On This Day – Great Balls of Fire!

On this day in 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis released Great Balls of Fire on the Sun record label.

One of the great pioneers of rock and roll Lewis came from a poor familly in Ferriday, Louisiana. He bagan playing piano while young with two of his cousins. His passion for the [iano was such that his parents raised a mortgage to buy him his own piano (thank god they did, god bless ’em).

Lewis was expelled from his school (Southwest Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas) into which his mother had enrolled him in the hope that he would learn to play “godly” music. He was expelled for playing “worldly” music. Years later he was asked by an old school friend if he was still playing the Devil’s music. His reply, “Yes, I am. But you know it’s strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I am playing for the devil and they don’t.”

His style came from what he heard on the radio and from the rythms he heard in the local black joints. In those days black musicians could not play for white audiences in the main and the white kids were ready for this rebellious, liberating music. He went to Sun Records in Memphis for an audition but Sam Phillips was away. Even so it did not take Phillips’ engineer, Jack Clement, to recognise his talent. Signed to Sun Lewis began working on session backing all the greats on the Sun label including, Elvis, Carl, Perkins and Johnny Cash among others. His distinctive piano playing can be heard on many tracks recorded at Sun during late 1956 and early 1957, including Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox”.

A great talent later lost to rock when he moved into country music after the scandal of his marriage to his young cousin Lewis helped start what we all enjoy to this day. As someone has said all we dio is to build on the shoulders of giants that went before, Lewis is one of thos giants.

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