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Music rock and roll and country music singer, songwriter, and pianist Jerry Lee Lewis picture(s)/pic(s), wallpaper and photo gallery.
Birth name: Jerry Lee Lewis.
Born: September 29, 1935 Ferriday, Louisiana, U.S.
Jerry Lee Lewis biography (bio):
Jerry Lee Lewis is also known by the nickname The Killer, is an American rock and roll and country music singer, songwriter, and pianist. An early pioneer of rock and roll music, 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 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2003, they listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology #242 on their list of "500 greatest albums of all time".
Lewis was born to the poor family of Elmo and Mamie Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana, and began playing piano in his youth with his two cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. His parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano. Influenced by a piano-playing older cousin Carl McVoy, the radio, and the sounds from the black juke joint across the tracks, Haney's Big House, Lewis developed his own style mixing rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, gospel, and country music, as well as ideas from established "country boogie" pianists like recording artists Moon Mullican and Merrill Moore. Soon he was playing professionally.
His mother enrolled him in Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, secure in the knowledge that her son would now be exclusively singing his songs to the Lord. But legend has it that Lewis daringly played a boogie woogie rendition of "My God Is Real" at a church assembly that sent him packing the same night. Pearry Green, then president of the student body, related how during a talent show Jerry played some "worldly" music. The next morning, the dean of the school called both Jerry and Pearry into his office to expel them both. Jerry then said that Pearry shouldn't be expelled because "he didn't know what I was going to do." Years later Pearry asked Jerry "Are you still playing the devil's music?" Jerry replied "Yes, I am. But you know it's strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I am playing for the devil and they don't."
Leaving religious music behind so far as performing, he paid dues at clubs in and around Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi. He became a part of the burgeoning new rock and roll sound, cutting his first demo recording in 1954. He made a trip to Nashville around 1955 where he played clubs and attempted to drum up interest, but was turned down by the Grand Ole Opry as he had been at the Louisiana Hayride country stage and radio show in Shreveport. Recording executives in Nashville suggested he switch to playing a guitar, Lewis, even then confrontational, once recalled suggesting to one Nashville producer, "You can take your guitar and ram it up your ass!"
Two years later, at Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee, producer and engineer Jack Clement discovered and recorded Lewis for the Sun label while owner Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida. He became a session musician playing piano for Sun artists like Billy Lee Riley and Carl Perkins. As his own career came on the upswing, hits such as "Great Balls of Fire" soon followed, and would become his biggest hit. Watching and listening to Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley allegedly said that if he could play the piano like that, he'd quit singing. Lewis' early billing was Jerry Lee Lewis and his Pumping Piano.
On December 4, 1956, Presley dropped in on Phillips to pay a social visit while Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks with Lewis backing him on piano. The three started an impromptu jam session, and Phillips left the tapes running. He later telephoned Johnny Cash and brought him in to join the others. These recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, survived, and have been released on CD under the title Million Dollar Quartet. Tracks also include Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", Pat Boone's "Don't Forbid Me" and Presley doing an impersonation of Jackie Wilson (who was then with Billy Ward and the Dominoes) singing "Don't Be Cruel. In 1957, his piano and the pure rock and roll sound of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (which in 2005 was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress) propelled him to international fame.
Lewis, though not the first pianist in that style, was a pioneer of Piano rock, not only through his sound but also through his dynamic performance. He would often kick the piano bench out of the way to play standing, rake his hands up and down the keyboard for dramatic accent, and even sit down on the instrument. His frenetic performance style can be seen in films such as High School Confidential (he sang the title song from the back of a flatbed truck), and Jamboree. He has been called "rock & roll's first great wild man and also rock & roll's first great eclectic." These performance techniques have been adopted by later Piano rock artists, notably admirers Elton John, Billy Joel, and Ben Folds.
He married Jane Mitcham, his second wife, 23 days before his divorce from his first wife was final.
Lewis' turbulent personal life was hidden from the public until a 1958 British tour, when reporters learned about the twenty-three year old star's third wife, Myra Gale Brown, who also happened to be his thirteen-year-old second cousin twice removed. The publicity caused an uproar and the tour was canceled after only three concerts.
The scandal followed Lewis home to America, and as a result he almost vanished from the music scene. Lewis felt betrayed by numerous people who had been his supporters. Dick Clark dropped him from his shows. Lewis even felt that Sam Phillips had sold him out when the Sun Record patriarch released "The Return of Jerry Lee," which mocked Lewis' marital and music problems. Only Alan Freed stayed true to Jerry Lee Lewis, playing his records until Freed was removed from the air because of supposed payola problems.
Even though Jerry Lee Lewis was still under contract with Sun Records, he stopped recording. He had gone from $10,000 a night concerts to $100 a night spots in beer joints and small clubs. He had few friends at the time whom he felt he could trust. It was only through Kay Martin, the president of Lewis' fan club, T. L. Meade, (aka Franz Douskey) a sometime Memphis musician and friend of Sam Phillips, and Gary Sklar, that Lewis went back to record at Sun Records.
By this time, Phillips had built a new state-of-the-art studio at 639 Madison Avenue in Memphis, thus abandoning the old Union Avenue studio where Phillips had recorded B. B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Lewis, Johnny Cash, and others. It was at the new Madison Avenue studio that Lewis recorded his only hit during this period, which was a cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" in 1961. Another recording of Lewis playing an instrumental boogie arrangement of the Glenn Miller Orchestra favorite "In the Mood," was issued by Sun under the pseudonym of "The Hawk," but disc jockeys quickly figured out the distinctive piano style, and this gambit failed.
Lewis's Sun recording contract ended in 1963 and he joined Smash Records, where he made a number of rock recordings that did not further his career.
His popularity recovered somewhat in Europe, especially in the UK and Germany during the mid-1960s. A live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg (1964), recorded with the Nashville Teens, is widely considered one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever. Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes, "Live at the Star Club is extraordinary, the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record."
Switch to country:
A comeback eluded him in the United States, however, at least within the rock and roll genre, in part because of the changing face of rock music due to the British Invasion and the American folk-rock movement, which gave rock an entire new style, even though most of the musicians in those fields idolized Lewis. Although Lewis was again making steady money touring, he didn't have much success in the charts. Producers coaxed Lewis into trying various ideas, but the one that held the most potential came on an album called "Country Songs for City Folks" which featured Lewis doing country ballads. In the late 1960s, Mercury Records producer Jerry Kennedy convinced Lewis to make a complete switch to country music on record, explaining that he could record country and still play whatever he wanted onstage. Lewis, who had always considered country one of the genres he blended into his trademark sound, had recorded similar ballads at Sun, so it wasn't a stretch. "Another Place, Another Time" shot up the country charts in 1968. More country hits soon followed over the late 1960s and through the 1970s, many of them crossing over into the Hot 100 charts. As his success grew in the country field, he began adding more and more rock to his albums, culminating in a 1972 # 1 single with the Big Bopper hit "Chantilly Lace." Bear Family Records of Germany later licensed and reissued all of Lewis's Sun Recordings on a box set with selected material on various CDs, and did two box sets first on LP, then on CD, compiling Lewis's complete Smash recordings including unreleased material.
Drug addiction and personal tragedies:
Although he was always a heavy drinker who often combined his sprees with raucous, even violent behavior, he increasingly became plagued by alcohol and drug problems after Myra divorced him in 1970. Tragedy struck when Lewis' 19-year-old son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., was killed in a car accident in 1973. During the 1960s, his second son, Steve Allen Lewis, drowned in a swimming pool accident. He also has a daughter, Phoebe Lewis, who is a singer and musician, and for the past few years has been her father's manager. Lewis' own erratic behavior during the 1970s led to his being hospitalized in 1981 after nearly dying from bleeding stomach ulcers. Again addicted to drugs, Lewis checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic.
While celebrating his 41st birthday in 1976, Lewis accidentally shot and injured his bass player, Butch Owens. According to Lewis' own account, he had been playing around and didn't realize the gun was loaded. Owens himself stated that Lewis was trying to shoot at an empty cola bottle and he was simply hit by the ricochet.
A few weeks later, on November 23, Lewis, still drinking heavily, was involved in another gun-related incident at Elvis Presley's Graceland residence. Lewis had been invited by Presley, but security was unaware of the visit. Lewis, displaying a gun given to him by a local sheriff on the dashboard of his car, was questioned as to his motives for bringing the weapon. He sarcastically replied, "I'm not here to kill Elvis if that's what you're worried about," but the guard remained suspicious.
In 1989, a major motion picture based on his early life in rock & roll, Great Balls of Fire, brought him back into the public eye, especially when he decided to re-record all his songs for the movie soundtrack. The film was based on the book by Lewis' ex-wife, Myra Gale Lewis, and starred Dennis Quaid as Lewis, Winona Ryder as Myra, and Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart. The movie focuses on Lewis' early career and his relationship with Myra, and ends with the scandal of the late 1950's.
The very public downfall of his cousin, television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, resulted in more adverse publicity to an already troubled family. Swaggart is also a piano player, as is another cousin, country music star Mickey Gilley. All three listened to the same music when they were growing up and frequented Haney's Big House, the Ferriday club that featured black blues acts. Lewis and Swaggart have had a complex relationship over the years.
Lewis's sister, Linda Gail Lewis has recorded with Jerry Lee, toured with his stage show for a time and more recently recorded with Van Morrison. In 1990, Lewis made minor news when a new song he co-wrote called "It Was the Whiskey Talking, Not Me" was included in the soundtrack to the hit movie Dick Tracy. The song can even be heard in a scene from the movie in which it is playing on the radio.
Despite the personal problems, Lewis' musical talent is widely acknowledged. 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 and roll music. In 1986, Lewis was part of the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That same year, he returned to Sun Studio in Memphis to team up with Orbison, Cash, and Perkins along with longtime admirers like John Fogerty and Ricky Nelson to create the album Class of '55, a sort of followup to the "Million Dollar Quartet" session, though in the eyes of many critics and fans, lacking the spirit of the old days at Sun.
Lewis has never stopped touring, and fans who have seen him perform say he can still deliver unique concerts that are unpredictable, exciting, and personal. In February 12, 2005, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy (which also grants the Grammy Awards). On September 26, 2006 a new album titled Last Man Standing was released, featuring many of rock and roll's elite as guest stars. Receiving positive reviews, the album charted in four different Billboard charts, including a two week stay at number one on the Indie charts.
A DVD entitled Last Man Standing Live, featuring concert footage with many guest artists, was released in March 2007, while the CD was well on the way to going gold. 'Last Man Standing' CD is Jerry Lee's biggest selling album of all time. If it goes gold it will be his 10th official gold record, and his first since 1973. ('The Session' album was awarded a Gold Disk for selling over 250,000 copies because it was a double album. Single albums and CDs have to sell over 500,000. 'Last Man Standing' has more tracks than the original 'The Session' release and has already shipped over 400,000 copies worldwide.)
He now resides on a ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi with his family.