MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Jerry Lee Lewis, the last surviving member of the Million-Dollar Quartet at Sun Studio in Memphis, has died at the age of 87, his publicist confirmed Friday.
Called one of the greatest entertainers and piano players ever, Lewis was known for decades to fans as The Killer for his songs and the way he rattled the ivory. It was a musical ability that he knew was a gift.
His music would take him from his home in Louisiana to Memphis to record at Sam Phillip’s Sun Studio, where Lewis would make records and history with one hit song after another.
His first big hit was “Crazy Arms.”
Later, as a part of the Million-Dollar Quartet at Sun Studio, along with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins, he turned vinyl records into gold.
Hit records lined the walls of his home in Nesbit, Mississippi, but he continued touring and electrifying audiences by kicking over the piano bench on stage. He even recorded a new CD called “Rock ‘n Roll Times.”
He was responsible for favorite songs such as “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” among others, but those weren’t his favorite.
“My favorite song I guess would be the ‘Old Rugged Cross.’ That’s my favorite song,” Lewis said in an interview.
Lewis was once nicknamed rock n’ roll’s first wildman because of his public and private life. His turbulent personal life was hidden from the public until a May 1958 British tour during which a reporter learned about Lewis’ third wife, Myra Gale Brown, who was his first cousin once removed and was only a teenager at the time. Lewis was 22 years old.
The publicity caused an uproar and, at the time, hurt his career. Despite the controversy, Lewis was devoutly Christian. He was also said to be troubled by some of his own material, which he believed was leading him and his audience to hell.
It’s perhaps why he said his favorite song is a reflection of his faith.
Lewis was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 1989, his life was chronicled in the movie “Great Balls of Fire,” starring Dennis Quaid.
In 2012, he was married for the seventh time. His wife, Judith, said their love, his music, and the opening of the Jerry Lee Lewis Cafe and Honkytonk on Beale Street in Memphis kept him young.
“He never left Memphis. He loves Memphis,” Judith said in an interview at the time.
Last week, on Oct. 16, Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He is remembered for the way he lived, the way he played his piano, and for making unforgettable music.