Jerry Lee Lewis is best remembered as the frenetic rocker who recorded for the Sun label during the latter half of the 1950s. Hits such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Breathless” and “Great Balls Of Fire” not only climbed to the upper reaches of The American singles charts but helped to provide the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll itself.
His career came to a screeching halt in 1958 when he married his thirteen year old cousin. He was blacklisted by radio stations across The United States and his concert opportunities dried up as well. While he continued to record, he practically vanished from the music scene. It was not until he returned as a country artist during 1968 that he made a personal and commercial comeback.
Killer Country gathers the best of his country material, 1968-1977, recorded for the Mercury label and its subsidiary Smash. He would issue four number one country hits and five more that would reach number two.
Many of his big country hits are sung with passion and sincerity plus his voice had taken on a new maturity. Songs such as “Another Time, Another Place,” “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” and “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” represent the best of late sixties and seventies country music.
His take on the Kris Kristofferson classic “Me and Bobby McGee” was brilliant. In a sense he deconstructs the song and reinvents it with a honky tonk interpretation.
His early material was stark and basic country with the emphasis upon story telling ballads. During the early seventies he began to fill out the sound with strings and backing choruses. “He Can’t Fill My Shoes” and “Middle Age Crazy” are representative of this change which reflected the evolution of American country music at the time.
He last track for the Mercury label was “Pee Wee’s Place” which reflected the smoky juke joints he had been performing in for the past fifteen years. “If the barbecue don’t get you, the music will” was a fitting conclusion to the most prolific period of his country career.
Killer Country finds a far different Jerry Lee Lewis from his rock ‘n’ roll days. Not many artists would have had the talent or resolve to reinvent themselves as did Jerry Lee Lewis.
Today he is the last man standing of the major artists who recorded for The Sun label during the fifties. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash are all gone but Jerry Lee plays on.