Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy 78th Jerry Lee Lewis

I post a tribute every year to mark the birthday of an American original.  Happy 78th birthday, Jerry Lee!  He's the last man standing... the last of Sun Record's "Million Dollar Quartet."  And he's kept playin, and recording all these years.  Elvis is gone now.  So is Carl Perkins.  Johnny Cash was the most recent member of that exclusive club to pass on.

Only Jerry Lee is left now.  Love him or hate him, Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the greatest musicians in rock and roll history, and without his influence, music would be very different than it is today.  That's why so many artists today pay homage to Jerry Lee as an important influence, and why so many line up for the chance to record with him to this day.

The Sun Records Million Dollar Quartet:
Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Elvis, and Johnny Cash
He's a living legend.

He's one of our last remaining links to that period when rock and roll was in its infancy, and a few guys in Memphis took a little country, a little blues, a little gospel, and a little boogie woogie, put it all together, and rocked the world.  I shudder to think what music might be like if it weren't for Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley (would be still be do-wopping?).

Jerry Lee Lewis--still tearin' it up today.  Just a little slower.
Of course, it's well known that Jerry Lee Lewis is no Saint, and never has been.  He's been in a trouble a few times.  Might have even been arrested at one time for waving a gun outside the gates of Graceland while shouting threats at Elvis. 

He's been married, now seven times (that's changed since last year), the third time to his thirteen year old cousin--which caused a scandal that rocked the nation.  Overnight, Jerry became as infamous and he was famous.  When he recorded "I'm a Wild One," he wasn't kidding. 

Jerry Lee has certainly inspired more than a few musicians over the years--including me!
But there's no question he is one of America's greatest musical stylists, and he has forever changed music in America.  His signature style and famous licks have been duplicated and replicated in music clear up through today.  You don't have to listen very hard, especially to country music today, to hear those signature licks.  And I'm not ashamed to admit I've learned all those licks myself, and use them whenever I get the chance--and I've taught them to quite a few other promising piano players over the years.

This little clip is priceless--Jerry Lee Lewis don't need no stinkin' band.  And it's a rare opportunity to get an unfiltered version of his piano playing--and to really hear that left hand.  His speed and accuracy has never ceased to amaze me, and he makes it look so easy--and for him, it is.  And I've always enjoyed watching that left hand--rumbling the bass with the side of his hand like he does. 

Everybody take a moment today to help Jerry celebrate.  I think the best way is to find a song you like on your car stereo, turn the volume up, roll the windows down, and enjoy a rock and roll moment. 

Happy Birthday, Jerry!



  1. If he keeps practicing that piano he's got some real potential. :)

    1. He's a little reserved on this one--I wonder if somebody said, "Hey Jerry, want to take it easy on that piano. It's borrowed, and it's a Steinway!"


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