12 Songs, 28 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Don't be confused by the title; this 1961 release isn't a best-of. It's Jerry Lee Lewis's second and final LP for Sun Records. (He was much more prolific on the singles end during his Sun tenure.) The best-known cut here is his 1957 smash "Great Balls of Fire," which had never been on an LP before. With Lewis in post-marriage-scandal mode, Sun may have figured that an old hit would help the album's sales. In fact, The Killer's loose-limbed version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" here would be his biggest pop hit for the next decade. Besides indicating the power of Lewis' later Sun sides, the album is a relatively early indicator of the eclecticism that would serve him well throughout his career. Things take an unexpected turn straight out of the gate, with the stinging, horn-punctuated swing of Jerry Lee's take on the Barrett Strong classic "Money." Lewis goes on to tackle country ("Cold, Cold Heart," which earned him a country hit), blues ("Hello, Hello Baby"), and straight-up rock 'n' roll (Charlie Rich's "Break Up"), offering ample evidence that he was one of American roots music's most agile interpreters.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Don't be confused by the title; this 1961 release isn't a best-of. It's Jerry Lee Lewis's second and final LP for Sun Records. (He was much more prolific on the singles end during his Sun tenure.) The best-known cut here is his 1957 smash "Great Balls of Fire," which had never been on an LP before. With Lewis in post-marriage-scandal mode, Sun may have figured that an old hit would help the album's sales. In fact, The Killer's loose-limbed version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" here would be his biggest pop hit for the next decade. Besides indicating the power of Lewis' later Sun sides, the album is a relatively early indicator of the eclecticism that would serve him well throughout his career. Things take an unexpected turn straight out of the gate, with the stinging, horn-punctuated swing of Jerry Lee's take on the Barrett Strong classic "Money." Lewis goes on to tackle country ("Cold, Cold Heart," which earned him a country hit), blues ("Hello, Hello Baby"), and straight-up rock 'n' roll (Charlie Rich's "Break Up"), offering ample evidence that he was one of American roots music's most agile interpreters.

TITLE TIME

About Jerry Lee Lewis

Singer and pianist Jerry Lee Lewis channeled the sanctity of gospel and the seduction of the blues into some of early rock ’n’ roll’s most joyfully furious singles. A former divinity student born in Louisiana in 1935, he brought the ecstasy of church music to pounding rockers like 1957’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On," kicking loose his piano stool with the gleeful savagery of any future guitar-destroying punk (he was known to his rockabilly peers as The Killer). And his attempts to outdo the audacity of his hero-turned-rival Little Richard inflamed a secular audience primed for a new brand of wildness. (His proud embrace of African American music thrilled in a repressively segregated era.) Lewis’ career was sidelined by one of rock’s first headline-worthy scandals when he married his 13-year-old cousin in 1957—though by then he’d already managed to uncork the pent-up sexuality of an entire generation with songs like “Great Balls of Fire." He eventually found humility (if not gentility) as a revered country-music storyteller, sketching deeply human characters, like the broken man confronting his alcohol-fueled regrets in 1968’s “What's Made Milwaukee Famous,” with all the passion of his rock hits.

HOMETOWN
Ferriday, LA
GENRE
Rock
BORN
September 29, 1935

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