Rock’n’Roll Legend Jerry Lee Lewis

“I was always worried whether I was going to heaven or hell. I still am.” It is a normal existential thing to think for someone aged 84 right?.. Not the case with legendary Jerry Lee Lewis who is actually associated with some hellish things in his past.

It will be no exaggeration to say Lewis’s life and career were extraordinary (sometimes in a bad way). At some point he was close to stealing the fame from Elvis Presley himself and you will be horrified to know why it never happened. Also Jerry Lee was nicknamed The Killer for his wild dynamic piano style and NOT for his threat to kill Elvis.

But wait for this story to develop. Jerry Lee Lewis was born in 1935 in a poor family. His father mortgaged the family farm when Lewis was a young boy to buy him a piano. So, he started playing at quite an early age, as well as demonstrating his wild nature. In his mid-teens the boy’s mother sent him to the Southwest Bible Institute.

Jerry Lee, unimpressed by evangelical tunes as they were, performed a boogie-woogie rendition of “My God Is Real” at a church assembly and, guess what, was immediately barred from the school. Rebellious Jerry Lee was just what rock’n’roll needed back then, so in his early 20s, Lewis was already performing with famous artists, including Johnny Cash.

His unique piano style forever altered the genre which had previously rarely featured pianists. Now, if we judge by the movie Great Balls Of Fire featuring Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee, Lewis and Presley were rivals from the very beginning. In reality, however, the relationships between the two didn’t seem that tense, but there was actually one MINOR misunderstanding that led to Lewis’s arrest.

Let us jump for a moment into year 1976 – the time when Elvis was living as a recluse and Lewis had been abandoned by the public over his immoral personal life. November 22, Jerry appears at the entrance of Presley’s home and asks to see Elvis. The security guard replies that Presley is sleeping.

Jerry Lee leaves and returns on the next day, his car rams into the gates before it stops. Lewis says it is Presley who wanted to see him and told him to come over. From here, versions vary a lot, but basically it went more or less as follows: drunk as hell Lewis, with a pistol on the dashboard, shouts: “Call up there and tell Elvis I wanna visit with him.

Who the hell does he think he is? Tell him the Killer’s here to see him.'” Soon Jerry Lee gets arrested for carrying a pistol and being drunk in a public place. Many later the musician would tell the story of him being a little wild and loaded on that day but without any intention to kill Presley.

But now back to the golden days of Jerry Lee Lewis. He quickly started releasing one hit after another, including his most famous songs “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” In the late 50s Jerry would have reputation of being a wild one on and off stage.

The story goes that once he even set fire to a piano mid-concert and kept pounding the keys while it flamed. All because Jerry Lee was sure HE was supposed to finish the show – not Chuck Berry. He told Rolling Stone: “Burned it [piano] to the ground. They forced me to do it, tellin’ me I had to go on before Chuck.

I was supposed to be the star of the show.” But his rebellious nature pretty much made Lewis only more appealing to the audience until the controversy surrounding his third marriage broke the news while he was on tours overseas. The English press discovered that 22-year-old Lewis had married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown.

Although the label denied the claim, the tour was cut short. Jerry Lee was only adding oil to the fire. When he found out what the English press was doing to him, he was cocksureto the point of parading Myra onstage. After three stops on his tour Lewis had to return to America where he was already blacklisted from the radio waves.

The public could handle his, what they called, sinful music, but his marriage to a minor could not be excused. Jerry Lee’s fee for personal appearances soon dropped from $10,000 a night to $250. He tried to apologize, remarrying Myra in a ceremony that Lewis thought would validate the relationship, but to no avail.

Thus, the only musician capable of rivaling Elvis Presley became an outcast. Lewis got his career back ten years later as a country performer, he outlived Elvis, but his career as a rock star was forever crippled by the epic scandal. He and Myra divorced in 1970. They have two children… well they HAD two children.

The couple’s son tragically drowned when he was only 3 years old. Sadly, Jerry would lose a 19-year-old son from his other wife, he would tragically die in a car accident. Since 2012, Jerry Lee Lewis has been married to his seventh wife, Judith Brown. Now, at 84, he just recorded a new album. Jerry Lee is happy to have a chance to return to music after suffering a stroke in 2019.

He hopes to perform again one day. But for now he is simply grateful to be playing again. “It feels like I’m home,” he says.

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