Jerry Lee Lewis came into the world on September 29, 1935. He was born on a small farm in Ferriday, Louisiana—home of Haney’s Big House music joint and a frequent stop for touring Blues musicians. The young Jerry Lee taught himself how to play piano, and by age 9 he was copying the style of traveling preachers and black musicians from the Delta. Recognizing his talent, his parents mortgaged their farm to buy him his first piano.
Jerry Lee’s diverse musical influences included gospel, rockabilly, pop music, and blues—and whatever he could hear on the radio. Drawing equally from white and black musical traditions, he developed a fiery style that set him apart from other piano men of the time. Not every audience appreciated this style, as he found out after playing a boogie-woogie version of “My God Is Real” at a church assembly. Although he has always been religious, the performance got him expelled from his Christian school.
On the rock scene, however, Jerry Lee’s flamboyant style soon had him working as a studio musician for Sun Studios. He routinely jammed with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, then recorded his own first single in 1956. A year later, with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” he became a star.
The late 1950s were an exciting time to be a rock musician. Jerry Lee captivated people not only with his sound, but with his famous stage antics, such as playing standing up, kicking over his piano stool and even lighting the piano on fire from time to time. It was during this time that the press picked up his childhood nickname, “Killer,” using it because of his ferocious presence and the way he knocked out audiences.
The Killer’s career had only begun. In the 1960s, he began recording country music, while keeping his rock hits going well into the 1970s. His command of so many styles of music helped make him a lifelong success, and in 1986 he was the first person ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For years, The Lewis Ranch has been the Killer’s quiet retreat. It’s here that he has often composed his songs, experimented with new styles, and enjoyed the Mississippi evenings with his wife Judith.
When asked by Rolling Stone about his long career, Jerry Lee said, “I just think it’s a blessing from God that I’m still living… and I’m still rocking.”
Come plan your visit and experience Jerry Lee Lewis’ legendary life for yourself.