Jerry Lee Lewis: Recalling a rock 'n' roll legend

Universal sorrow this week as we heard of the passing of Jerry Lee Lewis at the weekend at the age of 87.
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He was performing at the age of 14 before earning a place as house musician at Sun Studios in Memphis. Owner Sam Philips would also record Lewis as a solo artist and was there on December 4, 1956, when a studio session with Carl Perkins saw Johnny Cash join them before a passing Elvis Presley came by with his girlfriend to say hello. Sam Philips was in the control room and taped the session which became known as the Million Dollar Quartet from which Lewis was the remaining survivor.

In the year that followed releasing singles like Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On saw him get a network TV slot and with his boisterous performance, kicking away the piano stool at one point, became a star overnight with the single peaking at number three.

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The follow up Great Balls Of Fire went to number two and became his signature and title of his biopic.

28th February 1977:  Rock 'n' Roll pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, The Killer, performs at the Rainbow in London.  (Pic: Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)28th February 1977:  Rock 'n' Roll pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, The Killer, performs at the Rainbow in London.  (Pic: Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
28th February 1977: Rock 'n' Roll pianist Jerry Lee Lewis, The Killer, performs at the Rainbow in London. (Pic: Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
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Highly influential to people like Elton John he would introduce Gospel songs to his set in the many concerts he would undertake. His 1964 riotous album Live At The Star Club Hamburg is said to be one of the greatest rock & roll albums of all time.

A 13-song half hour set is truly electric and another favourite for me was The London Session recorded in 1973 and became his highest chart entry since 1964. With new and revisited songs, the sessions were tense, baring in mind he nearly always recorded in Tennessee, yet he attracted guests like Albert Lee, Rory Gallagher, Peter Frampton, Alvin Lee, Kenney Jones, Mick Jones and others to join him for a memorable double album.

He recorded 40 studio albums and in 2010 Mean Old man would be his last chart entry which included duets with Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. Generations to come will discover his musical energy and on my last visit to Sun Records in Memphis in the original studio and in the café, it is his photo with the quartet that proudly hangs on the wall.

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