By: Cindy Annis – July, 2017
Did you folks know that Jerry Lee Lewis is still alive? I know it’s hard to believe, but, Jerry was born on September 29, 1935. That will make him 82 years old in September 2017. May I be so lucky!\
Jerry was born in Ferriday, Louisiana to a poor farming family. He was playing piano at a young age and loved playing the keys with his cousins, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart. Yes! That Jimmy Swaggart. He played well and his parents, Elmo and Mamie heard this. They mortgaged their farm to get him a good piano.
Now, of course his folks didn’t want him playing around with what was going to turn out to be Rock & Roll, so Mamie enrolled him in the Southwest Bible Institute. She hoped that would keep him away from that terrible sound and he would play that church gospel music, exclusively. At one of the assemblies the school was having, Jerry was at the piano. There are two versions of this story so I will tell the one I like the best. So, Jerry was at the piano at the assembly and he started playing a boogie woogie version of “My God Is Real.” Jerry and the student body president were summoned to the dean’s office and expelled on the spot. Jerry explained that the student president had no knowledge of what he was going to do and that he shouldn’t be kicked out. So, they just kicked Jerry out, and that was that. Where can you go when you’re kicked out of bible school? You go home.
Jerry went home and started playing gigs around his home town. He was slowly making a name for himself. He decided it was time to try to hit the big times. He went up to Nashville and started to play some shows around town. He went to the Grand Old Opry and he was shut down. He was told to get off the piano and learn guitar.
He made a little trek over to Memphis where Sun Records was based. He auditioned for them although the owner was away. They recorded “Crazy Arms,” which was a cover of a Ray Price song, and they also did one of Jerry’s songs called “End of the Road.” He loved recording. He and Sun Records recorded a lot of Jerry’s stuff, and Jerry was enjoying playing the piano for other artists under Sun. He played piano for guys like Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Next time you hear “Matchbox,” or “Your True Love,” listen for Jerry’s distinct piano playing. These sessions he was doing were mostly Rockabilly music where there normally wouldn’t be any piano. But, some of the artists liked the sound so, Sun records started something good. Adding the piano to this kind of music caught on, fast. Singers at other record labels started adding this, but you really can’t miss Jerry’s sound and style.
There was one session that was going on with Perkins and Jerry, and Cash was hanging around to watch this one. While they were recording, Elvis Presley came in looking to talk with Perkins. While taking a break between songs, the four of them were chatting it up in the studio. Before long they were jamming it up and playing and singing some great Gospel tunes and other songs. Remember, Jerry was still unknown to most in the business, except for around his hometown. Well, anyways, back to this session. Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun, was running the equipment that day and he managed to have the recorder on and caught the jam session on tape. How lucky! The next day the newspapers were talking about it. It was titled, “Million Dollar Quartet.” That was December 4, 1956. Other songs and artists were added later. What a hit, but it didn’t get released until 1990 here in the states. This is one recording you don’t want to miss if you haven’t gotten it, yet.
We have barely touched this guy, yet. There is so much on Jerry Lee Lewis that I think we will have to make this part 1 and part 2 will be in the next installment of “In the Grove with Cindy Annis.”
Tune into Cindy’s Vinyl Vault on 980WCAP, Sunday nights 10pm to midnight, Monday nights, 10pm to midnight, and Wednesday nights, 10pm to midnight for the best music from, the 50’s to the 70’s, ever put on vinyl. And remember folks, “it’s not how old it is, but, how great it sounds!”