Jerry Lee Lewis was born on Sept. 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana, to Elmo Lewis, a carpenter, and Mamie (Herron) Lewis. When he was a boy, he and two of his cousins, the future evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and the future country singer Mickey Gilley (who died this year), liked to sneak into a local dance hall, Haney’s Big House, to hear top blues acts perform.
He showed an aptitude for the piano, and his father borrowed money to buy him one. “The more he practiced, the surer the left hand and wilder the right hand became,” Mr. Tosches wrote in “Hellfire.”
At 14, he was invited to sit in with a band performing at a local Ford dealership, which was celebrating the arrival of the 1950 models. He played “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” — the tune, a hit for Sticks McGhee in 1949, would be a minor pop hit for Mr. Lewis in 1973 — and he took home nearly $15 when someone passed the hat.
He soon became a regular at clubs in Natchez, just across the Mississippi River, and on the radio station KWKH in Shreveport, La. His deeply worried mother, a Pentecostal Christian, enrolled him in the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas.
“I didn’t graduate,” he told The New York Times in 2006. “I was kind of quit-uated. I was asked to leave for playing ‘My God Is Real’ boogie-woogie style, rock ’n’ roll style. I figured that’s the way it needed to be played.” Continue reading Jerry Lee Lewis – 10/2022