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Song of the Day Artist Tribute for December 29: Jerry Lee Lewis with "Whole Lotta Shakin'"

Jerry Lee Lewis-Memorial Service
Lisa Poole/AP
/
AP
FILE - Jerry Lee Lewis performs during Farm Aid on Sept. 20, 2008 in Mansfield, Mass. On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, family, friends and fans will gather to bid farewell to rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis at memorial services held in his north Louisiana home town. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)

Elvis Presley was known as the King; Jerry Lee Lewis was known as the Killer.

Lewis died October 28, 2022 at 87. He was the last surviving pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll.

Lewis lived up to the nickname a classmate gave him when he tried to strangle a teacher. He “accidentally” shot his bass player, who survived. He abused alcohol, drugs and several of his seven wives. One wife drowned, another died of an overdose.

Lewis grew up a piano savant. He signed with Sun Records when they needed someone to replace Presley, who had left for RCA. By the time he turned 21, Lewis was making hits. His star trajectory mirrored Presley’s.

But the next year, Lewis’ career sank like the Titanic. During his first tour of Great Britain, a reporter asked a young girl what she was doing as part of Lewis’ entourage. She said she was his wife. Turned out she was 13 and a first cousin. He had also never divorced wife number two.

Lewis became a rock ‘n’ roll pariah. Radio stations stopped playing his songs; fans stopped going to his concerts.

He did revive his career as a country music singer a decade later. He had 17 Top Ten hits on Billboard’s Country chart, including four number ones.

Dave "Curlee" Williams, and James Faye "Roy" Hall wrote our Song of the Day, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” while fishing. Several R&B singers recorded it before Lewis. But his rockabilly version caught on, especially after he played it on the “Steve Allen Show.” It reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957, the same year “Great Balls of Fire” reached number two.