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"Just point me to the piano and give me my money. In fifteen minutes I'll have 'em SHAKIN', SHOUTIN', SHIVERIN', and SHACKIN'" ...Jerry Lee Lewis


Jerry Lee's Birthday
By Patrick Wall - - Posted Sept. 29, 2002
As you are all probably aware, Jerry Lee was born 67 years ago today. No artist of his era has had as interesting a catalog of diverse musical styles than Jerry Lee Lewis. Most amazingly, he has the ability to interpret any song and make it his own.
           When most people think of JLL, they think "Great balls of fire". However, there is much much more to JLL than "GBOF". However, most people will start off via this route - a greatest hits collection of "GBOF", "Shakin' ", "Breathless", and 'soundalikes' such as "Big blon baby" to fill in. However, when you want more of early JLL, you will eventually end up buying the box sets. Once you get into the rest of Sun JLL, his country career and his experiments with soul, you will notice just how versatile JLL is.
           JLL is a master of country, soul, rock 'n' roll and swing but perhaps the 2 most important styles he does are blues and gospel. These certainly seem to be the things he enjoys doing best as his recordings of them are so enthusiastic. The feeling of blues and gospel is carried across into his country songs as well of course and it is hard to draw the line of what style any JLL record is. Take "Lord what's left for me to do" for example - this mixes blues, gospel and country styles all at once.
           JLL was born in Ferriday Louisiana on this day in 1935. He grew up listening to gospel and Jimmie Rodgers records. When he started singing and playing piano, he had no obvious role models - so JLL is certainly telling the truth when he says that he came up with a lot of his style himself (JLL was 8 years old in 1943 when he started playing piano - Moon Mullican was yet 3 years away from recording in his own right). Later on, Moon Mullican became JLL's biggest influence on singing while playing piano. Lewis seemed to have an endless knowledge of western swing, honky tonk and other oldtime country styles - he was deeply influenced by Hank Williams, Red Foley, Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzell, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, early Eddy Arnold and of course Rodgers and Mullican. The styles of all these artists basically permeated JLL's soul and he created his own distinct style out of all these. Country music and hillbilly blues was JLL's biggest influence because it was his role model.
           Besides oldtime country and hillbilly blues, JLL had many other influences. He heard black blues on radio and at Haney's Big House. Songs like "Big legged woman", "Milkcow blues" and "Matchbox blues" all show how effortlessly JLL can mix black blues stanzas with ones from the records of Moon and Jimmie at will here. You can see that original songs like "Hello hello baby" were influenced by records as diverse as Johnny Temple's "Louise Louise blues" and Jimmie Rodgers' "TB Blues". For better or for worse, JLL also was deeply familiar with his contemporaries. Songs from many of them were printed on his mind and JLL's reasons for doing them vary from respect to contempt to just plain hearing them so many times.
           A master vocalist and pianist, JLL also is a decent guitarist and is when he wants a very good songwriter. While the currently in vogue country artists of his era are George Jones and Merle Haggard, JLL has more feeling in his style than any of them and knows more musical genres and artists than the others seem to.
           At the moment, JLL has lost none of his greatness. He still can excel in the right environment. While his current band may not be one of his best and sound monotonous and block out the important things in a JLL show (i.e. JLL himself), JLL is above the law and when he sings his country and blues where the band stay back his vocals and piano ring through as good as ever (sounding older but not defeated).
           JLL remains one of the greatest, most under-rated talents in American music. The list of unsung heroes in American music, and especially country music, is amazing - and needs to be remedied. Included to the foremost of these are JLL, Moon Mullican, Merrill Moore, Delbert McClinton.
           Sincerely, Patrick.

Posted December 21, 1999
  • Photos of a 1999 Jerry Lee Christmas Party

    Posted September 10, 1999
    'The Killer' may be older, but he's still on fire
    With kind permission of Country Weekly (thanks to Catharine S. Rambeau)
    Originally released on June 29, 1999 Story by Larry Holden,

    "Country fans have always been there for me, and I appreciate them every day of my life." The legendary Jerry Lee Lewis is sitting at the piano in his living room. "A lot of people don't realize my first two hits -- 'Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On' and 'Great Balls of Fire' -- were No.1s on the country charts," declares Jerry.

    Since 1957, Jerry Lee has charted more than 60 country songs -- including 40 top 20s and six No. 1s. And he's not through with country. "I'm going into the studio in about three months," Jerry Lee continues. "I'd like to have some more country hits." Jerry Lee is a world away from his wild man persona, "The Killer," as he relaxes on his 32-acre ranch near Nesbit.

    Nesbit is about 25 miles south of Memphis, Tenn., where Jerry Lee launched his career at Sun Records. "Realizing my music has had an impact on country and rock music for five decades gives me a lot of satisfaction," notes Jerry Lee, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. "I just naturally love making music of all kinds, from country to rock to R&B to gospel. "When I see young people at my concerts, it makes me feel like I'm pleasing a whole new generation. It pumps me up to see people enjoying my music."

    Jerry Lee is still pumped by a recent performance in Atlanta. "I was amazed at the crowd -- 60,000 in the Georgia Dome. You have to find a way to entertain everyone in the place -- even those in the last row. I leave no stone unturned when it comes to entertaining people." It's what he does best. His most recent international tour covered cities from Austria and Sweden to Holland, Germany and England. "I still do shows," he says. "I love to perform, but I also love coming home."

    On this day, things are complete. Phoebe is at the ranch. "I love seeing my dad onstage with all those fans going crazy," she reveals. "I've learned to respect and appreciate what he has been able to do with his music." Phoebe, a country singer, is the daughter of Jerry Lee and Myra, the 13-year-old cousin he married in 1957. The union inflamed a scandal that brought his soaring career crashing to earth. "My dad has this image as a hell-raising person," continues Phoebe. "And," she pauses and laughs, "it's true. But he's such a good, sweet man."

    The afternoon sun streams in through a window, coating Jerry Lee with gold. "I love living in the country," he adds. "Sitting down by the lake, smoking my pipe, thinking and talking to the dogs is very peaceful."

    The dogs include the five Chihuahuas inside -- Diamond, Onyx, Topaz, Ruby and CZ, for cubic zirconia -- fondly known as "The Family Jewels." There's also a small herd of outside dogs, strays Jerry Lee has rescued. Jerry Lee says his lakeside reminiscing often turns to the good times he's had with some of country music's most renowned performers.

    "I did my first tour with Johnny Cash. That was in 1956. And I learned a lot from Johnny," he recalls, moving to a dining room chair. "Every night on the tour I'd watch him perform. I learned how to open and close a show. He's one of the greatest showmen in the world. Still is. "That first tour was a 30-day tour. Johnny, Wanda Jackson and Marvin Rainwater were in the middle, with Sonny James, who had a No. 1 with 'Young Love,' closing it out. "They were going to pay me a $100 a night -- and I thought I'd get rich! I left for the tour in a new Buick and I came back in a high-mileage, worn-out Buick. And I didn't have the million dollars in my pocket I'd pictured in my mind. More like $75."

    In 1982, Jerry Lee and Johnny were part of another successful venture. The Survivors was an album derived from a concert featuring Jerry Lee, Johnny and Carl Perkins, recorded a year earlier in Stuttgart, West Germany. "There was us veterans, plus we had a super-talented young man on guitar and mandolin," explains Jerry Lee. "That young man was Marty Stuart. Now, I've watched Marty become a great artist." Four years after The Survivors, Jerry Lee and Johnny joined for yet another milestone. The two, plus Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins, returned to Sun Records studio in Memphis where they all started -- more than 30 years earlier. They recorded Class of '55 (Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming), which quickly captured the No. 15 spot. "It was like a family reunion," remembers Jerry Lee "I enjoyed every second of being in that great old studio with a great bunch of guys.

    "Roy was one of the nicest and most talented people I've ever met. He didn't even know how much talent he had. I sure miss him. "I also miss Elvis. I cherished my friendship with him. He was a very good friend." In the foyer of Jerry Lee's house, parked beneath an elegant crystal chandelier, is a two-of-a-kind '55 Harley. The other one belonged to Elvis. "And I enjoy my continuing friendship with George Jones, a unique and great performer."

    Two previous sons met with tragedy. Jerry Lee Jr. was killed in a 1973 auto crash when he was 19. Steve Allen -- named after the talk show host who gave Jerry Lee his first national TV exposure -- drowned in 1962 when he was 3. To overcome the grief, Jerry Lee poured himself into the music -- country music. In 1968, he decided to "go country" in a big way. "My first single, 'Another Place Another Time,' went to No. 4," remembers Jerry Lee. "The first three singles I put out in 1968 got near the top of the country charts. "Then in December of that year, 'To Make Love Sweeter for You' became my first pure country No. 1. I scored another first in 1971 and 1972 when both sides of back-to-back records went No. 1. No one had ever done that before. "That happened with 'Would You Take Another Chance on Me' and the single's other side, my cut of Janis Joplin's 'Me and Bobby McGee.' Then my version of the Big Bopper's 'Chantilly Lace' went to No. 1 in country, and so did its flip side, 'Think About It Darlin'."

    Jerry Lee paid homage to his country roots when he cut "Drinking Wine Spo-Dee O'Dee" in 1973. A Top 20 country hit, it was the song he sang at his first paying gig when he was 13. "I sat in with a band at the Ford dealership in Ferriday, Louisiana, and sang 'Drinking Wine Spo- Dee O'Dee.' My aunt passed the hat and collected $15 for me."

    Jerry Lee proudly paid tribute to one of his all-time heroes, Hank Williams, with his own versions of "You Win Again," "Cold, Cold Heart" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." "Hank's music had a tremendous impact on me," he says. "I think his music has had an effect on every artist performing today. "Two of my very early influences growing up in Ferriday were Jimmie Rodgers and Gene Autry. I'm going to record some of Gene's songs on a future album."

    Jerry Lee's earliest influence was sparked by a piano. "My mom and dad mortgaged our home to get me my first piano when I was 8," he says. "It's the piano now sitting next to my regular playing piano in the living room. "When I saw that piano being rolled into the house, it just knocked me out. And I've lived with that piano all my life. "I always appreciated my parents. But, as I got older, I realized how much Mom and Dad sacrificed for me. Without their support, I couldn't have done anything."

    Jerry Lee's piano playing definitely made a mark at the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. That's where, as a student, he wove boogie--woogie rifts into hymns. "They said it was boogie woogie," he declares with a smile. "I thought of it as speeded up spiritual music. The people who heard it, went crazy over it. But the dean didn't. "I knew that music was the road I wanted to take, so I was ready to start making a living with my music."

    He left the school in 1950 and has been on the road ever since. His musical journey often has him crossing paths with his two piano-playing cousins, TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and country performer Mickey Gilley.

    Walking outside through the gift shop, Jerry watches ripples dancing across his piano-shaped swimming pool. White clouds are reflected in the glistening water.

    Down the hill is the metal building housing The Killer's Kar Kollection. As Jerry Lee walks alongside the pool, he clears up one mystery.

    "People think I'm called 'The Killer' because of my wild lifestyle. I've had the nickname since I was a boy. I started calling other kids Killer. But the name stuck with me. Even now, I'll ask someone, 'How's it going, Killer?'"

    Then he clears up another mystery. Sort of. When asked if he really did set his piano on fire to grandstand Chuck Berry at a concert, Jerry Lee doesn't hesitate. "I don't know where people would get an idea like that. Someone would have to be crazy to set a piano on fire." Then his eyes twinkle. "Of course, that was so long ago and the story's been told so many times, I sometimes wonder if I really did do it."

    Posted June 27, 1999
    From: - Just came back from Silverton Casino having seen Jerry Lee. The price was $ 19.50, and the stage was set outdoors around the pool area. When I got there, half an hour early, the place was already packed. The Baldwin piano was in the middle of the stage. Jerry's band, with James Burton and Kenny Lovelace on guitar, starts off doing some solid Rock'n'Roll classics. The sound is excellent, loud, but crisp and clean, you can hear everything perfectly. When Jerry Lee finally comes on stage, it's pandemonium, the electricity is in the air, the crowd comes alive! Jerry Lee is in top form, doing mostly red hot rockin' material, his voice is super superb, piano playing smoking, and his persona--charisma--whatever you wanna call it, enthrolling the whole audience! Whatta show, what a Legend, what a hero, JERRY LEE LEWIS has no equals, a giant, just as much today as ever, clad in a red gab suit with his hair slicked back, he looked as good as he sounded!!! It's over 40 years later, and Jerry Lee and Rock'n'Roll are still here, more exciting, more soulful, and more needed than ever!! I am so happy I went, and saw Jerry Lee Lewis, I had tears of joy in my eyes when I left, such was the power and soul that the Killer conveyed!! God Bless You, Jerry Lee Lewis, an American Hero, The Soul Of Memphis, may you keep on rockin' forever! "They say Rock'n'Roll will soon fade away, no matter what they say Rock'n'Roll is here to stay!" And so is Jerry Lee Lewis!!! Rock, Ronny Weiser, Las Vegas




    ON ELVIS: Elvis was my friend and you'd better believe it. Elvis Presley loved Jerry Lee Lewis. Elvis was a good person - we had a good time together. We were two of the same kind.

    This is one of the greatest people I've ever known - this guy was unbelievable. Well...Elvis opened the door, man, but he couldn't follow Jerry Lee on stage - no siree.

    TO US: I guess that old piano is my best friend and the stage is my home. So if I don't stay on top I got nowhere to go.

    I've had some hard times, but you'll never find a business as good as this one. I tell people at every show that I LOVE THEM, and I DO. I give them everything I've got.


    The Killer Influences Everybody, Man

    Comments from Everlys, Elvis, Tom Jones, Dick Clark, etc. on T HE GREAT JERRY LEE LEWIS

    SAM PHILLIPS: I don't care if he is doin' somethin' so slow you can't even walk to it...Jerry Lee's strockin'. If you listen to the progression of chords and everything- I'm not talkin' about finger flying-Jerry Lee is rockin', even if you barely notice it. Fortunately, the SMASH and MERCURY recordings leave a great legacy of Jerry Lee material for posterity, even though the public rarely gets a chance to hear the bulk of his superb material. Just as Little Richard is always asked to sing TUTTI FRUITTI and LONG TALL SALLY, Jerry Lee Lewis will always be associated with GREAT BALLS OF FIRE and WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN'. Thankfully,there exists on Mercury albums like THE SESSION, SOUTHERN ROOTS, ODD MAN IN, COUNTRY MEMORIES, KEEP ON ROCKIN', BOOGIE WOOGIE COUNTRY MAN, each one a monument to Jerry Lee's enormous talent.

    KRIS KRISTOFFERSON: I consider Jerry Lee Lewis one of the great singers of all time.Put him up there with opera singers. This guy's a natural resource who is inclined to self destruct. He had a way of Transforming my songs into something I couldn't believe I was hearing... I LOVED WHAT HE DID WITH " ME AND BOBBIE McGEE". He was late for the recording session...They had all these musicians lined up. Now in NASHVILLE, they don't have three songs in three hours-someone's gonna lose their job. In walks Jerry Lee and Jerry Kennedy, the producer,says 'How are we gonna do it,Killer?' and JERRY LEE says 'LIKE THIS'. He sat down at the piano and he just DESTROYED it, IT WAS A WONDERFUL VERSION. He hated Janis Joplin's version of it, and told me he cut HIS version of it to show'that woman how it should be done'.

    JANIS JOPLIN: Janis Joplin claimed JERRY LEE LEWIS and KRIS KRISTOFFERSON were the only two men who could DRINK HER UNDER THE TABLE.

    PHIL EVERLY: Jerry Lee is one of a kind. As soon as you have one of a kind you have that kind of importance. It's as UNIQUE as they get- he is a PILLAR, THE BRIDGE BETWEEN COUNTRY AND ROCK N ROLL.

    DON EVERLY: JERRY LEE is an ORIGINAL. There is nobody like him-an original if ever there was one. His MUSIC is TERRIBLY IMPORTANT-it's GREAT. LORD KNOWS, HE LIVED A ROCK n ROLL LIFESTYLE to the ULTIMATE.

    TOM JONES: When JERRY came to England rock and roll was just beginning and we were amazed by his TALENT, his great PIANO PLAYING, and his SHOWMANSHIP. I was a BIG FAN, but the PRESS GOT OVER THE TOP and VICIOUS on this child bride incident. He didn't think he was doing anything wrong, and he wasn't.

    DICK CLARK comments on the RISE AND FALL OF JERRY LEE LEWIS: In the early days of ROCK N ROLL, you've got to first remember that rock n roll was an amalgam of COUNTRY music and RHYTHM AND BLUES music, both of which told the truth and , as we say, were a "right on" kind of music. It was right there , flat out in front of you. About drunkeness, adultery, doing your thing in bed---whatever. Things that in those days of America being ever so naieve weren't even discussed in say nothing about being SUNG ABOUT. The only time you'd ever hear them would be on what we called in those days a RACE STATION. A BLACK station, almost UNDERGROUND. The same thing was true of a HILLBILLY STATION. It's just another indication, I think, that America is older and sophisticated and ready to accept the facts of life.

    MICKEY GILLEY, JERRY LEE'S COUSIN, on whether or not it bothers him when people say Mickey's style is too similiar to Jerry Lee's: Well, yes and no. For a long, long time I tried to change my style of music to get something I could achieve myself.But due to the fact we were raised together and a boogie woogie style of piano seems to be in our blood, I couldn't change what I had become accustomed to. When ROOM FULL OF ROSES hit, a song that Jerry Lee and I used to sing together as kids growing up together, people said it sounded like a Jerry Lee Lewis song, and they were right. As I look back now, I can see that I was always trying to change what I was doing all the time....but I became Mickey Gilley, regardless of whether I sound like Jerry Lee Lewis, or Jimmy Swaggart, or Charlie Rich, it began to work for me. You've got to be yourself regardless of who you sound like.

    MICKEY GILLEY: There is no doubt that JERRY LEE LEWIS is a LIVING LEGEND. I think Jerry's music will live on forever. I am VERY, VERY PROUD to have someone in the FAMILY attain that level of success that Jerry has in the music field. I don't think anyone will ever top WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN or GREAT BALLS OF FIRE or BREATHLESS. YOU WIN AGAIN I think is a classic. Definitely, he is a living legend.

    TOM JONES: As far as contempory music from the fifties on, JERRY LEE LEWIS has been MY BIGGEST INFLUENCE. I've bought more records of Jerry Lee Lewis than any other entertainer.

    Jerry Lee Lewis Instant Biography:

    Jerry Lee Lewis was born on September 29th, 1935 at Turtle Lake on the Calhoun Plantation...just a stone's throw from Ferriday, Louisiana. The Lewis family was a musical one, so it came as no surprise to anyone that knew them that little Jerry Lee began his career at the ripe ol' age of EIGHT! He first started messin' around with the guitar, which he quickly learned....and started on the piano the next year. Jerry Lee's first singing performances were at The Assembly Of God church in Ferriday. Jerry would practice his piano eleven or twelve hours a day....loving the sound, the creativity of it, and the instant adulation and attention it would bring. As a child, Jerry Lee would sneak off to Haney's Big House and listen to the boogie woogie goodtime blues that they played at this local black dance hall.

    Jerry Lee Lewis was only 13 years old when he played his first night club in Mississippi,earning ten dollars a night. By 1956, Jerry Lee had made the rounds at the LOUISIANA HAYRIDE, and all the record companies in Nashville...when he heard about a small independent label outta Memphis that had given ELVIS PRESLEY his start...with hope and prayers of his family, financed with week's worth of the family egg money, he and his daddy Elmo lit out for Memphis, Tennessee and SUN RECORDS.

    Within a year, Jerry Lee had sold more records than anybody in Sun Records history, including Elvis! Of all the talents that Sam Phillips had on SUN, Jerry Lee Lewis was the absolute wildest! Jerry Lee and his "PUMPING PIANO" roared through songs like a locomotive with no brakes! First was CRAZY ARMS...that got a lotta local play and sold about 300,000...THEN CAME "THET THERE SHAKIN' SONG" as Jerry Lee called it...WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN' sold a million copies instantly...number one on the pop charts, the country charts, and the Rhythm and Blues charts all at the same time.

    WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN remains to this day one of the few records in MUSICAL HISTORY to achieve such enormous popularity in ALL AREAS OF THE MUSIC CHARTS all at one time. By the early 80s it was estimated that the disc had sold OVER TWENTY MILLION COPIES world-wide! Another surprising thing about SHAKIN was that it was recorded in ONE TAKE. This amazing talent of getting the perfect energy for the recording in one take would, over the years, become JERRY LEE LEWIS would record but ONE TAKE almost all the time, much to the amazement of those who had not worked with THE KILLER before.


    WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN did NOT jump up the charts without it's share of problems, however. Initially, the record was BANNED by some broadcasters, who said they would never play such rude, risque, and vulgar material! Although not erotic by today's standards[ if today we have ANY LEFT, when it comes to the records played on the radio NOW] the song was scorned by some parents who thought it was just TOO SUGGESTIVE, shocking, and disgusting. They said at the time, in 1957, that "this was the most risque record that they had ever heard" Jerry Lee Lewis himself later recalled. It was Jerry Lee Lewis' FIRST CLASH with the establishment, and his first bitter taste of negative PRESS...but NOT HIS LAST.

    Next, Jerry Lee and Sam Phillips set their sights on Television...and the huge sales a Hit record would enjoy coupled with a successful appearance on a popular show. Just as ELVIS had done before him, Jerry Lee was set to appear on the STEVE ALLEN show in NEW YORK CITY. Jerry Lee made his first of several appearances on July 28, 1957. He performed CRAZY ARMS and WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN. The latter had previously been BANNED FOR BROADCAST by BMI. Sam Phillips' partner JUD PHILLIPS had successfully petitioned BMI to lift the ban, since there was no stopping Jerry Lee and his SHAKIN song from being heard all over the country that hot summer night in 1957.

    When THE KILLER made his second appearance on STEVE ALLEN, on August 11, 1957,he again performed SHAKIN that by that time was so wildly popular that ALLEN's show beat ED SULLIVAN in the ratings for the first time!

    Jerry Lee also appeared on ALLEN FREED'S BIG BEAT PARTY tv show, DICK CLARK'S AMERICAN BANDSTAND, a third appearance on STEVE ALLEN where he debuted GREAT BALLS OF FIRE ,all still in 1957. Jerry Lee also appeared as a guest star in the Hollywood motion picture JAMBOREE in late 57, singing GREAT BALLS OF FIRE.

    By the end of 1957 Jerry lee Lewis was being paid 10,000 dollars a night. That's a bit up from his fees of the previous year when he was being paid 50 dollars a show! JERRY LEE LEWIS was now the HOTTEST ACT IN SHOW BUSINESS.

    1958 began in the same whirlwind of adulation, publicity, wild antics on stage, and gold records! Early 58 saw Jerry Lee again all over television and teenage motion pictures...PATTI PAGE'S BIG RECORD , DICK CLARK'S SATURDAY NIGHT, and AMERICAN BANDSTAND and THE TODAY SHOW on television...and HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL in HOLLYWOOD!

    BREATHLESS, his third SUN single was showcased on BANDSTAND and shot like a bullet up the charts! DOWN THE LINE was done on TODAY and the public went mad for it, too!

    He sold out the PARAMOUNT THEATER with ALAN FREED's SHOW...all attendance records for this theater broken for all TWELVE DAYS of the engagement! More tickets than SINATRA ever sold.

    Jerry Lee Lewis, the poor boy from Ferriday who learned the boogie woogie looking under the doors of black whorehouses and clubs, who was too wild for the HAYRIDE, too crazy for NASHVILLE...was now on the top of the world. At the age of TWENTY TWO he had sold over TWENTY MILLION RECORDS, appeared on ELEVEN TOP TV SHOWS, and been in TWO MOVIES.



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