Strange perspective but this is from a (religious?) site that sums up some of the life of what can be called one of the more reckless stars the world has known...you should read what they say about Little Richard on it!
JERRY LEE LEWIS
Jerry Lee Lewis (1935- ) is not only one of the fathers of rock & roll, but is also one of rock’s many wild men. His mother was a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination, and like his preacher cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Lee attended AOG churches frequently as he grew up. Jerry Lee, though, did not repent of his sin, trust Jesus Christ for salvation, and dedicate his life to the Lord. Instead he went out into the world and served the flesh and the Devil. Jerry Lee’s father was a moonshiner, who had been in prison for making homemade liquor before Jerry Lee was born. Though his mother (sometimes accompanied by her husband) was a frequent churchgoer and is described by her children as serious about the things of God, the home was not happy, and his parents fought constantly. Jerry’s mother began drinking as she got older, and she was known to get into violent confrontations (Linda Gail Lewis, The Devil, Me, and Jerry Lee, p. 53). By age 15, Jerry Lee was working at a juke joint and had acquired a taste for liquor. He quit high school after bringing home 29 F’s on one report card. He then enrolled at Southwestern Bible Institute (Assemblies of God) in Waxahachie, Texas, and even preached a little; but was expelled after only three months when he played a boogie-woogie version of the hymn “My God Is Real” for morning assembly. He wasn’t too sad at being kicked out of Bible school, because he had been sneaking out of the dorm at night and hitchhiking to Dallas to visit nightclubs. Now he was free to pursue his real love.
Jerry Lee was far more fascinated with the world’s licentious rhythms. He loved the blues and boogie-woogie even as a boy. He was fascinated with Robert Johnson’s recording of “Hellhound on my Trail” and other blues records. He listened to Mississippi bluesmen on Natchez radio station WMIS, to dance band music on WWL in New Orleans, and to country boogie on radio programs such as The Louisiana Hayride. He would sneak down to black honky tonks and listen to the music coming from the jukebox. “He would linger by the tar-shingled juke joints where bad black people drank in the morning, and he would listen to the music that came from the nickel machine” (Nick Tosches, Hellfire, p. 46). The teenage Jerry Lee Lewis became proficient on the piano and formed his own rock & roll style from a combination of jazzed up Pentecostal music, hillbilly boogie, and black rhythm & blues. Lewis’s biographer Nick Tosches observes that “if you took the words away, there were more than a few Pentecostal hymns that would not sound foreign coming from the nickel machine in the wildest juke joint” (Hellfire, p. 57).
At age 22 he vaulted to fame with his 1957 hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.” He became immensely popular with his frenzied rock & roll shows. His skyrocketing career was cut down, though, when the press learned that he had married his 13-year-old cousin before he divorced his second wife. He did not have more hit records until the late 1960s.
Jerry Lee Lewis has been a drug- and alcohol abusing, profane, immoral “party animal,” and his life has been marred by violence, tragedies, and by repeated run-ins with the law. At last count he had been married seven times. In February 1952, when he was only 16, he married a girl named Dorothy, a preacher’s daughter, but he would not stay home with her and she left him in early 1953. That summer he met 17-year-old Jane Mitcham and she was soon pregnant with his child out of wedlock. Her irate father and brothers forced him to marry her, and the marriage was registered on September 10, 1953. The 17-year-old Jerry Lee was a bigamist, because he was still legally married to Dorothy. The divorce was not finalized until a month after his second marriage. The boy that Jane bore for Jerry Lee was named Jerry Lee, Jr. When a second child arrived in March 1955 (a boy named Ronny Guy), Jerry Lee refused to call it his own and left Jane.
In 1957, while still married to Jane, Lewis began an affair with his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale. He was still legally married to Jane, in fact, when he married Myra Gale in December 1957. The divorce was not granted until May 1958. Thus by age 25, Jerry Lee Lewis was a bigamist two times over. Myra’s father played bass in Jerry’s band. In February 1959, Myra Gale bore Lewis a second son, Steve Allen Lewis. In 1962, little three-year-old Steve Allen drowned in the family swimming pool. In August 1963, Myra had a little girl named Phoebe Allen Lewis.
The 1970s did not bring any peace to Jerry Lee Lewis. Myra filed for divorce in 1970. She testified in court that their marriage had been a nightmare. Not only had she caught him cheating on her, but he also cuffed her around and in 13 years of marriage had spent only three evenings alone with her. He had accused her of adultery, beat her, and even implied that their son’s drowning death was a punishment for her sins. That year Jerry Lee tried religion briefly, went back to church, and vowed to stop playing in nightclubs; but his newfound spirituality didn’t last. Myra’s divorce was granted in May 1971. That October, he married his fourth wife, a 29-year-old Memphis woman named Jaren Elizabeth Gunn Pate. They separated after only two weeks and spent more time apart than together during their stormy marriage. They had a daughter only six months after their wedding. Jaren filed for divorce at least three times, charging him with “cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, habitual drunkenness, and habitual use of drugs.” Shortly before the divorce settlement in 1982, she drowned in a swimming pool under mysterious circumstances. Jerry’s sister Linda Gail says she took an overdose of drugs. In 1973, Jerry Lee’s first son, Jerry Lee, Jr., was killed in an automobile crash while driving the jeep his father had given him for his 19th birthday. Jerry Lee, Jr. had spent part of that year in a psychiatric institution possibly because of the effects of marijuana usage. He even thought he was his father and walked around saying, “I’m the Killer! I’m the great Jerry Lee Lewis.” (A few weeks before his death, Jerry Lee, Jr., made a profession of faith in Christ at a revival meeting.)
Charlie “Red Man” Freeman, the guitarist for Jerry Lee Lewis, died at age 31. Lewis’s drummer, Robert “Tarp” Tarrant, had a nervous breakdown when he was only 22 because of his heavy drinking and drug abuse.
In 1973, Lewis jabbed the editor of Country Music magazine in the neck with a broken bottle when he took offense at one of the interviewer’s questions (Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock, p. 85). In 1974, he smashed a fan in the face with a whiskey bottle and “cut the guy’s face all up to pieces.” In 1975, Jerry Lee shot 25 holes through his office door with a .45 semi-automatic handgun. Jerry Lee was particularly out of control in 1976. In September, he shot his bass player, Norman Owens, in the chest with a .357 magnum handgun in a drunken fit of anger. Owens survived, and Lewis lamely said it was an accident. A week later Lewis was arrested at his home for disorderly conduct. He had been shouting obscenities at his neighbors. In November of 1976 he drove to the gate of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, brandished a .38-caliber derringer, and drunkenly told the security guard he was there to kill Elvis. Twenty-four hours earlier Lewis had overturned his $46,000 Rolls-Royce and was charged with reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, and driving without a license. In 1979, Lewis got into a fight onstage with a fan in Australia and suffered fractured ribs. The tour was cancelled. Also in 1979 the IRS confiscated his expensive cars for nonpayment of taxes.
The 1980s brought more of the same. In 1981, Lewis almost died when he had to be rushed to the hospital for massive stomach surgery. In 1983, about a year after his fourth wife drowned in the swimming pool, Jerry Lee married his fifth wife, 25-year-old Shawn Michelle Stephens. Less than three months after the wedding she was found dead in their home. After a superficial investigation, the death was ruled a suicide by overdose of methadone pills and Lewis was not charged with foul play, though Shawn Michelle was found lying in their bed in a bruised condition with blood on her body and under her fingernails. There were also “the permeation of fresh, small bloodstains around Lewis’ Mississippi home.” A few months later, the 49-year-old Jerry Lee married his sixth wife, 22-year-old Kerrie Lynn McCarver. She filed for divorce in 1986, but they were reconciled the next year and she gave birth to Jerry Lee Lewis III. In 1988, Lewis filed bankruptcy, listing more than $3 million in debts.
Lewis has abused drugs and alcohol like a wild man and was undergone treatment for addiction to painkillers. He claims to have spent $500,000 on the drug Demerol. In the early 1960s Lewis and his band were arrested at a motel in Texas and charged with possession of seven hundred amphetamine capsules. In March 1976, federal narcotics agents confiscated “a substantial amount of drugs” from Jerry Lee’s private plane. In 1979, he was busted again by federal agents for possession of cocaine and marijuana.
Lewis was possibly the first rock & roller to light his musical instrument on fire. He did this at a 1958 Alan Freed rock concert. “They still talk of that show, how Jerry Lee had the crowd screaming and rushing the stage, how he took a Coke bottle of petrol from his jacket pocket and doused his piano with one hand as the other hand banged out ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On,’ how he set the piano aflame, his hands still riding the keys like a madman as the kids went finely and wholly berserk with the frenzy of it...” (Country: Twisted Roots of Rock, p. 82).
Jerry Lee Lewis is what the Bible calls a “double minded man” (James 1:8; 4:
. He is frequently remorseful about his wicked lifestyle, but he does not repent and turn away from it. His sister Linda Gail testifies: “Jerry Lee would go through periods of depression and then back to his religious roots. Many times, he’d go home to the church in Ferriday, confess his sins to the world, repent and start all over again by the end of the week—drinking, running around and all the other activities associated with his sinful life on the road” (The Devil, Me, and Jerry Lee, p. 73). He has often admitted that rock & roll is “the devil’s music.” When he was recording one of his lewd songs at Sun Records in Memphis in 1957, the 20-year-old Lewis argued with Sun Records’ owner Sam Phillips about whether or not rock & roll was wholesome. The discussion was recorded. As the session began, Lewis protested that rock is “worldly music” and that God requires separation from the world. Phillips argued with him that rock & roll is arousing good feelings and is therefore a good thing. In fact, he said that rock could even save people. Lewis vehemently replied: “How can the Devil save souls? What are you talkin’ about? I have the Devil in me. If I didn’t, I’d be a Christian” (Hungry for Heaven, p. 24). In 1970, Lewis told Rolling Stone magazine: “I was raised a good Christian, but I couldn’t make it. Too weak I guess.” In 1980, he told People magazine: “Salvation bears down on me. I don’t wanna die and go to hell. But I don’t think I’m heading in the right direction. ... I’m lost and undone, without God or son. I should’ve been a Christian, but I was too weak for the gospel. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll cat. We all have to answer to God on Judgment Day.” In a 1982 interview with rock researcher Steve Turner, Lewis said: “How do you see ‘A Whole Lotta Shakin’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ done in church? Can you picture Jesus Christ singin’ it? [He then said that he, Lewis, couldn’t picture it.] Everything Jesus preached was against it. It’s the devil’s excitement [at a rock concert] and God’s excitement [in the church]. It’s just which one you want. You can’t go back and forth” (Hungry for Heaven, p. 26). When asked what power falls on him when he performs, Lewis replied: “The power of voodoo.”
Jerry Lee Lewis has enough spiritual discernment to know what he is doing. We believe he spoke the truth when he said, “I’m draggin’ the audience to hell with me” (cited by Nick Tosches,Hellfire, p. x).
Jerry Lee Lewis was, appropriately enough, the first person inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.