Jerry Lee Lewis
"I am a rock and rollin', country & western, rhythm & blues singing [expletive deleted]"
-- Jerry Lee Lewis
On December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips of Sun records had brought his newest find, Jerry Lee Lewis into a Carl Perkins recording session. Elvis Presley (then with RCA) had dropped by for a casual visit and the group was later joined by Johnny Cash. Sam Phillips saw a chance for some publicity and the local news was called in and wrote an article about the “Million Dollar Quartet.” Jerry Lee had recorded a regional hit for Sun that year, “Crazy Arms.” At the end of his next session of Sun, he belted out “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” It became his first national hit, eventually climbing to #3 on Billboard. When Lewis performed on the Steve Allen Show on July 28, 1957, he exploded on the national scene. The energy of his recording of “Whole Lotta Shakin” was amplified by the television performance. For many viewers it was their first exposure to unbridled rock and roll. Elvis’s performances were much more choreographed and even seemed tame to the piano pounding frenzy of Jerry Lee. Lewis would follow up his ‘57 success with two more big hits in 1958. In January “Great Balls of Fire” was kept out of the #1 slot by “At the Hop.” In May of 1958 with another top ten hit on the chart, “Breathless,” Jerry Lee went to England to tour. When he first came to Sun records he had already been married twice. In December of 1957 he had married his second cousin, Myra Lee Brown who was only thirteen years old at the time. The British press broke the scandal and Jerry Lee’ concert dates were cancelled. Back in the United States, disc jockeys began to refuse to play his records. Jerry Lee wouldn’t have another top forty recording until a cover of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” in 1961 and would never have another top ten record. When his contract was up with Sun, he moved to Mercury records. In the early seventies, Jerry Lee Lewis became a top ten country singer. He was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
title week debuted highest ranking weeks on chart
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On 7/17/1957 3 20
Great Balls of Fire 12/2/1957 2 13
Breathless 3/10/1958 7 9
High School Confidential 6/2/1958 21 8