Family, friends and fans will gather on Saturday (November 5) to say goodbye to the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis at memorial services in his north Louisiana hometown.
Lewis, known for hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” died Oct. 28 at his home in Mississippi, south of Memphis, Tennessee. He was 87.
Saturday’s funeral service is set for 11 at Young’s Funeral Home in Ferriday, the city where he was born, family members said. A private burial will follow. A celebration of life is planned at the Arcade Theater, also in Ferriday, at 1 p.m.
After his personal life exploded in the late 1950s following the news of his marriage to his cousin, 13-year-old – possibly even 12-year-old – Myra Gale Brown, while he was still married to his ex-wife, the piano player and rock rebel was blacklisted from radio and his earnings dropped to virtually nothing. Over the following decades, Lewis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal disputes, and physical illness.
In the 1960s, Lewis reinvented himself as a country artist, and the music industry eventually forgave him. He had a string of top 10 country hits from 1967 to 1970, including “She Still Comes Around” and “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me).”
Lewis was the cousin of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and country star Mickey Gilley. Swaggart and Lewis published The boys from Ferriday, a gospel album, earlier this year. Swaggart will officiate at his funeral.
In 1986, he joined Elvis, Berry and others in the first class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and joined the Country Hall of Fame this year. His life and music were reintroduced for younger fans in the 1989 biography Large fireballsstarring Dennis Quaid and Ethan Coen’s 2022 documentary Problems in mind.
A 2010 Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartetwas inspired by a recording session with Lewis, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
Lewis won a Grammy in 1987 as part of an interview album cited for best spoken word recording, and he received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2005.
The following year, “Whole Lotta Shakin'” was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, whose board praised its “propulsive boogie piano perfectly complemented by the driving force of JM Van Eaton’s energetic drumming. Listeners to the recording, like Lewis himself, found it difficult by staying seated during the performance.”