Jerry Lee was born to the poor family of Elmo and Mamie Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana, on September 29, 1935; his parents mortgaged the farm when he was eight to buy him a piano. Jerry Lee Lewis, who is completely self-taught, developed his own ferocious approach to the piano by the age of ten, synthesizing the boogie-woogie sounds he heard on the radio with the Southern-fried R&B emanating from Haney’s Big House, a local juke joint owned by his uncle.
After enrolling in, and promptly being expelled from Southwestern Bible College in Waxahatchie, Texas, the siren call of music continued to pull Jerry Lee onto a trajectory that would change the world. Bringing together elements of R&B, boogie-woogie, gospel and country into a sound uniquely his own, Jerry Lee Lewis became an integral part of the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene that was usurping and supplanting the big band sounds of popular music.
By 1956, Jerry Lee had found his way into Sam Phillips’ fabled Sun Studios, where he cut his first charting single, a revved-up rendition of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms,” and worked as an in-house session musician. One day, while playing piano for some Carl Perkins sessions, Jerry Lee became part of an impromptu jam session that included Perkins, Johnny Cash, and a young Elvis Presley. The engineer rolled the tape and that session became the lone recording of the fabled “Million Dollar Quartet.” This jam is currently being celebrated on Broadway by the Tony-nominated musical of the same name. Actor Levi Kreis, playing Lewis, recently won a 2010 Tony Award for “Best Featured Actor in a Musical.”
With the release of Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire” in 1957, the flamboyant young performer crossed over onto the pop, R&B and country charts and landed on-screen performance roles in the films “High School Confidential” and “Jamboree.” When Elvis saw Jerry Lee Lewis perform, he said that, if he could play piano like that, he’d stop singing.
Beginning in 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis’s career was plagued by a series of scandals and stories; many well-documented as rock history and legend in books including Nick Tosches’ 1982 biography, Hellfire. By the mid-1960s, Jerry Lee Lewis had crossed over as a country artist, with 1968’s “Another Place, Another Time,” becoming a country chart-topper.
Described by Roy Orbison as the best raw performer in the history of rock ‘n’ roll music, Jerry Lee Lewis became one of the very first inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. That same year, Jerry Lee went back to Sun Studios in Memphis to record the album Class of ‘55 with Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. “Interviews from the Class of ‘55 Recording Sessions” earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. In February 2005, Jerry Lee Lewis was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). In 2009, Jerry Lee opened two star-studded Madison Square Garden concerts celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The resulting HBO special currently has five Emmy nominations and is available on DVD.
Over the course of his career, Jerry Lee Lewis has never stopped touring and is still the incandescent performer who makes every gig a transformative experience.
Mean Old Man (2010) is pure Jerry Lee Lewis, an important and monumental collection of pure country-inspired music from the last original. Music icon Lewis continues this legacy with Mean Old Man, which was produced by Jim Keltner and Steve Bing in Memphis and Los Angeles. This is Lewis’s much-anticipated follow-up to his 2006 release Last Man Standing, which continues to sell consistently with sales of over 500,000 worldwide.
With Mean Old Man, rock ‘n’ roll’s and country’s greatest showman finds himself in the company of some of the greatest sidemen and women ever assembled on the18-track deluxe and ten-track standard CD version. These pop, rock, blues and country music superstars lent their talent on a dream set list of classic songs, many of which might not exist had Jerry Lee Lewis not kicked open the floodgates back in the 1950s.