Jerry Lee Lewis - photo by Michael Sherer
West 42nd Street in NYC’s Times Square has an old nick name: “The Deuce.” BB King’s club on this street was treated to a romp from one of the pioneers and most influential of the first wave of rock and rollers from the 1950’s who also has a nick name, and a formidable one: “The Killer,” Jerry Lee Lewis, even at 80, rocked the house.
Lewis’ band came on with out him and played for a good twenty minutes. Led by guitarist Kenny Lovelace, all the band were from Nashville, with Lovelace saying he’s from Memphis after introducing the others. They were crack, veteran players who set the stage with an extended introduction for the ringmaster at his piano. Looking very good for his age and dressed in a dark suit upon strolling out, Lewis can still play and sing convincingly. The mostly full club ate it up with much enthusiasm, cheering several times. Prior to Lewis coming on a short documentary about him was played on the screens to the sides of the stage.
Lewis released his first record, on Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, in 1958. With 57 years worth of material to choose from, he could have played for many days. The set was around an hour upon Lewis joining his band. As to be expected, his biggest hits of Great Balls Of Fire and A Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Goin’ On were included. The set list is below review.
Lewis had a more fiery and wide mix of boogie woogie, honky tonk, rockabilly, country, blues, gospel and swing in his rock and roll than probably all of his contemporaries, and it’s one of the factors that sets him apart. It was all on display here, although not at the same level of punch as Lewis could deliver as a youngster. This is a man that’s been a huge influence on countless pianists, singers and musicians. Elton John, then still Reggie Dwight, had his life changed by Lewis, namely in how physical Lewis was with the piano. In Tom Jones’ new autobiography, he cites Lewis as his biggest musical hero growing up in south Wales, U.K.
As he’s been doing since the beginning of his career, Lewis kicked his piano seat to the floor as he finished his last song and then walked off the stage. If he had a nickel for every time he’s done this, he’d be counting them for days too. You knocked ‘em dead, Killer.
Down the Line
You Win Again
Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye
Sweet Little Sixteen
Over the Rainbow
Before the Night Is Over
Roll Over Beethoven
Great Balls of Fire
Why You Been Gone So Long
Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Mean Woman Blues / What’d I Say