All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis Jerry Lee Lewis

Though he had only three Top 10 hits in the first, purely rock & roll phase of his career, many critics believe Jerry Lee Lewis was as talented a '50s rocker as Sun labelmate Elvis Presley. Some also believe that Jerry lee Lewis could have made it just as big commercially if his piano-slamming musical style was not so relentlessly wild, his persona not so threateningly hard-edged.

Lewis' first musical influences were eclectic. His parents, who were poor, spun swing and Al Jolson records. But his earliest big influence was country star Jimmie Rodgers. In his early teens he absorbed both the softer country style of Gene Autry and the more rocking music of local black clubs, along with the gospel hymns of the local Assembly of God church.

Lewis first played his aunt’s piano at age eight and made his public debut in 1949 at age 14, sitting in with a local C&W band in a Ford dealership parking lot. When he was 15 Lewis went to a fundamentalist Bible school in Waxahachie, Texas, from which he was soon expelled. He has often said that rock & roll is the Devil’s music.

In 1956 Lewis headed for Memphis (financed by his father) to audition for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. Phillips’ assistant, Jack Clement, was impressed with Lewis’ piano style but suggested he play more rock & roll, in a style similar to Elvis Presley’s. (Presley had recently switched from Sun to RCA.) Lewis’ debut single, “Crazy Arms” (previously a country hit for Ray Price), did well regionally, but it was the followup, 1957’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” (#3), that finally broke through.

Read more






Chuck Berry Chuck Berry
guitar, electric
Elvis Presley Elvis Presley
voice / vocals

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.