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Jerry Lee Lewis,
flamboyant and controversial rock and roll pioneer, 
dead at 87
Ref: CBC News

Performer known as The Killer was inducted into inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class
Jerry Lee Lewis, the hard-living, hard-playing pianist and singer whose offstage exploits often grabbed as much attention as his electrifying performances and genre-spanning recording career, has died. He was 87. The last survivor of a generation of groundbreaking performers that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Lewis died at home in Memphis, Tenn., representative Zach Farnum said in a release. 

Lewis had suffered a minor stroke in 2019 but frequently performed live shows until then. More recently, he was unable to attend his Country Music Hall of Fame induction due to illness. 

Lewis's legacy was largely established on the mostly raucous sides cut over a three-year period at Sun Records in Memphis: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, Great Balls of Fire, Breathless and High School Confidential. A serendipitous session there of future music legends on Dec. 4, 1956 would also loom large — with the songs recorded by the so-called Million Dollar Quartet of Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins sold and repackaged in the ensuing decades.

Lewis's appeal to baby boomer kids entranced by the new genre called rock 'n' roll was boosted by manic performances on The Steve Allen Show and in the motion picture High School Confidential. Lewis's hair flipped and flopped as he pounded the keys, yipped and yodelled, kicked the piano bench aside and played standing up or even with his feet.

"The Killer" — Lewis's nickname stemming from a colloquial childhood greeting — was inducted into the inaugural 1986 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a Grammy lifetime achievement award. Not a prolific songwriter, Lewis received credit for putting his definitive stamp on songs that originated across genres -- R&B, country, gospel, he loved it all. 

Scandalous Marriage

Lewis's life played out like a Southern Gothic novel manuscript rejected for being too over the top. There were seven marriages, a near-fatal shooting, perennial IRS troubles due to tax delinquency and habitual car crashes, including an infamous 1976 arrest in which a pistol-packing Lewis crashed his Lincoln into the gates of old friend Presley's Graceland mansion. "I am just what I am — Jerry Lee 'F--k Up' Lewis," he told the BBC in a 1990 documentary. "If you don't like that, you can kiss my ass.

Lewis plays the piano with his feet in Bourges, France, on April 23, 1987.

While Lewis enjoyed a recording career that spanned more than six decades, radio airplay largely stopped when it was learned in 1958 that he had married the 13-year-old daughter of his bandmate and cousin, J.W. Brown, on Dec. 12, 1957. Myra Gale Brown's account of their tumultuous 13-year marriage was told in 1982's Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis, the inspiration for a major motion picture seven years later starring Dennis Quaid as Lewis and Winona Ryder as Brown. 

Mysterious Death

The couple's three-year-old son, Steve Allen Lewis, drowned in 1963, while a decade later Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr., the oldest of six Lewis children, was killed in a vehicle accident at the age of 19. 

Journalist Richard Ben Cramer, in one of the most famous Rolling Stone longform pieces, questioned in 1984 if Lewis had embodied his nickname to deadly consequence after his fifth wife, Shawn Stephens, died the previous year at his Nesbit, Miss., ranch at the age of 26 years, and just 77 days into their marriage. When first responders arrived, Cramer reported, Lewis greeted them with slurred speech, a bathrobe stained with dried blood and scratches on his hand. Stephens's death was ruled a methadone overdose, and a grand jury refused to indict Lewis, but the investigation was deemed substandard by both Cramer and Geraldo Rivera of TV news magazine program 20/20. 

"I loved her with all my heart and soul. There's no way that Jerry Lee Lewis could ever, and would ever, even think of taking another person's life," Lewis said on 20/20, explaining that the blood and scratches were from punching a wall in anguish over her death. 

Hardscrabble Rural Upbringing

Jerry Lee Lewis was born at the height of the Great Depression in Ferriday, La., on Sept. 29, 1935, one of four children. When not travelling, he spent nearly his entire life in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Lewis's father picked cotton and did a short stint in jail for selling liquor illegally. The family dwelling had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and when Lewis was a small child, his older brother was killed by a drunk driver. 

Respite from the hard life came largely from extended family gatherings where music was performed.   "There's a lot of piano players in my family and a lot of singers. You're either a preacher or a rock and roll singer," Lewis told CBC's Good Rockin' Tonite in 1989. "I chose rock and roll." 

Chuck Berry, left, and Lewis embrace at a reception 
at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York on Jan. 23, 1986, 
when they were both inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Despite the challenging circumstances, four members of his extended family achieved some degree of fame. Linda Gail Lewis, his sister, and cousin Mickey Gilley were also recording artists, and another cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, became one of the most famous American televangelists. Pentecostal church services Lewis attended as a child made a lifelong imprint. Throughout his life and all the hellraising that would ensue, he was preoccupied with whether "salvation" would occur at his mortal life's end. 

At the age of eight, he displayed an aptitude for music, inspiring his dad, Elmo, and mother, Mamie, to spend more than they had to buy him a standup Starck piano. He was largely self-taught, but a wide range of artists fuelled his passion, with Hank Williams and B.B. King his favourites. 

'That Boy Can Go'

Lewis played community events beginning in his teens and snuck into clubs, with neither academia nor a stint in Bible school holding lasting interest. His wide-legged style at the piano bench was reportedly due to a hip injury playing football. He heard about the exploits of Presley at Sun Records and made a pilgrimage in the waning months of 1956. By that time he had been through a series of menial jobs and nighttime gigs, as well as receiving a rejection from RCA Records, whose staff were reportedly flummoxed that he didn't play the guitar. 

Lifetime achievement award winner Lewis poses for photographers 
at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 2005.

"Nothing could stop me. I was going to be heard and get recorded," he told Vintage Rock magazine. "I knew, if I got to Sun, it would happen." A reporter was on hand for the studio session of future legends Cash, Perkins, Presley and Lewis. "That boy can go," Presley told the scribe. "I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a different style, and the way he plays piano just gets inside me." In less than two years, Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Breathless were all top-10 hits on Billboard's main chart. 

Aged 22 and on his third marriage, Lewis's union with a 13-year-old was, regrettably, not without precedent in rural communities of the Deep South at the time. His own sisters were married at 14 and 12, while he was 16 when he married for the first time. 

Lewis and his wife, Myra, then 15, are shown in London on May 23, 1958. 
The marriage caused controversy, and she later alleged it had been marked by abuse. 

At a 1959 court appearance regarding tardy child support payments to his second wife, Lewis explained to a judge that gigs had dried up due to being branded a "cradle snatcher." He played the club and tavern circuit for much of the 1960s, including Café Pagoda in Montreal and Toronto's Le Coq d'or Tavern, appearing on a bill with younger musicians like John Lennon and Eric Clapton at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in 1969.

During the 1970s, he found the charts again as a country performer, with songs such as What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out of Me) and To Make Love Sweeter for You

Lewis being Lewis, trouble was never far off. With drinks flowing in 1976, he nearly killed his bass player, Butch Owens, with a .357 — he said he was aiming the gun at a Coke bottle. Lewis was forced to pay damages to Owens and sentenced to probation. "I just know it took him a couple days to talk right," Lewis told biographer Rick Bragg decades later. 

After Presley's 1977 death, it was learned at a subsequent trial that both he and Lewis were avid customers of pill-pushing Dr. George Nichopoulos. Dr. Nick, as he became known, testified that amphetamines were Lewis's particular weakness and that Lewis once discharged himself from a hospital by climbing out a window. Around the same time — and not for the last time — Lewis was forced to hawk a number of luxury items to satisfy tax debts owed to Uncle Sam. 

In 1981, the wear-and-tear of alcohol and drug use led to stomach surgery and a subsequent bout of pneumonia, leaving him in serious condition for a time.

Jerry Lee Lewis, the last survivor of a generation of groundbreaking performers 
that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard,
has died at home in Memphis, Tenn. Here, the singer is shown performing on July 29, 1972.

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It was at a show the following year at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn, Mich., where he met Stephens, a waitress. Richard Ben Cramer's 1984 Rolling Stone article, The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis, was lurid. The writer pointed out that Lewis's fourth wife, Jaren, drowned in 1982, though the article didn't mention that the performer was nowhere near the scene of that tragedy. Both Cramer and Geraldo Rivera alleged there had been abuse in the short marriage to Stephens. 

"She wasn't beaten at all. There wasn't a touch of circumstantial evidence that I done it," Lewis told Bragg in 2014's Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story

'Jerry Lee Won't Be Tamed'

Lewis's reputation took a hit, and a series of erratic performances didn't help. He was a no-show at an oldies revue in Toronto's brand new SkyDome in 1989, and four years later, he kicked a cameraman in Spain. In her book, Myra Gale Brown said Lewis would subject her "to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable" during their marriage, and neither were fans of 1989's Great Balls of Fire. "I played him really as a nine-year-old boy who fell in love with music, which he still is," Quaid told Vogue in a promotional interview for the film. 

In the last three decades of his life, Lewis still enjoyed the rush of the stage, no matter if it was a club that had seen better days or a casino amphitheatre. After a decade break from recording, 2006's Last Man Standing ushered in three well-received albums in the 21st century chock-full of guest spots from the likes of B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson.

As Hutch Hutchinson, a bandmate for more than four decades at the time, told the New York Times in 2006: "Jerry Lee won't be tamed. He doesn't answer to anybody, never has."

Notorious singer Jerry Lee Lewis dies aged 87
Ref: BBC News

Tony Blackburn described Jerry Lee Lewis as 
"a great showman who gave us some great songs"

Jerry Lee Lewis, the notorious singer behind Great Balls of Fire, has died aged 87, his agent has confirmed. One of the last survivors of rock 'n' roll's golden age, his life was also marred by scandal and violence. His career was briefly halted when, aged 22, he married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown.

Lewis's agent described him as "perhaps the last true, great icon of the birth of rock'n'roll".

 In a statement, Lewis's publicist Zach Farnum said: "He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the rest, and watched them fade away one by one till it was him alone to bear witness, and sing of the birth of rock'n'roll."

Lewis passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, with his seventh wife, Judith, by his side, his publicist said. The news of his death comes days after a hoax announcement of his death was reported by gossip website TMZ.

Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones led the tributes to Lewis, tweeting: "R.I.P. JLL the KILLER - What a man.
DJ Tony Blackburn added: "Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away, he was a great showman and gave us some great songs. R.I.P."
"God bless Jerry lee Lewis, peace and love to all his family," said Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

The Telegraph's Neil McCormick described Lewis as "the most dangerous man in rock'n'roll... he was a gun-toting, fire-starting ball of trouble. He was also the most authentic rocker who ever lived". "Controversy dogged Lewis most of his life, a reputation for drunkenness, drug addiction, womanising and worse," he noted.

Jerry Lee Lewis pictured in London in 1968

The Country Music Association tweeted: "It is with great sadness we've learned about the passing of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time."

Born in 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana, Lewis later moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios. He made his performing debut aged 14, and through his childhood developed his love of boogie-woogie and blues by sneaking into a Ferriday nightclub that featured the era's best blues musicians.

Myra Gale Brown, Lewis' cousin and the daughter of his bass player at the time, was only 13 in 1957 when she married the singer, who was then 22. She claimed on the marriage licence to be 20 and the controversy of their marriage brought Lewis's career to a halt.

Lewis ended up in jail in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976 after he was found brandishing a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley outside Presley's Graceland mansion. Earlier that year, Lewis had accidentally shot his bass player, Norman "Butch" Owens, in the chest. Playing with a loaded .357 Magnum, Lewis had reportedly been trying to shoot and hit a Coke bottle. Owens was badly injured but survived, and later sued his boss, winning $125,000 (£107,000) in damages. Lewis was also charged with shooting a firearm within the city limits.

Lewis pictured performing on stage at 
the London Rock'n'Roll Show in Wembley in 1972

As well as hits which included Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On, Breathless and High School Confidential, Lewis was known for his famous stage antics, such as playing standing up and even lighting the occasional piano on fire.

The musician suffered from various illnesses and injuries in the final years of his life, with doctors telling him they should have taken him decades ago, Mr Farnum said.

Lewis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's first class in 1986 and a few years later, in 1989, he was honoured for his contribution to the recording industry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His career got another boost in 1989 when he sang his songs for the movie Great Balls of Fire! in which Dennis Quaid portrayed him while Winona Ryder played Myra.

Lewis enlisted the help of such admirers as Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy for his 2006 release Last Man Standing. His last album was a gospel record with his cousin, lifetime televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who had preached against his music when they were younger.

A toxic cocktail of scandal, addiction and violence
Obituary Ref: BBC News
Jerry Lee Lewis was the original wild man of rock'n'roll. On stage, he performed in a state close to frenzy. A savage, raw energy burning within him, he hammered the keyboard like a man possessed.

His life was a toxic cocktail of scandal, addiction and violence. Two of his seven wives died in suspicious circumstances; another was barely more than a child. 
This was the man who - legend has it - once drove to Graceland, high on alcohol and pills, with a gun on the dashboard. "Come out," he said to Elvis Presley, "and we'll soon find out who's King."

Lewis was disgraced many times. But those early tracks - A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Great Balls Of Fire - were so deeply part of the soundtrack of the 20th Century, that he never quite faded from the scene. Sixty years after their recording, he still played to packed houses. And somehow -- despite the drink and drugs - -Lewis outlived many fellow rock'n'roll pioneers.

Jerry Lee Lewis' shows were wild, raucous and unforgettable affairs


Jerry Lee Lewis was born in East Louisiana - deep in the American bible belt - on 29 September 1935. 
His father, Elmo, was a poor farmer with a sideline in moonshine; his mother, Mamie, a God-fearing music lover. The family were devastated when Jerry's older brother was killed by a car. It was to prove the first tragedy of many.

When Lewis turned seven, his father mortgaged the house for $250 in order to buy him a piano. It proved an excellent investment. Elmo recognised his son's potential. He bought a pick-up truck, put the piano on it, and the pair of them busked their way around the South. "Kill 'em dead" said his mother and "Killer's" lifelong nickname stuck.

Elmo Lewis mortgaged his house to buy his son a piano. 
The investment paid off and the pair of them toured the Southern States

At least that's one story. Another, darker version involves "Killer" half-strangling a high-school teacher. But it's often difficult to disentangle Lewis-fact from Lewis-legend.

On the road, he would sneak into blues clubs to listen to music. The only white child in the building, he was forced to hide under tables.

Bible College

At 16, he married a preacher's daughter and - with rock'n'roll declared the Devil's music - went to Bible college in Texas. It pleased his mother, who fondly imagined him singing hymns. But it didn't last long. At a school assembly, he improvised a boogie-woogie rendition of My God Is Real and was summarily expelled. His preaching career was at an end before it started but Lewis was phlegmatic: "There were just too many good-looking women out there," he later said.

He went to Memphis, and the legendary Sun records, in search of stardom. In 1956, his first single, Crazy Arms, sold 300,000 copies - mainly in the South. He began recording prolifically, working as a session musician and touring with fellow members of the Sun Records' stable: Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

Elvis Presley dropped round on a social visit, which turned into an impromptu jam session. Someone had the sense to record it and the group became known as the Million Dollar Quartet.

Jerry Lee Lewis with Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in 1956. 
The 'Million Dollar Quartet' took part in a one night, recorded jam session

A Whole Lotta Shakin'...

His first big solo hit came in 1957. A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On at first received little airplay and in some cases got banned for obscenity. According to Johnny Cash, the song even troubled Lewis himself who worried it was "sinful": "I was worried about whether I was going to heaven or hell," he later said.

But he didn't hold back when performing. On the popular Steve Allen TV show, he kicked his chair aside, thumped the piano with his heels and raked his hands up and down the keyboard. He even stood on the instrument and leapt off. Millions watching -- who until then thought a piano was just for tinkling - simply gaped.

The record began selling in millions. Lewis followed up with Great Balls of Fire and Breathless; both became Top 10 hits.

The movie High School Musical - 
where Jerry Lee Lewis sings the title song from the back of a truck - 
made him an international star

His success fed a towering ego. Lewis decided he should be the last act on stage in any performance. When Chuck Berry was booked to close one show, Lewis flipped. He set fire to the piano with lighter fuel when he'd finished, and then turned on Berry: "Follow that, boy," he's supposed to have said.

An appearance in the movie High School Confidential - where he played the title track on the back of a flat-bed truck - made the 22-year-old an international star. In 1958, he set out on a tour of Britain. But at a press conference in Heathrow airport, disaster struck.

The Child Bride

Lewis' first marriage had lasted 20 months. His second - to Jane Mitchum - was bigamous and ended with her throwing claw hammers through his windscreen. Now a news-agency reporter, Ray Berry, raised questions about Jerry's third wife, Myra Gale Brown. It turned out that she was a first-cousin once-removed and - shockingly - just 13 years old.

Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin, Myra Gale Brown. H
e claimed his third wife was 15 
but newspapers swiftly discovered she was even younger

Jerry insisted she was nearer 15, and his management team backed him up. But newspapers swiftly discovered the truth. There was immediate uproar. Lewis was booed off stage and the tour was cancelled after three performances. He claimed he didn't know child brides were taboo in Britain, and that this was the norm in the Southern States.

But the problem was not limited to Britain. When Lewis returned home, there were headlines saying he'd disgraced the nation. The rock & roll superstar found himself blacklisted and shunned. Overnight, Jerry Lee Lewis had gone from charging $10,000 a concert to scraping a living in small bars and clubs. Still under contract to Sun Records, he released new rock & roll numbers - some of which sold modestly. But it wasn't really the same.

The one great success of his wilderness years was the album he made in 1964. Live at the Star Club, Hamburg was described by Rolling Stone as "not so much an album, more of a crime scene". "Jerry Lee Lewis slaughters his rivals," it said, "in a 13-song set that feels like one long convulsion". But it was not released in the United States.

Jerry Lee Lewis plays the piano for Myra. 
The scandal cost Lewis his rock & roll career
- and saw him try his hand a country music instead


Salvation lay in Nashville. Lewis left the Devil's music behind him and turned instead to country music's nostalgic homilies to love and loss, feeling and faith. With nothing to lose, he recorded Another Place, Another Time - a cover version of a tune by Jerry Chestnut. To everyone's surprise, it shot to near the top of the country charts.

More hits followed, like What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made a Loser out of Me) and She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye. His vocals were soulful; his piano flourishes delightful. His career was back on track.

By 1970, Jerry Lee Lewis had become the most bankable country star in the world. But tragedy and controversy still dogged his private life. In the early 60s, his son Steve had drowned in a swimming pool. Now he lost another - Jerry Lee Lewis Jr - in a car accident.

In 1976, Lewis shot his bass player, Butch Owens, when a pistol "accidentally" went off in his hand. And he was arrested outside Elvis Presley's mansion while drunk and holding a gun.

Jerry Lee Lewis was arrested outside Elvis' Graceland mansion in 1976. 
The Memphis police released him on $250 bail.

Suspicious Circumstances

His marriage to Myra lasted more than a decade. But Lewis' fourth and fifth marriages proved equally as controversial.

In 1982, Jaren Pate drowned just a few weeks before the divorce settlement could be finalised. A year later - after just 77 days of marriage - Shawn Stephens overdosed at home and died. Rolling Stone published a blistering article, more or less accusing Lewis of killing her. She was bruised and bleeding, with his methadone inside her; but a Grand Jury cleared him. Lewis admitted to drug addiction. He was admitted to the Betty Ford clinic for dependency on painkillers and, in 1984, a third of his stomach was removed due to perforated ulcers.

Two years later, he was among the first 10 stars introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - alongside Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Ray Charles.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles at
the first annual induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Last Man Standing

In 1989, a major movie about his life -- Great Balls of Fire! -- brought him back into the public eye. His character was played by Dennis Quaid and "the Killer" re-recorded all his old songs for the soundtrack. The wild child of rock n' roll had found a whole new generation to appal.

He toured Europe with his old rival Chuck Berry and Little Richard - perhaps the only man who could match Lewis' raw energy in front of an audience.

His sixth marriage - to Kerrie McCarver - lasted two decades and ended in 2005. He later walked down the aisle for a seventh, and final, time with Judith Brown.

In 2006, Lewis released the album Last Man Standing. Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash - the other members of that famous Million Dollar Quartet -- were now all gone. The lone survivor kept touring into his eighties.

Jerry Lee Lewis performing on stage in 2018 - at the age of 83
Born on September 29, 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana, rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, often known by his nickname, The Killer. He has been described as "rock & roll's first great wild man." A pioneer of rock and roll and rockabilly music, Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis. "Crazy Arms" sold 300,000 copies in the South, but it was his 1957 hit "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" that shot Lewis to fame worldwide. He followed this with "Great Balls of Fire", "Breathless" and "High School Confidential". However, Lewis's rock and roll career faltered in the wake of his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin when he was 22 years old.

On May 22, 1958, American rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in London to begin a highly-anticipated tour. When a reporter for the Daily Mail notices a young girl in the entourage, he asks her who she is. "I'm Jerry Lee's wife," she replied, revealing their taboo union. Word spreads that Lewis, aged 23 had married his 13-year-old second cousin, Myra Gale Brown, tanking the tour and sending him back home to America a pariah. The unanimously bad publicity on both sides of the Atlantic sinks Lewis's career. His ticket prices had dropped astronomically, from $10,000 a night to a mere $250. Lewis turned to the country music market and over many years he eventually managed to rebuild his reputation.

Lewis's December 12, 1957 marriage to Myra Gale had gone largely unnoticed in the US until the scandal broke in the UK. Myra Gale Brown was the daughter of J.W. Brown, Lewis’ cousin and the bass player in his band. At the time, she hadn’t realized that there was anything wrong with her relationship with Lewis. Elvis Presley, the biggest rock star in the world, was dating a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, who would later become his wife.
Before divorcing in 1970, the couple had two children and remained friends. Myra later stated, “They were looking for a place to stick the knife into rock & roll and Jerry gave it to them—well, I did, I opened my mouth. That’s exactly what it was.”

He had minimal success in the charts following the scandal, and his popularity quickly eroded. His live performance fees plummeted from $10,000 per night to $250. In the meantime he was determined to gain back some of his popularity. In the early 1960s, he did not have much chart success, with few exceptions, such as a cover of Ray Charles's "What'd I Say". His live performances at this time were increasingly wild and energetic. His 1964 live album, "Live at the Star Club, Hamburg", is regarded by music journalists and fans as one of the wildest and greatest live rock albums ever. In 1968 Lewis made a transition into country music and had hits with songs such as "Another Place, Another Time". This reignited his career, and throughout the late 1960s and 1970s he regularly topped the country-western charts; throughout his seven-decade career, Lewis has had 30 songs reach the top 10 on the "Billboard Country and Western Chart". His No. 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".

Lewis has a dozen gold records in both rock and country. He won several Grammy awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. 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 number 242 on their list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2004, they ranked him number 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Lewis is the last surviving member of Sun Records' Million Dollar Quartet and the Class of '55 album, which also included Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.

On this day in 1976, at his 41st birthday party, a drunk Jerry Lee Lewis attempts to shoot a soda bottle with his .357 Magnum and instead hits his bass player, Norman Owens, twice in the chest. Owens makes a full recovery.

Reference: John Einarson Remembers
 Photos from the 2000 Minnedosa Rock Festival


From the Gig Notes Section of our 50-Year Odyssey Book
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