Jerry Lee Lewis Biography
Jerry Lee Lewis (aka "The Killer") is know for hit songs like "Whole Lotta Shaking Goin On" and "Great Ball of Fire."
Lewis was born on Sept. 29, 1935 to Elmo and Mamie Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana. Inspired by blues, gospel and the country sounds of Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, Jerry Lee showed interest in music at an early age. His parents noticed his gift of music and purchased his first piano at the age of nine. Lewis would sneak out the house with his cousins to hear the sounds of R&B at Haney's Big House, the local juke joint. This establishment, would feature performances by various upcoming Delta Bluesmen such as B.B. King. Jerry Lee was thirteen when he had his first public appearance at a local Ford dealership. His mother had different plans for him; She had young Jerry Lee enrolled in a bible college in Texas. However, when Lewis played a secular version of "My God is Real," he was expelled. Lewis was married at age of seventeen and this marriage lasted several months; his second marriage produced one child and it would last 4 years.
In 1955, Lewis auditioned for a few record labels in Nashville, Tennessee and was unsuccessful; he returned home to play small clubs in Louisiana and Mississippi. A short time later in November 1956, Lewis decided to audition with Sam Philips's Sun Studio in Memphis,Tennessee. To finance the trip, he and his father shared the expenses for the audition there. When Jerry Lee auditioned, the resulting demo "Crazy Arms" became Lewis' first single.
Beginning in December 1956, Jerry Lee became a solo artist and session musician there at Sun Records. On December 4,1956 during a Carl Perkins' recording session, Elvis Presley paid a visit to the Sun Studio. Elvis was now with RCA records and he was just stopping by. As a result, with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee already in house, the four had an informal gathering & recording session. Because of the gathering, Sam Phillips names the four musicians “the Million Dollar Quartet.” In 1957 Jerry Lee secretly re-married for a third time to the daughter of his cousin Myra Gale Brown. Later in the spring of 1958, while on tour in England, the press found out about his marriage to Brown. Once it was reveled Lewis had married his thirteen-year-old cousin, the English tour was cut short and the fallout from the news of his marriage almost ended his career. Jerry Lee and Myra had one son who died at age three. The couple stayed together until they divorced in 1970.
1960's & 70's
Despite being blacklisted by many radio stations, things starting getting better by 1960. Lewis recorded a Ray Charles's song called "What's I Say." When it was released in 1961, it made it into the top 40 on the pop, country, and R&B charts. In 1963 Lewis' contract with Sun records ended. He signed with a subsidiary of Mercury, Smash Records; during his time there, he recorded quite a few rock and roll recordings, but his career was at a stand still. During the mid 1960s Jerry Lee's career begun to recover a bit in Europe. He toured in Germany and produced the live album "Live at the star Club." Lewis made a comeback as a country singer in 1968; his hit single "Another Place, Another Time" was a top ten hit and it set the stage for a number of other country hits. Lewis remarried in October 1971. The marriage produced one child and ended two years later. Later that same year, Lewis' son from his second marriage died in a car wreck. The combination of tragedies took their toll on Jerry Lee and he begun drinking excessively. Jerry Lee's successes continued through the 70's and he was able to re-energize his rock and roll career with hits such as the 1972 release "Chantilly Lace" and the 1977 release of "Middle Age Crazy."
1980's and 90's
Later in 1979, Lewis signed with Elektra and had his last country hit with "Thirty-Nine and Holding." Jerry Lee's excessive drinking was causing him some serious health problems, almost killing him in 1981, but he overcame and continued performing. In 1986 he joined Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash to record the album "Class of 55." Later in 1989, a motion picture based on Jerry Lee's life called Great Balls of Fire was released. The movie focused on his early career and his marriage to Myra. In 1998, Jerry Lee toured with Chuck Berry and Little Richard in Europe.
2000's and Beyond
The critically acclaimed album Last Man Standing was released in September 2006. The album featured duets with many well known rock & roll stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. The album did well in four different categories. Later in 2007 a DVD called Last Man Standing Live was released that featured concert footage. Lastly, "Mean old Man" was released in 2010; this album included duets with artist such as Eric Clapton, John Fogerty and Merle Haggard.
Jerry Lee Lewis is a pioneering Rockabilly and Rock and Roll artist; regardless of what you may think of him or his personal life, he is a world class pianist. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and the The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008. Also, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy in February 2005. Whether singing country, rock or the blues, he is still Jerry Lee.