Encyclopedia > Jerry Lee Lewis

  Article Content

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis, an American Rock and Roll pioneer piano player was born September 29, 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana.

Like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis was brought up singing the Christian gospel music of integrated southern Pentecostal churches. He began playing the piano at a very early age in his church, and in 1950 he attended a fundamentalist bible school in Texas but was expelled for misconduct, including playing rock and roll versions of hymns in church.

Leaving religious music behind, but bringing its sound and his piano playing talents to the new music developing at the time, in 1954 he cut his first record. In 1956, Lewis joined Sam Phillips at his Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash also began their recording careers at Sun Studios around this same time.

At Sun studios, Lewis first recording was his own distinct version of the country ballad "Crazy Arms". In 1957, his piano and the pure rock sound of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" propelled him to international fame. "Great Balls Of Fire" soon followed and would become his biggest hit. Watching and listening to Jerry Lee Lewis play , Elvis said if he could play the piano like that, he'd quit singing.

Lewis’ personal life had always been turbulent but kept out of the public eye until a tour of Great Britain in 1958 when the press learned the 23-year-old star was with his third wife, Myra Gale Brown, who was also his 13-year-old cousin. The situation caused a public uproar and the tour had to be cancelled after only three concerts.

The scandal followed Lewis home to America and as a result he almost vanished from the music scene. After more than a decade playing rock and roll, in 1968 Lewis focused exclusively on country & western music with reasonable success. Although he toured and played many sold-out concerts, he never again achieved the heights of success that he had prior to the scandal.

Plagued by alcohol and drug problems, tragedy struck when his 19-year-old son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., was killed in a road accident in 1973. Lewis's own erratic behaviour during the latter part of the 1970s led to his being hospitalized and near death from a bleeding ulcer[?]. Following this, his fourth wife drowned in a swimming pool under suspicious circumstances and little more than a year later, his fifth wife was found dead at his home from a methadone overdose. Addicted to drugs too, Jerry Lee Lewis checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic[?].

Off and on he would be seen in various media, usually in a less than favorable light due to his persisting personal problems. In the March 14, 1983 issue of Time Magazine , Lewis was quoted as saying: "I'm a rompin', stompin,' piano-playing sonofabitch. A mean sonofabitch. But a great sonofabitch."

In 1989, a motion picture based on his early life in rock and roll titled Great Balls Of Fire and starring Dennis Quaid[?], brought him back into the public eye. The film was based on the book by Lewis' ex-wife Myra and starred Dennis Quaid[?] as Lewis, with Winona Ryder, and Alec Baldwin.

The very public downfall of his cousin, television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, resulted in more adverse publicity to an already deeply troubled family. Swaggart is also a piano player, as is another cousin, country music star Mickey Gilley[?]. Jerry Lee's sister, Linda Gail Lewis, is also a piano player, and has recorded with Van Morrison.

Jerry Lee Lewis In Concert
Despite the personal problems, his musical talent is unquestioned. Nicknamed The Killer for his forceful voice and piano production on stage, he was described by fellow artist Roy Orbison as the best raw performer in the history of rock music. In 1986 Jerry Lee Lewis was part of the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Some of his popular singles

  • "Me and Bobby McGee"
  • "End of the Road"
  • "Who's Gonna Play this Old Piano?"
  • "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)"
  • "It'll Be Me"
  • "High School Confidential"
  • "Crazy Arms"
  • "Another Place, Another Time"
  • "High School Confidential"
  • "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On"
  • "Great Balls of Fire"
  • "Breathless"

External Link

  • Rockin' My Life Away (http://guterman.com/guterman_jerrylee/guterman_jerrylee) by Jimmy Guterman, a complete biography, online.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Grateful Dead

... Dead fully reunited in mid-2002 as The Other Ones, and embarked on a fall tour throughout the eastern half of the U.S. On February 14, 2003, reflecting the reality what was, ...

This page was created in 23.9 ms