Jerry Lee Lewis, an American singer and songwriter cemented his place in musical history as one of the greatest songwriters of all time while on a sabbatical. Lewis had everything you could want in a successful career in the entertainment world, including rock ‘n’ roll, rockability, country, the blues, and honky tonk.
Lewis is also well-known for his talent as a pianist. His professional life has been an adventure full of exciting and heartbreaking tales. In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about a seasoned performer.
Jerry Lee Lewis Biography
On September 29, 1935, he was born in Ferriday. His parents, Elmo and Mamie Lewis are members of Concordia Parish in Louisiana. Lewis’s interest in music began at a young age, and he began playing the piano. His parents, who were dirt poor, took out a mortgage on the farm to afford to purchase him a guitar because of how much he wanted one.
However, they urged him to put his skills to use in his church. He had enrolled in the Southwest Bible Institute, where he would be dismissed for breaking the dress code by listening to secular music. As a result of being expelled from school, he began to play professionally for local clubs in his nation.
Although Lewis had been performing in clubs since 1954, he released his earliest demo tape that year. In 1956, after a fruitful audition with Sun Records, he began working as a session musician for various Sun artists. During this period, he recorded a string of singles, including the classics “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire,” that would later prove pivotal in the success of his solo career. His unique keyboard antics on stage were a big part of his rise to fame.
In 1958, however, the once-bright future of Lewis and his third wife, Myra Gale Brown, was shattered when it was found that she was his 13-year-old first cousin. The 22-year-old artist got a lot of negative feedback from public figures and people in the music business.
His entire year’s tour was canceled after three shows due to the massive backlash he received. Furthermore, Lewis’ marriage scandal hurt his career and alienated many fans. The pianist’s nightly performance fee dropped from $10,000 to $250, and he began playing in far smaller venues.
After his recording deal with Sun Records expired in 1963, he signed with Smash Records and issued a string of commercial duds. At the end of his time with Smash, though, Lewis got some inspiration from Eddie Kilroy and the chance to produce a song in Nashville. After that, he put out a Jerry Chestnut cover of Another Place, Another Time, which unexpectedly became a country radio staple and catapulted him back into the spotlight.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s Childhood & Early Life
- Music legend Jerry Lee Lewis was born to Elmo and Mamie Lewis on September 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana. At age 9, he started learning to play the piano. His parents encouraged his interest and even mortgaged the family farm so they could afford to purchase him a piano.
- Early influences included his cousin Carl McVoy, a pianist, and Moon Mullican. He also had the opportunity to hear the music played at the local juke joint, “Haney’s Big House.”
- He was kicked out of the “Southwest Bible Institute” in Waxahachie, Texas when he played a boogie-woogie cover of “My God Is Real” at a church service.
Jerry Lee Lewis Major Works
- In 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis’s cover of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” reached #3 on the Billboard pop charts, catapulting Lewis to stardom. It has achieved legendary status as a timeless masterpiece.
- His 1957 recording of “Great Balls of Fire,” featured in the film “Jamboree,” was a huge success. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts and has sold over 5 million copies.
- His CD “Live at the Star Club,” recorded in Hamburg, Germany, in 1964 with the help of the band “The Nashville Teens,” is widely considered among the craziest and best rock & roll performance records ever.
Jerry Lee Lewis Awards & Achievements
- The Recording Academy presented Jerry Lee Lewis with its “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2005. Two years later, he received the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “American Music Masters Award.”
- Lewis has won four Grammys, including two Hall of Fame awards and a Lifetime Achievement award.
- In addition to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, he received a star on the Walk of Fame for his performance at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Family: husband or wife, children, cousin
Many people working in the 1950s entertainment business were appalled to learn of Lewis’ illicit engagement with his cousin, Myra Gale Brown. The family tree showed that he and Myra shared a common ancestor going back several generations.
The Fire released a biopic on Jerry Lee Lewis’s early rock and roll career titled “Great Balls” in 1989; the film was based on a book authored by Lewis’s cousin’s ex-wife, Myra Gale. Lewis provided his songs, which were re-recorded for the film’s soundtrack. The film chronicled the couple’s time together and the influence the artist’s scandalous 1950s marriage had on his profession.
Seven wives and six kids later, Lee Lewis called it quits. Back in 1952, he tied the knot with Dorothy Barton. But the pair was back together after just 20 short months. The marriage to Jane Mitchum, his second wife, lasted four years. The couple welcomed son Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. in 1954 and son Ronnie Guy Lewis in 1956. The young musician Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. perished in an automobile crash in 1973.
Lewis had 13 happy years with his cousin Myra Galed in his third marriage. Together, they raised two kids. Phoebe Allen Lewis was born in 1963, and her late father, Steve Allen Lewis, drowned in a pool accident in 1962.
In 1971, Lewis wed Jaren Elizabeth Pate for the fourth time; the couple welcomed a girl, Lori Lee Lewis. After splitting up in 1982, Lewis married Shawn Stephens the following year, but she passed away just 77 days later.
Kerrie McCarver was his sixth wife, and they wed in 1984. They divorced in 2005 after being together for 21 years. Jerry Lee Lewis III was born in 1987, their only child together. The year 2012 saw Lewis’s sixth wedding to Judith Brown.
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Jerry Lee Lewis Health and Death
On February 28, 2019, Lewis suffered a minor stroke in Memphis. He postponed several scheduled engagements. As of October 28, 2022, at 87, Lewis passed away in his home in Nesbit, Mississippi. Two days before his death, TMZ incorrectly reported it, citing “an anonymous tip.”
The funeral for Lewis took place on November 5, 2022, at his birthplace, Ferriday, Louisiana. His cousin and Swaggart’s son, Jimmy Swaggart, conducted the funeral.
Jerry Lee Lewis Net Worth
The late American pianist and songwriter Jerry Lee Lewis were worth $10 million. On October 28, 2022, at 87 years old, Jerry passed away. Famous songs by Jerry Lee Lewis include “Would You Take Another Chance on Me,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On?” and “Great Balls of Fire!”.