Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis: Born September 29, 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana. He started out playing gospel, country, and blues. He was influenced by Jimmy Rodger, Louis Armstrong, and Gene Autry. After two brief teenage marriages, he went to the Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. He was kicked out the first year for playing a much too bluesy version of a traditional gospel hymn.
In 1956, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and auditioned for Sam Phillips who signed him to SUN Records. In 1957 he recorded Roy Hall and Dave "Curly" Williams' “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,”. That was followed by the Otis Blackwell-penned tune—“Great Balls of Fire”. He was wilder than anything that came before him, including Elvis. He was everything the kids wanted and parents hated. Despite all the hoopla, the boy could really play and sing.
I don't actually remember the first time I met Jerry Lee Lewis. It was probably when my father was recording at SUN Studio. I couldn't have been more than three or four years old. Jerry Lee Lewis and my father were real good buddies. Unlike the stories I've heard over the years, my father had nothing but good things to say about Jerry. Likewise, every time I've spoken with Jerry over the years it was obvious that he had mutual respect and admiration for Dad. The last time I saw Jerry was about 3 years ago. We both played for George Klien's Annual Christmas Show. It was held at Elvis Presley's Memphis, which has since gone out of business. It was a wonderful night. Jerry invited me back to his bus after the show. I walked in and he was lighting a big cigar. He told me he couldn't get over how much I looked and sounded like my Dad. That's about as good a compliment as I ever hope to get.
During his career Jerry cut several of my father's songs, including "Who Will The Next Fool Be", "Don't Put No Headstone On My Grave", and one in particular that Dad actually wrote just for The Killer, "Break Up".
He told me that Dad and he had always been the best of friends, and that he really missed Charlie. He started laughing as he said, "It looks like Sam and I may just be the last two to go." He was referring to Sam Phillips, the founder of SUN Studio. Sam passed away just last year, so I guess Jerry may well be the last. At least the last one of the "big names" from the SUN days. Gone are Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbisson, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. Of course there's still Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess, and Narvel Felts who are entertaining audiences all over the world.
I spent about fifteen minutes sipping on a coke and smoking a cigarette. We took a couple of photos, and then I left. It was really good to see Jerry again. He was just a delight to be around. I have been around in the 70s when he could get wild, even angry. I've seen him take it out on his backup band, but he was always cool to me.
I remember going to see Jerry Lee play at the Thunderbird, a little nightculb he owned in Memphis back in the 70s. Sometimes I would get up and play some Hammond B3. Those were the days. Jerry's manager J. W. helped get us out of some scrapes. We all partied hard, but it was all in fun. Jerry is such a big influence on me personally, as well as just about any rock and roll player. He invented rock and roll piano. There were others that led the way, but Jerry cornered the market on it. He's one hell of an entertainer and I'm glad he's still around.
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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