He was rock & roll's first great wild man and also rock & roll's first great eclectic. His television appearances and stage shows were legendary for their manic energy, and his competitive nature to outdo anyone else on the bill led to the story about how he once set his piano on fire at set's end to make it impossible for Chuck Berry to follow his act. Nobody messed with the Killer.
When he broke on the national scene in 1957 with his classic "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," he was every parents' worst nightmare perfectly realized: a long, blonde-haired Southerner who played the piano and sang with uncontrolled fury and abandon, while simultaneously reveling in his own sexuality.
Jerry Lee's follow-up to "Shakin'" was another defining moment for his career, as well as for rock & roll. "Great Balls of Fire" featured only piano and drums, but sounded huge with Phillips' production behind it. It got him into a rock & roll movie (Jamboree) and his fame was spreading to such a degree that Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins left Sun to go to Columbia Records. His next single, "Breathless," had a promotional tie-in with Dick Clark's Saturday night Bandstand show, making it three hits in a row for the newcomer.
He returned to the charts in the late 60s with a string of top ten country hits including "Another Time, Another Place" and "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out of Me)". The next ten years saw him turning out more than a dozen best selling singles.
But the mid-'80s saw another jump start to his career. A movie entitled Great Balls of Fire was about to be made of his life and Lewis was called in to sing the songs for the soundtrack. Showing everyone who was the real Killer, Lewis sounded energetic enough to make you believe it was 1957 all over again with the pilot light of inspiration still burning bright.
With box sets and compilations, documentaries, a bio flick, and his induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame all celebrating his legacy, Lewis still continues to record and tour. Jerry Lee's latest release - THE PILGRIM - pairs him with such stars as B.B. King, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Jimmy Page.