with many fond memories of a truly great night in my life…..when The Killer got on top of his grand piano and played while performing “Great Balls of Fire”…..while a bunch of white frat guys and their dates rocked the night away at their Spring Formal…..as I can assure you that there wasn’t a Delt that didn’t get laid that night…..cuz The Killer was beyond hot that night……and that night is why I am honored to post this story of the life and times of Jerry Lee Lewis….I mean…..GREAT BALL A FIRE!!!!!
Music – 2022 – Special – “Tribute To Jerry Lee Lewis As The King of Rock N Roll”
Jerry Lee Lewis (September 29, 1935 – October 28, 2022) was an American singer, songwriter and pianist…..who was nicknamed “the Killer“…..while being described as “rock & roll’s first great wild man”…..as a pioneer of rock and roll and rockabilly music….when Lewis made his 1st recordings in 1952 at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana…..and then early recordings in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. His early song “Crazy Arms” sold 300,000 copies in the South….when his 1957 hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” shot Lewis to fame worldwide…..which he followed with the major hits “Great Balls of Fire”, “Breathless” and “High School Confidential”…..then his rock and roll career faltered significantly in the wake of his marriage to Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old cousin once removed.
Music – 1989 – Documentary Special – “Jerry Lee Lewis: I Am What I Am”
His popularity quickly eroded following the scandal…..and with few exceptions such as a cover of Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say”, he did not have much chart success in the early 1960’s…..while his live performances at this time were increasingly wild and energetic. In fact, his 1964 live album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg is regarded by many music journalists and fans in general as one of the wildest and greatest live rock albums ever.
Music – 1964 – Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club in Hamburg Germany – Full Album
In 1968, Lewis made a transition into country music…..and had hits with songs such as “Another Place, Another Time”…..which reignited his career…..and throughout the late 1960’s and decade of the 1970’s, he regularly topped the country-western charts…..and that trend continued throughout his 7-decade career…..when Lewis had 30 songs reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Country and Western Chart. His # 1 country hits included “To Make Love Sweeter for You”, “There Must Be More to Love Than This”, “Would You Take Another Chance on Me” and “Me and Bobby McGee”.
Music – 1969 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Another Place, Another Time”
Music – 1968 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “To Make Love Sweeter For You”
Music – 1980 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “”There Must Be More to Love Than This”
Music – 1980 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Would You Take Another Chance on Me”
Music – 1980 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Me and Bobby McGee”
Lewis’s successes continued throughout the decades…..when he embraced his rock and roll past with songs such as a cover of The Big Bopper‘s “Chantilly Lace”…..and Mack Vickery’s “Rockin’ My Life Away”. In the 21st century, Lewis continued to tour around the world and release new albums. His 2006 album Last Man Standing was his best selling release…..with over a million copies worldwide…..which was followed by Mean Old Man in 2010, another of his bestselling albums.
Music – 1983 – Live In London – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Chantilly Lace”
Music – 1993 – Academy of Country Music Hits Show Live – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Rockin’ My Life Away”
Music – 2006 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends Perform Album – “Last Man Standing”
Music – 2010 – Official Music Video – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Mean Old Man”
Lewis had a dozen gold records in rock and country…..plus, he won four Grammy awards…..which included a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards…..as the Killer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986….while his pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022. In 1989, his life was chronicled in the movie Great Balls of Fire, starring Dennis Quaid. In 2003, Rolling Stone listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology at number 242 on their list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2004, they ranked him # 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Lewis was the last surviving member of Sun Records’ Million Dollar Quartet and the album Class of ’55, which also included Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley.
Music – The 1950’s – Dick Clark Special Documentary – “Class of ’55: Comin’ Home, A Rockin’ Reunion” – Featuring The Million Dollar Quartet With Johnny Cash + Jerry Lee Lewis + Roy Orbison + Carl Perkins
Music – 1977 – Million Dollar Quartet Tribute To Elvis Presley – “This Train” – With Johnny Cash + Jerry Lee Lewis + Roy Orbison + Carl Perkins
Music critic Robert Christgau said of Lewis: “His drive, his timing, his offhand vocal power, his unmistakable boogie-plus piano, and his absolute confidence in the face of the void make Jerry Lee the quintessential rock and roller.”
Music & Movie – 1989 – Special – Behind The Scenes of Movie “Great Balls Of Fire” – With Dennis Quaid & Jerry Lee Lewis
Lewis was born to Elmo Kidd Lewis Sr. and Mary “Mamie” Herron Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana. He grew up in an impoverished farming family in Eastern Louisiana…..when in his youth, he began playing the piano with two of his cousins, Mickey Gilley (later a popular country music singer) and Jimmy Swaggart (later a popular televangelist)…..as his parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano. Lewis was influenced by a piano-playing older cousin, Carl McVoy (who later recorded with Bill Black’s Combo), the radio and the sounds from Haney’s Big House, a black juke joint across the tracks. On November 19, 1949, Lewis made his 1st public performance of his career …..while playing with a country and western band at a car dealership in Ferriday…..and the hit of his set was a cover of R&B artist Sticks McGhee’s “Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee”. On the live album By Request, More of the Greatest Live Show on Earth, Lewis is heard naming Moon Mullican as an artist who inspired him.
Music – 1983 – Live In London – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Crazy Arms” – Killer’s 1st Song Ever Recorded At Sun Records
His mother enrolled him at the Southwest Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas, so that he could sing evangelical songs exclusively…..when Lewis daringly played a boogie-woogie rendition of “My God Is Real” at a church assembly…..which it ended his association with the school the same night….. and that’s when Pearry Green, then president of the student body, related how during a talent show Lewis played some “worldly” music…..and the next morning, the dean of the school called Lewis and Green into his office to expel them…..when after that incident, Jerry Lee went home and started playing at clubs in and around Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi…..while becoming part of the burgeoning new rock and roll sound…..and cutting his first demo recording in 1952 for Cosimo Matassa in New Orleans. Around 1955, he traveled to Nashville, where he played in clubs and attempted to build interest…..but was turned down by the Grand Ole Opry…..albeit he was already at the Louisiana Hayride country stage and radio show in Shreveport.
Music – 1992 – Live on the Marty Stuart Show – Jerry Lee Lewis – “My God Is Real”
Lewis made his first recordings in 1952 at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana. He covered Lefty Frizzell’s “Don’t Stay Away (Till Love Grows Cold)”…..and his own instrumental composition “Jerry’s Boogie” (AKA New Orleans Boogie).
Music – 1952 – Cosimo Matassa’s J & M Studio Presents – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Don’t Stay Away (‘Til Love Grows Cold)”
Music – 1952 – Cosimo Matassa’s J & M Studio Presents – Jerry Lee Lewis – “New Orleans Boogie (Jerry’s Boogie)”
In November 1956, Lewis traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to audition for Sun Records…..when label owner Sam Phillips was in Florida…..but producer and engineer Jack Clement recorded Lewis’s rendition of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”…..and his own composition “End of the Road”…..then in December 1956, Lewis began recording prolifically as a solo artist…..and as a session musician for other Sun artists….which included Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. His distinctive piano playing can be heard on many tracks recorded at Sun in late 1956 and early 1957…..as heard on Carl Perkins’s “Matchbox”, “Your True Love”, “Put Your Cat Clothes On” and Billy Lee Riley’s “Flyin’ Saucers Rock’n’Roll”.
Music – 1957 – Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet – Carl Perkins + Johnny Cash + Elvis Pressley + Jerry Lee Lewis – “End Of The Road”
Music – 1957 – Sun Records Presents – Jerry Lee Lewis – “End Of The Road”
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley dropped in on Phillips to pay a social visit …..while Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks with Lewis backing him on piano…..as Johnny Cash was also there watching Perkins…..when the four then started an impromptu jam session and Phillips left the tape running. These recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, were released on CD as Million Dollar Quartet. Tracks also include Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Paralyzed“, Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and Pat Boone’s “Don’t Forbid Me”.
Music – 1956 – Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet – Carl Perkins + Elvis Presley + Johnny Cash + Jerry Lee Lewis – “I Shall Not Be Moved”
Music – 1977 – Johnny Cash Christmas Show Special – Carl Perkins + Elvis Presley + Johnny Cash + Jerry Lee Lewis Tribute to Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet – “This Train”
Music – 1956 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”
Lewis’s own singles (on which he was billed as “Jerry Lee Lewis And His Pumping Piano”) advanced his career as a soloist during 1957…..with hits such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, a Big Maybelle cover…..and “Great Balls of Fire”…..which was his biggest hit that brought him international fame and criticism of the songs…..and prompted some radio stations to boycott them…..however, in 2005, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
Music – 1949 To 2020 – Special Documentary – “The Jerry Lee Lewis Story”
As part of his stage act, Lewis pounded the keys with his heel…..as he kicked the piano bench aside and played standing……while raking his hands up and down the keys…..then sat on the keyboard and stood on the piano. He told the Pop Chronicles that kicking over the bench originally happened by accident…..but when it got a favorable response, he kept it in the act. His inaugural television appearance, in which he demonstrated some of these moves, was on The Steve Allen Show on July 28, 1957, where he played “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On”.
Music – 1957 – Live on the Steve Allen Show – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
His dynamic performance style can be seen in films such as High School Confidential (he sang the title song from the back of a flatbed truck)…..when Jamboree. Cub Koda called him “rock & roll’s first great wild man” and also “rock & roll’s first great eclectic”…..and classical composer Michael Nyman has also cited Lewis’s style as the progenitor of his own aesthetic.
Music – 1988 Live at Church Street Station, Orlando, FL – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Lucille” – As Killer Just Hammers B.B. King’s Classic
Lewis’s turbulent personal life was hidden from the public until a May 1958 British tour where Ray Berry, a news agency reporter at London’s Heathrow Airport (the only journalist present), learned about Lewis’s third wife, Myra Gale Brown…..who was Lewis’s 1st cousin once removed….and was 13 years old when they married…..and the publicity caused an uproar…..which resulted in the tour being canceled after only three concerts.
Music – 1959 – Hepcat Turin Mafia Presents – “The Godfathers” – Carl Perkins + Johnny Cash + Elvis Presley + Jerry Lee Lewis – The Million Dollar Quartet
In 1960, Phillips opened a new state-of-the-art studio at 639 Madison Avenue in Memphis…..while abandoning the old Union Avenue studio where Phillips had recorded B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, the Killer, Johnny Cash et al…..plus, he also opened a studio in Nashville…..which was the Killer recorded his only major hit during this period…..with a rendition of Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say” in 1961. In Europe, other updated versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen” (September 1962 UK) and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (March 1963) entered the hit parade. On popular EPs, “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes”, “I’ve Been Twistin'”, “Money” and “Hello Josephine” also became turntable hits, especially in nascent discothèques. Another recording of Lewis playing an instrumental boogie arrangement of the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s “In the Mood” was issued on the Phillips International label under the pseudonym “The Hawk”.
Music – 1983 – Live in London – Jerry Lee Lewis – “What’d I Say”
Music – 1994 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Sweet Little 16”
Music – 1971 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “I’ve Been Twistin'”
Music – 1974 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “See See Rider? + “Hang Up My Rock ‘n’ Roll Shoes”
Music – 1969 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Money”
Music – 1960 – The Hawk (aka Jerry Lee Lewis) – “In The Mood”
Lewis’s Sun recording contract ended in 1963…..when he joined Smash Records…..where he made several rock recordings that did not further his career. The team at Smash (a division of Mercury Records) came up with “I’m on Fire”, a song that they felt would be perfect for Lewis…..and, as Colin Escott writes in the sleeve to the retrospective A Half Century of Hits, “Mercury held the presses, thinking they had found Lewis’s comeback hit, and it might have happened if the Beatles hadn’t arrived in America, changing radio playlists almost overnight. Mercury didn’t really know what to do with Lewis after that.” One of Smash’s 1st decisions was to record a retread of his Sun hits, Golden Hits of Jerry Lee Lewis…..which was inspired by the continuing enthusiasm European fans had shown for Lewis’s firebrand rock and roll. In June 1963, Lewis returned to the UK for the 1st time since the scandal that nearly ended his career five years earlier, to headline a performance on the MV Royal Daffodil, for a cross-channel rock and roll cruise from Southend, Essex, to Boulogne, France. For this performance, he was backed by Ritchie Blackmore and the Outlaws. None of Lewis’s early Smash albums, including The Return of Rock, Memphis Beat, and Soul My Way, were commercial successes.
Music -1963 – From The Album Soul My Way – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Dream Baby (How Long My I Dream”
Music – 1966 – From The Album Memphis Beat – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Memphis Beat”
Music – 1965 – Jerry Lee Lewis – The Return To Rock Album – With “Maybellene” + “Flip, Flop and Fly” + “Herman The Hermit” + “Corrina, Corrina” + “Johnny B. Goode” et al
Frustrated by Smash’s inability to score a hit, Lewis was planning on leaving the label when promotions manager Eddie Kilroy called him and pitched the idea of cutting a pure country record in Nashville. With nothing to lose, Lewis agreed to record the Jerry Chesnut song “Another Place, Another Time”…..which was released as a single on March 9, 1968, and, to everyone’s amazement, shot up the country charts. At the time of the release, Lewis had been playing Iago in a rock and roll adaptation of Othello called Catch My Soul in Los Angeles but was soon rushed back to Nashville to record another batch of songs with producer Jerry Kennedy. What followed was a string of hits that no one could have ever predicted….albeit country music always remained a major part of Lewis’s repertoire…..as Colin Escott observes in the sleeve to the 1995 compilation Killer Country, the conversion to country music in 1968 “looked at the time like a radical shift, but it was neither as abrupt nor as unexpected as it seemed. Jerry had always recorded country music, and his country breakthrough.…as the fact remains that “Another Place, Another Time” had been preceded by countless country records starting with his first, “Crazy Arms” in 1956.” The last time Lewis had had a song on the country charts was with “Pen and Paper” in 1964…..which had reached # 36, but “Another Place, Another Time” would go all the way to # 4 and remain on the charts for 17 weeks.
Music – 1983 – Live In London – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Crazy Arms”
Music – 1963 – Sun Records Presents – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Pen and Paper”
Between 1968 and 1977, Lewis had 17 Top 10 hit singles on the Billboard country chart…..which included 4 chart-toppers hits with “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out of Me)”, “To Make Love Sweeter For You”, “She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me)”, “Since I Met You Baby”, “Once More With Feeling”, “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)”, and “Sometimes A Memory Ain’t Enough”. The production on his early country albums, such as Another Place, Another Time and She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye, was sparse, quite different from the slick “Nashville sound” that was predominant on country radio at the time…..and also expressed a full commitment by Lewis to a country audience…..as the songs still featured Lewis’s inimitable piano flourishes…..but critics were most taken aback by the rock and roll pioneer’s effortlessly soulful vocals….. which possessed an emotional resonance on par with the most respected country singers of the time…..such as George Jones and Merle Haggard. In his book Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, biographer Rick Bragg notes that the songs Lewis was recording “were of the kind they were starting to call ‘hard country’, not because it had a rock beat or crossed over into rock in a real way, but because it was more substantial than the cloying, overproduced mess out there on country radio”.
Music – 1969 – The Many Sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis Special – Jerry Lee Lewis – “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made A Fool Out Of Me)”
Music – 1979 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “She Still Comes Around”
Music – 2016 – Live In Concert – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Since I Met You Baby” – The Killer Turned 81 On The Day of this Concert
Music – 1977 – Live on the Jerry Lewis Show – A Special Medley – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Once More With Feeling” + “Another Time, Another Place” + “What Made Milwaukee Famous” + “One Minute Past Eternity”
Music – 1976 – Live on the Jerryu Lee Lewis Show – Jerry Lee Lewis – “One Has My Name, The Other Has My Heart”
Music – 1969 – Live On The Ed Sullivan Show – Jerry Lee Lewis – “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye”
In a remarkable turnaround, Lewis became the most bankable country star in the world. He was so huge in 1970 that his former Smash producer Shelby Singleton…..who purchased Sun Records from Sam Phillips in July 1969….. when he wasted no time in repackaging many of Lewis’s old country recordings with such effectiveness that many fans assumed they were recent releases…..as one of his latter unreleased Sun recordings, “One Minute Past Eternity”, was issued as a single and soared to # 2 on the country chart, following Lewis’s recent Mercury hit “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye”. Singleton would milk these unreleased recordings for years, following The Golden Cream of the Country with A Taste of Country later in 1970.
Music – 1971 – Live on the Jerry Lee Lewis Show – Carl Perkins & Jerry Lee Lewis – “Mean Woman Blues” + “Blue Suede Shoes”
Music – 1969 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “One Minute Past Eternity”
Lewis played the Grand Ole Opry for the first and only time on January 20, 1973…..as Colin Escott writes in the liner notes to A Half Century of Hits, he had maintained an ambivalence to Music City ever since he was turned away as an aspiring musician before his glory days at Sun Records: “It was 18 years since he had left Nashville broke and disheartened…Lewis was never truly accepted in Nashville. He didn’t move there and didn’t schmooze there. He didn’t fit in with the family values crowd. Lewis family values weren’t necessarily worse, but they were different.”
Music – 1973 – Grand Old Opry Live Radio Broadcast – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Another Place Another Time” + “Break My Mind ” + “Johnny Be Good” + “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” et al
Music – 1973 – Live at the Grand Old Opry – Jerry Lee Lewis & Del Woods Perform – “Down Yonder”
As recounted in a 2015 online Rolling Stone article by Beville Dunkerly, Lewis opened with his comeback single “Another Place, Another Time”…..while Ignoring his allotted time constraints…..and, thus, commercial breaks….when Lewis played for 40 minutes (with the average Opry performance is two songs, for about eight minutes of stage time maximum)…..when he invited Del Wood— the one member of the Opry who had been kind to him when he had been there as a teenager— out on stage to sing with him. He also blasted through “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, “Workin’ Man Blues”, “Good Golly, Miss Molly”, and a host of other classics.
Music – 1973 – Live at the Grand Old Opry – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Workin’ Man Blues”
Lewis returned to the pop charts with “Me and Bobby McGee” in 1971 and “Chantilly Lace” in 1972…..as this turn of events, coupled with a revitalized public interest in vintage rock and roll, inspired Mercury to fly Lewis to London in 1973 to record with a cadre of British and Irish musicians…..which included Rory Gallagher, Kenney Jones, and Albert Lee…..when by all accounts the sessions were tense. The remake of Lewis’s old Sun cut “Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” was the album’s hit single, reaching # 20 on the Billboard country chart and peaking at # 41 on the pop chart. The Session was his highest pop charting album since 1964’s Golden Hits of Jerry Lee Lewis…..while hitting # 37…..and it did far better on the country albums chart, rising to # 4. Later that year, he went to Memphis and recorded Southern Roots: Back Home to Memphis, a soul-infused rock album produced by Huey Meaux……when according to Rick Bragg’s authorized 2014 biography, “the Killer” was in a foul mood when he showed up at Trans Maximus Studios in Memphis to record: “During these sessions, he insulted the producer, threatened to kill a photographer, and drank and medicated his way into but not out of a fog.” During one exchange that can be heard on the 2013 reissue Southern Roots: The Original Sessions, Meaux asks Lewis, “Do you wanna try one?”, meaning a take, to which Lewis replies, “If you got enough fuckin’ sense to cut it.” Lewis was still pumping out country albums, although the hits were beginning to dry up. His last big hit with Mercury was “Middle Age Crazy”, which made it to # 4 in 1977.
Music – 1977 – Jerry Lee Lewis Live on Stage – “Middle Aged Crazy”
In 1979, Lewis switched record labels to Elektra….and produced the critically acclaimed Jerry Lee Lewis….albeit sales were disappointing. In 1986, Lewis was one of the inaugural inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although looking frail after several hospitalizations due to stomach problems, Lewis was responsible for beginning an unplanned jam at the end of the evening…..which was eventually incorporated into all future events. That year, he returned to Sun Studio in Memphis to team up with Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins to form The Million Dollar Quartet…..plus he teamed up with longtime admirers like John Fogertyto create the album Class of ’55.
Music – 1983 – Austin City Limits Presents – Jerry Lee Lewis Live in Concert….”Great Show!!”
In 1989, a major motion picture based on his early life in rock and roll, Great Balls of Fire!, brought him back into the public eye, especially when he decided to re-record all his songs for the movie soundtrack. The film was based on the book by Lewis’s ex-wife, Myra Gale Lewis, and starred Dennis Quaid as Lewis, Winona Ryder as Myra, and Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart. The movie focuses on Lewis’s early career and his relationship with Myra and ends with the scandal of the late 1950s. A year later, in 1990, Lewis made minor news when a new song he recorded called “It Was the Whiskey Talkin’ (Not Me)” was included in the soundtrack to the hit movie Dick Tracy. The song is also heard in the movie, playing on the radio. The public downfall of his cousin, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart around the same time, resulted in more adverse publicity to a troubled family. Swaggart is also a piano player, as is another cousin, country music star Mickey Gilley. All three listened to the same music in their youth and frequented Haney’s Big House, the Ferriday club that featured black blues acts. Lewis and Swaggart had a complex relationship over the years.
Music – 1995 – Live In Concert @ Massey Hall, Toronto – Jeff Healy + Ronnie Hawkins + Jerry Lee Lewis – Part 2
Music – Sept. 2, 1995 – Live @ Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Grand Opening Concert, Cleveland, Ohio – Jerry Lee Lewis + Bruce Springsteen – “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
Music – 1991 – Live on Stage – Mickey Gilley + Charlie Rich + Jerry Lee Lewis – “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Guitar, After I Am Gone” + “I’ll Fly Away”
In 1998, Lewis toured Europe with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. On February 12, 2005, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy. On September 26, 2006, a new album titled Last Man Standing was released, featuring many of rock and roll’s elite as guest stars. Receiving positive reviews, the album charted on four different Billboard charts, including a two-week stay at number one on the Indie charts. A DVD entitled Last Man Standing Live, featuring concert footage with many guest artists, was released in March 2007.
Music – 2006 – From Last Man Standing Live With Jerry Lew Lewis Album – “Rockin’ My Life Away” + “Lewis Boogie” + “Just Bummin’ Around” + “Baby It’s Alright” + “What’d I Say” + “One More Time With Feeling” + “See, See Rider” – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” et al – With Ron Woods + John Fogerty + Willie Nelson + Kris Kristofferson + Tom Jones
Music – 1986 – The Rock Hall Jam Band Show Presents – Chuck Berry & Jerry Lee Lewis – “Roll Over Beethoven”
Music – 2006 – Special DVD – Jerry Lee Lewis – Last Man Standing Live Album – “Waitin’ At The End Of The Road” & “Who Will The Next Fool Be”
In October 2008, as part of a successful European tour, Lewis appeared at two London shows: a special private show at the 100 Club on October 25 and at the London Forum on October 28 with Wanda Jackson and his sister, Linda Gail Lewis. In August 2009, in advance of his new album, a single entitled “Mean Old Man” was released for download…..which was written by Kris Kristofferson…..when an EP featuring this song and four more was also released on November 11. On October 29, 2009…..then Lewis opened the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Music – 2009 – Official Video – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Mean Old Man” – With Kris Kristofferson Live in Concert
In May 2013, Lewis opened a new club on Beale Street in Memphis, Lewis was still considered actively performing in concert, though he had to cancel all shows following his February 28, 2019, stroke, waiting for his doctors’ go-ahead.
Music – 2011 – Beale Street Music Festival Live – Jerry Lee Lewis – With Daughter Linda Gail lewis
In 2017 Lewis had a personal presence at The Country Music Television Skyville Live show. It was a specially recorded performance featuring a whole array of artists paying tribute to the music of Lewis.
Music – 2017 – Skyville Tribute Show – Featuring Jerry Lee Lewis – Live on Stage At Age 82
In March 2020, it was announced that Lewis, together with producer T-Bone Burnett, was recording a new album of gospel covers. It was the first time he entered a recording studio following his stroke.
Music – 1980 – Jerry Lee Lewis Sings Gospel – “When They Ring Those Golden Bells”
Music – 1980 – Jerry Lee Lewis Sings Gospel – “Blessed Jesus Hold My Hand”
Music – 1989 – Jerry Lee Lewis Sings Gospel – “Lord, I’ve Tried Everything But You”
Music – Jerry Lee Lewis Sings Gospel – “The Lilly Of The Valley”
On October 27, 2020, to celebrate Lewis’s 85th birthday, a livestream aired on YouTube, Facebook, and his official website. The livestream special, Whole Lotta Celebratin’ Goin’ On, featured appearances and performances by Willie Nelson, Elton John, Mike Love, Priscilla Presley, Joe Walsh, and others. John Stamos served as the host.
Music & Interviews – 1987 – Playboy Interview Special – Playboy’s Larry Groebel Interviews The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind is the title of a documentary on Lewis released in 2022 and directed by Ethan Coen. Earlier in 2022, a collaborative gospel album was released with Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart, called The Boys from Ferriday.
Music – 2022 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Trouble In Mind” – With Willie Nelson + Merle Haggard + Keith Richards
Music – 2022 – Special Live On Stage – “Jerry Lee & Jimmy Lee: The Boys From Ferriday Sing Gospel” – “That Old Rugged Cross” – Jerry Lee Lewis at age 87
Music – 2022 – Special Live On Stage – “Jerry Lee & Jimmy Lee: The Boys From Ferriday Sing Gospel” – “It Is No Secret What God Can Do”
Along with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison, Lewis received the 1st Grammy Award in the spoken-word category for the very rare album of interviews released with some early copies of the Class of ’55 album in 1986. The original Sun cut of “Great Balls of Fire” was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998…..while Lewis’s Sun recording of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On” received this honor in 1999…..as only recordings that are at least 25 years old and have left a lasting impression can receive this honor. On February 12, 2005, Lewis received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award the day before the Recording Academy’s main Grammy Awards ceremony, which he also attended.
Music – 1983 – 25th Grammy Awards Show – Featuring Little Richard + Count Basie + Ray Charles + Jerry Lee Lewis – “What’d I Say” + “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
In June 1989, Lewis was honored for his contribution to the recording industry with a star along Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On October 10, 2007, Lewis received the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Award. His next album, Mean Old Man, was released in September 2010 and reached # 30 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Music – 1949 To 2022 – Special – Jerry Lee Lewis: “The Five Best Piano Solos Done by ‘The Killer’ Ever!”
On November 5, 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, honored Lewis with six days of conferences, interviews, a DVD premiere and film clips…..which were dedicated to him…..and entitled The Life And Music of Jerry Lee Lewis. On November 10, the week culminated with a tribute concert compered by Kris Kristofferson. Lewis was present to accept the American Music Masters Award and closed his own tribute show with a rendition of “Over the Rainbow”…..then on February 10, 2008, he appeared with John Fogerty and Little Richard on the 50th Grammy Awards, performing “Great Balls of Fire” in a medley with “Good Golly Miss Molly”. On June 4, 2008, Lewis was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and appeared on A Capitol Fourth and performed the finale’s final act with a medley of “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On” and “Great Balls of Fire”.
Music – 1968 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “I’m A Wild One”
Music – 1969 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Good Golly Miss Molly”
Music – 1997 – Live in Malmo, Sweden – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
In May 2022, Lewis was announced as a member-elect to the Country Music Hall of Fame, to be inducted in October 2022. “This year’s inductees are trailblazers who each paved their own unique path within country music,” Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, said. “Jerry Lee, Keith (Whitley, and Joe (Galante) each found their musical callings early in life and displayed a strong-minded and fierce passion for music making. In very different ways, they all have left a lasting impact on the industry and generations of fans alike. I am thrilled to welcome this deserving class to the Country Music Hall of Fame.” “I’m just overwhelmed that they asked me here today,” Lewis, 86, said during an event earlier that week at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville…..while adding that his career had taught him to “be a good person and treat people right.”
Music – 1986 – Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – Hank Williams Jr. Inducts Jerry Lee Lewis
Lewis was an incendiary showman who often played with his fists, elbows, feet, and backside, sometimes climbing on top of the piano during gigs and even apocryphally setting it on fire. Like Chuck Berry’s guitar playing, Lewis’s piano style became synonymous with rock and roll, having influenced generations of piano players.
Music – 1980
Music – 2022 – Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – Featuring New Inductees Joe Gallante + Keith Whitley + Jerry Lee Lewis
In a 2013 interview with Leah Harper, Elton John recalls that up until “Great Balls of Fire”, “the piano playing that I had heard had been more sedate. My dad collected George Shearing records, but this was the first time I heard someone beat the shit out of a piano. When I saw Little Richard at the Harrow Granada, he played it standing up, but Jerry Lee Lewis actually jumped on the piano! This was astonishing to me, that people could do that. Those records had such a huge effect on me, and they were just so great. I learned to play like that.” Lewis was primarily known for his “boogie-woogie” style…..which was characterized by a regular left-hand bass figure and dancing beat…..but his command of the instrument…..along with his highly individualistic style set him apart. Appearing on Memphis Sounds with George Klein in 2011, Lewis credited his older piano-playing cousin Carl McVoy as being a crucial influence, stating, “He was a great piano player, a great singer, and a nice-looking man, carried himself real well. I miss Carl very much.” Lewis also cited Moon Mullican as a source of inspiration. Although almost entirely self-taught, Lewis conceded to biographer Rich Bragg in 2014 that Paul Whitehead, a blind pianist from Meadville, Mississippi, was another key influence on him in his earliest days playing clubs.
Music – 2011 – Special – George Klein’s Memphis Sounds Interview With Jerry Lee Lewis – Part 1
Although Lewis’s piano playing is commonly labeled boogie-woogie, gospel music was another major influence in the formation of his technique. In Joe Bonomo’s 2009 book Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found, Memphis producer and musician Jim Dickinson calls Lewis’s occasional penchant for interrupting the standard boogie woogie left-hand progression by omitting the seventh and repeating the fifth and sixth…..thus creating a repetitive, driving, quasi-menacing momentum, “revolutionary, almost inexplicable. Maybe Ella Mae Morse, Moon Mullican had done it, but not in a way that became the propelling force of the song. Rock and roll piano up to that point had been defined by Rosco Gordon, Ike Turner and to an extent, Ray Charles. None of them was doing that. Even Little Richard, as primitive as he plays, wasn’t doing that shuffle…..for there was something in Jerry Lee that didn’t want to play that seventh, and that’s the church. Certainly in white spiritual music you avoid sevenths.”
Music – 2011 – Special – George Klein’s Memphis Sounds Interview With Jerry Lee Lewis – Part 2
Lewis was married seven times, including bigamous marriages and a marriage with his underage cousin. He had six children during his marriages. When Jerry Lee Lewis was 16, he married Dorothy Barton, the daughter of a preacher. Their union lasted for 20 months, from February 1952 to October 1953. Lewis’s second marriage in September 1953, to Jane Mitcham, was of dubious validity because it occurred 23 days before his divorce from Barton was final. After four years, he filed for divorce in October 1957. They had two children: Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. (1954–1973) and Ronnie Guy Lewis (b. 1956). In 1973, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. died at the age of 19 when he overturned the Jeep he was driving. His third marriage was to 13-year-old Myra Gale Brown, his first cousin once removed, on December 12, 1957. His divorce from Jane Mitcham was not finalized before the ceremony took place, so he remarried Brown on June 4, 1958. They had two children: Steve Allen Lewis (b. 1959) and Phoebe Allen Lewis (b. 1963). Brown was only 14 years old when her son was born. In 1962, Steve Allen Lewis drowned in a swimming pool accident at the age of 3. In 1970, Brown filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery and abuse, stating that she had been “subject to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable.” His fourth marriage was to Jaren Elizabeth Gunn Pate from October 1971 to June 8, 1982. Pate drowned in a swimming pool at the home of a friend with whom she was staying, several weeks before divorce proceedings could be finalized. They had one daughter, Lori Lee Lewis (b. 1972). Mary Kathy “K.K.” Jones of San Antonio, Texas, testified in court during Lewis’s income tax evasion trial in 1984 that she lived with him from 1980 to 1983. Lewis’s fifth marriage, to Shawn Stephens, lasted 77 days, from June to August 1983, ending with her death from an overdose of methadone. Journalist Richard Ben Cramer alleged that Lewis abused and may have killed her, neither of which is proven. His sixth marriage, to Kerrie McCarver, lasted 21 years, from April 1984 to June 2005. They had one child: Jerry Lee Lewis III (b. 1987).
Music – 1949 Through 2022 – Special – “Great Balls of Fire: The 7 Wives of Jerry Lee Lewis”
Lewis married his seventh wife Judith Lewis (née Brown, Myra Gale Brown’s brother’s former wife) on March 9, 2012. The next day, Lewis severed business ties with his daughter, Phoebe Lewis-Loftin, who was his manager, and revoked her power of attorney. In 2017, Lewis sued his daughter and her husband Zeke Loftin claiming that she owed him “substantial sums of money”. In the lawsuit, Lewis, his wife Judith Lewis, and his son Jerry Lee Lewis III also claimed Loftin defamed them on Facebook. Lewis-Loftin and her husband counter-sued, claiming Judith Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis III interfered in the business relationship. In April 2019, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers ruled that most of the claims were barred by a three-year statute of limitations except the defamation claims.
Music – 1981 – Jerry Lee Lewis Live in Concert – London, England – Wembley Stadium – Full Video
In 1984, Lewis was found innocent of evading taxes. The next year, the IRS seized property from his Nesbit, Mississippi ranch.
Music – 1982 – Jerry Lee Lewis Live In Wembley Stadium, London – Part 1
In 1988, Lewis filed for bankruptcy, petitioning that he was more than $3 million in debt, including $2 million he owed to the IRS.
Music – 2022 – Jerry Lee Lewis & Jimmy Lee Swaggert – The Boys From Ferriday Sing “Jesus, Hold My Hand” – 2 Months Before “The Killer” Passes
Lewis wrote or co-wrote the following songs: “End of the Road” (1956), “Lewis Boogie” (1956), “Pumpin’ Piano Rock” (1957), “High School Confidential” (1958), “Memory of You” (1958), “Baby Baby Bye Bye” (1960), although Discogs credits Jerry Lee Lewis and Huey “Piano” Smith as the songwriters, the song was copyrighted in 1960 as by Lewis Smith, “Lewis Workout” (1960), “He Took It Like a Man” (1963, from the 1967 album Soul My Way), “Baby, Hold Me Close” (1965) from the 1965 album The Return of Rock, “What a Heck of a Mess” (1966), “Lincoln Limousine” (1966), “Alvin” (1970), “Wall Around Heaven” from the 1972 album Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano?, “Rockin’ Jerry Lee” (1980, the B side of “Honky Tonk Stuff”, from the album When Two Worlds Collide), “Pilot Baby” (1983), “Crown Victoria Custom ’51” (1995), released as a Sire 45 single B side, and “Ol’ Glory” (2006) from the album Last Man Standing.
Music – 1957 – Jerry Lee Lewis – ” Pumpin’ Piano Rock”
Music – 1979 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Mathilda”
Music – 1960 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Baby Baby Bye Bye”
Music – 1965 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Baby Hold Me Close”
Music – 1980 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Honky Tonk Stuff”
Music – 1980 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “That’s What Haoppens When Two Worlds Collide”
Music – 2007 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Ol Glory” – Featuring Toby Keith
On February 28, 2019, Lewis had a minor stroke in Memphis. He had to cancel several appearances. The video below is truly a gift to the world….like his music for 7 decades…..as right up to the day the Killer passed….he did what he did his whole life and that’s play music…..for music is written and sung as a gift for others….not for the performer….and Jerry Lee Lewis did it to his death….with a message attached….“master your God given talents, and you will be at peace when you pass this world.”…..which is what happened in Killers case.
Music – 1959 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “High School Confidential”
Music – 1969 – Duet with Jerry Lee and Linda Gail Lewis Singing – “Don’t Let Me Cross Over”
Music – 1981 – Jerry Lee Lewis Live In Concert – “39 and Holding (Holding Everything He Can)”
Music – 1966 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “Big Legged Woman”
Music – 1982 – Jerry Lee Lewis – “High Heeled Sneakers”
Music – 2021 – Jerry Lee Lewis & Ronnie McDowell Duet – “Never Too Old To Rock’n’Roll’
Music – 1982 – Live on Stage – Jerry Lee lewis – “I Let My Fingers Do The Talkin'” –
Music – 2006 – Live In Studio – Kid Rock & Jerry Lee Lewis – “Honky Tonk Woman”
On October 28, 2022, Lewis died at his home in Nesbit, Mississippi, following a bout of pneumonia, at the age of 87.
Music – 2022 – Special – “Jerry Lee Lewis Homegoing Funeral Service” – Part 1
Music – 2022 – Special – “Jerry Lee Lewis Homegoing Funeral Service” – Part 2
Music – 2022 – Special – Jerry Lee Lewis Laid To Rest In Ferriday, Louisiana