The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


back to profile

Jerry Lee Lewis

1935

Jerry Lee Lewis is born in Ferriday, Louisiana.

1949

A 14-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis makes his debut at the opening of a Ford dealership in Ferriday. He plays “Drinking Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee.”

1950

On the eve of his 15th birthday, Jerry Lee Lewis enrolls at Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahatchie, Texas. He is expelled three months later.

1956

Jerry Lee Lewis, hoping to audition for Sun Records, travels to Memphis with his father, Elmo. As owner Sam Phillips is out of town, Lewis plays for engineer Jack Clement, who advises him to learn some rock and roll.

1956

Jerry Lee Lewis cuts his first record - “End of the Road” b/w “Crazy Arms” for Sun. It is credited to Jerry Lee Lewis and His Pumping Piano.

1956

The “Million Dollar Quartet"—Presley, Perkins, Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis—records old gospel, country and pop songs at an impromptu session. The recordings aren’t officially released until the mid-Eighties.

1957

Sun releases “Flyin’ Saucer Rock n’ Roll” by Billy Riley and His Little Green men. Featuring Roland Janes on guitar and Jerry Lee Lewis on piano, the song is a rockabilly classic. In September, Sun releases Riley’s “Red Hot.”

1957

“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” the second single by Jerry Lee Lewis, is released on Sun Records.

1957

“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” enters the Top Forty, remaining there for 20 weeks. The song gets a boost when Jerry Lee Lewis performs it on The Steve Allen Show on July 28. It peaks at #3 and tops the country and R&B charts.

1957

Sun Records releases “Great Balls of Fire,” written by Otis Blackwell (who penned “Don’t Be Cruel” and others for Elvis Presley). By the second week in December, the single is ensconced in the Top Ten on the pop, country and R&B charts. It becomes the best-selling record in Sun’s history.

1957

Jerry Lee Lewis marries his second cousin, Myra Gale Brown, in Hernando, Mississippi. She’s the daughter of J.W. Brown, his bass player and cousin. Myra is 13 years old, though she claims in the marriage license to be 20.

1958

Jerry Lee Lewis hits Number One with “Breathless.” In April, he scores again, with “High School Confidential.”

1972

The “Killer” Rocks On, a new album, returns Jerry Lee Lewis to rock and roll.

1973

The Session, an album of rerecorded oldies that finds Jerry Lee Lewis accompanied by such British luminaries as Peter Frampton and Alvin Lee, reaches #37. It is the highest-charting album of his career.

1976

Jerry Lewis is arrested for drunk driving in Memphis. Later, at three a.m., he appears at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s residence, brandishing a pistol and demanding to see Elvis. He is handcuffed and taken to jail.

1981

Hospitalized in Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis nearly dies of a bleeding ulcer.

1986

Jerry Lee Lewis is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first induction dinner, held in New York City.

1989

The film biography Great Balls of Fire, with Dennis Quaid in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis, opens across the U.S.

1995

Jerry Lee Lewis releases his first rock and roll album of the Nineties, Young Blood, calling it “my best album ever!”

1995

Backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Jerry Lee Lewis sings “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire” at the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.