Jerry Lee Lewis, also known as "The Killer," was one of the first generation of 1950s rock'n'rollers, touring the country with blazing piano-based hits such as "Great Balls Of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." His career was sidelined over various personal scandals, including various peccadillos and his infamous marriage to his underage cousin. After his fall from grace, Lewis soldiered on and eventually refashioned himself as a country singer, crafting some of the finest (and most underrated) soul-country of the late '60s and early '70s. Here's a quick look at his work.
Jerry Lee Lewis "All Killer No Filler: The Jerry Lee Lewis Anthology" (Rhino, 1993)
Having fallen from grace amid numerous personal scandals in his youth, rockabilly wildman Jerry Lee Lewis made a powerful comeback in the late '60s and '70s with a series of stellar recordings on the Mercury label. With a rumbling curl in his voice, Jerry Lee summoned a George Jones-like gravitas, pushing into a greater emotional range than many of his going-through-the-motions countrypolitan contemporaries. He also recorded a wide range of styles from schmaltzy stringfests like "Would You Take Another Chance On Me" to rompin', stompin' goodies and real-live weepers like "There Must Be More To Love Than This" and "Middle Aged Crazy." This is a fine set surveying those years; his old individual LPs are also well worth searching for. Think about it, darlin' !
Jerry Lee Lewis "Killer Country" (Mercury Nashville, 1995)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Locust Years... And The Return To The Promised Land" (Bear Family, 1994)
Eight CD's worth of vintage Jerry Lee Lewis... Doubtless for diehard fans only, but gee whiz, if you were one of those diehard fans and got ahold this set... Hoooo-boy!
Jerry Lee Lewis "Mercury Smashes And The Rockin' Sessions" (Bear Family, 2000)
A 10-CD box set of Jerry Lee's country years... holy cow!!
Jerry Lee Lewis "25 All-Time Greatest Sun Recordings" (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Sun Essentials" (Snapper-UK, 2004)
A budget-line UK collection, with four CDs worth of vintage rockabilly-era Killer...
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Original Greatest Hits" (Time-Life, 2008)
More of the Sun years...
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Definitive Collection" (Universal/Hip-O, 2006)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Gold" (Universal, 2008)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Rockin' Rhythm & Blues/The Cream Of The Country" (Collectables, 1999)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits, v.1&2 " (Beat Goes On, 2002)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Country Songs For City Folks/Memphis Beat" (Beat Goes On, 2005)
Includes two albums: Country Songs For City Folks (1965) and Memphis Beat (1966)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Another Place, Another Time/She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" (Raven, 2008)
A straight reissue of two early albums on the Mercury label, 1968's Another Place, Another Time and She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye from 1970.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Southern Roots/Boogie Woogie Country Man" (Raven, 2004)
A straight reissue of two early albums on the Mercury label, 1973's Southern Roots and Boogie Woogie Country Man from 1975.
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Killer Rocks On/Boogie Woogie Country Man" (Beat Goes On, 2004)
A straight reissue of two early albums on the Mercury label, 1970's The Killer Rocks On and Boogie Woogie Country Man from 1975.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Jerry Lee Lewis" (Sun, 1958)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Jerry Lee's Greatest" (Sun, 1962)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Live At The Star Club, Hamburg" (Philips, 1964)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Golden Hits Of Jerry Lee Lewis" (Smash, 1964) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Greatest Live Show On Earth" (Smash, 1964) (LP)
Another early live album...
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Return Of Rock" (Smash, 1965) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Country Songs For City Folks" (Smash, 1965)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Memphis Beat" (Smash, 1966)
Jerry Lee Lewis "By Request" (Smash, 1966) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Soul My Way" (Smash, 1967) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Another Place, Another Time" (Smash, 1968)
Jerry Lee Lewis "She Still Comes Around" (Smash, 1969)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits, v.1" (1969)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Sings The Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits, v.2" (1969)
Jerry Lee Lewis & Linda Gail Lewis "Together" (Smash, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Kennedy)
A fair-to-middling duets album with this brother-sister duo covering classics such as "Crying Time," "Jackson," "We Live In Two Different Worlds" and "Milwaukee Here I Come." The selection and the approach are both pretty predictable, and while this is a nice record, their performances don't ever really gel. They're both pretty raw, bluesy vocalists by nature, but keep things restrained while trying to match each other and stay in the boundaries set by the studio crew. For the most part, he takes the lead and she plays a supporting role, but even though this isn't an electrifying record, it's nice to listen to. The only track I didn't like was a tepid version of "Roll Over Beethoven," which seemed like a tacked-on oldie and neither they nor the band really make much of it. Otherwise, some nice country songs, competently sung.
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Golden Cream Of The Country" (1970)
Jerry Lee Lewis "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" (Smash, 1970)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Live At The International, Las Vegas" (Mercury, 1970) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "In Loving Memories, The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "There Must Be More To Love Than This" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Touching Home" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Kennedy)
Another solid country set with some new material and a few cover tunes, given the Jerry Lee treatment, including Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and Tommy Duncan's "Time Changes Everything." The title track, a weeper written by Dallas Frazier, is pretty good, though the album's real highlight is "You Helped Me Up (When The World Let Me Down)" and the campier "When Baby Gets The Blues," and the morose, defeatist "Coming Back For More," honkytonk gems that are all buried on the album's second side. The studio crew is packed with usual suspects -- Pete Drake, Harold Bradley, Chip Young, etc., etc., but they play it with feeling, and of course Jerry Lee chimes in with some tasty piano riffs. You gotta love it.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Would You Take Another Chance On Me" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Killer Rocks On" (Mercury, 1972)
A whole album of cover tunes -- some old, like "Chantilly Lace" and "Don't Be Cruel," others new, like "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Games People Play." Obviously, a set like this doesn't do much to burnish Jerry Lee's image as an innovator, but he does invest these retreads with a surprising amount of vitality and joie de vivre You needn't go too far out of your way to track this disc down, but if you do pick it up, you might be surprised by how engaging it can be.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano?" (Mercury, 1972) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Session" (Mercury, 1973)
A double LP of rock and R&B oldies, recorded in England with a bunch of heavyweights from the world of British rock - Eric Clapton, Albert Lee, Rory Gallagher, Gary Wright, and others... A real reinvigoration of Lewis's rock'n'roll cred.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Sometimes A Memory Ain't Enough" (Mercury, 1973) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Southern Roots" (Mercury, 1973)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux)
This is a truly awful album, with Jerry Lee clearly blotto and going through the motions on most of the tracks... Oh, sure, he plunks the piano and sings, but there's not a lot of feeling or conviction behind it, and mostly he's just plowing his way through the sessions, and waiting to cash his check. Likewise, despite a ton of talent in the Memphis crew behind him, nobody seems to be putting much effort into it... and can you blame them? Not really. Anyway, the hype was "Jerry Lee goes to Memphis, does a super-Southern album," but I think the concept was just meant to cover up how bad whatever he recorded at the time was going to be. Notable talent among all the Steve Cropper/Duck Dunn usual-suspects includes Augie Meyers playing Vox organ on a (terrible) version of Doug Sahm's "Revolutionary Man," Tony Joe White kicking in a few vocals, and Mack Vickery playing harmonica and contributing a couple of songs to the set list. But, jeez, this really was a dispiriting and forlorn recording session... (Random question: anyone know if sound engineer Lonnie Bice was any relation to American Idol finalist Bo Bice? Just wondering.)
Jerry Lee Lewis "I-40 Country" (Mercury, 1974) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Boogie Woogie Country Man" (Mercury, 1975)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Odd Man In" (Mercury, 1975) (LP)
Man, I wish I had a set of those playing cards on the cover...
Jerry Lee Lewis "Country Class" (Mercury, 1976) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Country Memories" (Mercury, 1977) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Jerry Lee Keeps Rockin' " (Mercury, 1978) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Duets" (Sun Records, 1978)
A cheesy set of phony "duets," featuring old Jerry Lee recordings overdubbed with vocals by the 1970s Sun artist known as Orion (an Elvis Presley imitator who the label tried to promote as a reincarnation of, or a secretly-not-dead version of the King.) The idea, I guess, was to try and get fans to believed that these were original recordings made by these two rock'n'roll pioneers, back in the day. Seems pretty silly, though -- it's pretty easy to detect the fraud.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Jerry Lee Lewis" (Elektra, 1979) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "When Two Worlds Collide" (Elektra, 1980) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Killer Country" (Elektra, 1980) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis/Johnny Cash/Carl Perkins "The Survivors -- Live" (Columbia, 1982)
Jerry Lee Lewis "My Fingers Do the Talkin' " (MCA, 1983) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis "I Am What I Am" (MCA, 1984)
Jerry Lee Lewis "I'm On Fire" (Mercury, 1985) (LP)
Jerry Lee Lewis/Johnny Cash/Carl Perkins/Roy Orbison "Class Of '55: Memphis Rock'N'Roll Homecoming" (Polygram, 1986)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls Of Fire!" (Soundtrack) (Polydor, 1989)
The soundtrack to a popular Jerry Lee Lewis biopic, starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder...
Jerry Lee Lewis "Young Blood" (Sire/Elektra, 1995)
Jerry Lee Lewis/Various Artists "Last Man Standing: The Duets" (Shangri-La, 2006)
Friends and admirers were lined up around the block to get in the studio and jam with rock'n'roll forefather Jerry Lee Lewis... And, yeah, old Jerry Lee is still full of fire and brimstone, even though he's certainly no spring chicken. Some of these collaborations are cool -- George Jones and the Killer singing "Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Age" is a delicious slice of pop culture irony (especially when the next song on the album is "A Couple More Years," with Willie Nelson...) A grungy blues jam with Neil Young is also a surprising highlight, although other rock-oriented duets are a bit iffier... The inevitable rock-stars-jamming-with-their-hero bluster and brash, overly professional production dominates this album, with hippie-era rockers such as Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Robbie Robertson and Ronnie Wood bashing away on the by-the-numbers power chords -- there are also a few blues-based collaborations, with Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Little Richard that also have their moments. Still, even if Lewis brings more freshness and vitality to this album than many of his collaborators, this is still a noteworthy album... You gotta give credit where credit is due, and Jerry Lee isn't just a rock'n'roll survivor -- he's a powerhouse performer who has never slowed down over a fifty-year career, and he still can bring the house down. And, man, can Jerry Lee bang away on that piano!
Jerry Lee Lewis "Live From Austin, TX" (New West, 2007)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Live From Austin, TX" (DVD) (New West, 2007)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Mean Old Man" (Verve, 2010)
Another guest-star filled album from this once-primal rock'n'roll old-timer. Keep in mind that Lewis is now 75 years old... and he isn't getting any younger. Guests this time around include James Burton, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, Mick Jagger, Kid Rock, John Mayer, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood... It's an A-list cast, but clearly they expect the guests to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Also... if all the individual member appeared on all those various tracks, why couldn't they just get the Rolling Stones to appear as a band? Was Charlie Watts getting his nails done that day, or something? Nice to see the Killer still kicking around, although I have to confess this isn't exactly a desert-island disc for me... I'll mostly stick to that old anthology on Rhino if I need to get a little jolt of Jerry Lee.
Jerry Lee Lewis "Original Golden Hits, Vol. 1" (Sun, 1969)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Original Golden Hits, Vol. 2" (Sun, 1969)
Jerry Lee Lewis "A Taste Of Country" (Sun, 1970)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Best Of Jerry Lee Lewis, v.1" (Smash, 1970)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Monsters" (Sun, 1971)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Breathless" (Pickwick, 1974)
Jerry Lee Lewis "Best Of Jerry Lee Lewis, v.2" (1978)
Jerry Lee Lewis "The Best Of Jerry Lee Lewis" (Elektra, 1981)
Wikipedia has a good artist profile and discography page
Hick Music Index