Jerry Lee Lewis Is Newest Inductee to Country Music Hall of Fame
Great balls of fire, finally! Piano playing madman and American music legend Jerry Lee Lewis is the newest inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Veteran’s Era category. The announcement came Tuesday morning (5-17) at a press conference in the Hall of Fame rotunda in Nashville, and after years of lobbying by fans who wanted to see the American music legend honored while he is still with us.
Jerry Lee Lewis was inducted with Keith Whitley in the Modern Era category, and RCA Records executive Joe Galante in the non performer rotating category.
“It’s always great to be recognized,” said Jerry Lee Lewis in his brief remarks. “I’m here, I love you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
One of the biggest names ever in rock & roll, and with a distinguished career in the country music realm as well, the 86-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis joins his fellow Million Dollar Quartet members Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley as members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Born in Louisiana in 1935 and rising to fame as a Sun Studios recording artist, Jerry Lee Lewis is arguably the most well-recognized rock & roll piano player of all time.
After becoming frustrated at his inability to land a hit in rock and roll after his heyday, Lewis decided to become a country music artist in 1968. He released his first country single, “Another Place, Another Time” by Jerry Chestnut in March of 1968, and would later release many albums of country material. Jerry Lee eventually had 17 Top 10 hit singles on the Billboard country chart, and four #1’s as a country artist.
Some of Jerry Lee’s hits included “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out of Me),” “She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left Of Me),” “Since I Met You Baby,” “To Make Love Sweeter For You,” and “Sometimes A Memory Ain’t Enough.” Eventually Jerry Lee Lewis became one of the highest paid performers in all of country, and some of his previous rock & roll records were repackaged for the country audience.
Jerry Lee’s country music career wasn’t without controversy. Beyond the scandal the piano player was already carrying around after marrying his 13-year-old 2nd cousin, he made a mockery of the Grand Ole Opry stage during his first appearance on January 20, 1973. After being warned by Opry management to respect the family atmosphere of the show, Jerry Lee took the stage and shouted, “Let me tell ya something about Jerry Lee Lewis, ladies and gentlemen: I am a rock and rollin’, country-and-western, rhythm and blues-singin’ motherfu_ker!” Lewis also played for 40 minutes instead of his appointed eight-minute slot. He was banned from the Grand Ole Opry afterwards.
But his impact and influence on country music was undeniable. This is why the CMA Committee chose to induct Jerry Lee in a crowded Veteran’s Era field, and at a time when the American music legend is in the twilight of his life. Better to award him when he’s still around to enjoy it, and Jerry Lee Lewis most certainly will as someone who’s been lobbying for this distinction for a while.
Jerry Lee Lewis will be officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year in a Medallion Ceremony.
May 17, 2022 @ 8:42 am
If Elvis is in, Jerry Lee needed to be as well. Good call by the hall, especially while he’s still alive. All in all, I think the hall crafted a solid class this year.
18 Dales and a dozen comments
May 17, 2022 @ 8:19 pm
the ole tenneessee hound dog joeg alanate I could tell ya a few story’s haha
May 17, 2022 @ 11:59 pm
Yea, at least Jerry Lee recorded country music.
May 17, 2022 @ 8:43 am
Great class overall
May 17, 2022 @ 8:53 am
Jerry Lee is a country and rock H-o-F’er, without a doubt.
May 17, 2022 @ 9:13 am
Wonderful news. The Killer has always been as much country as he is rock and roll and is simply one of the towering figures in American popular music, period. This one feels really good. Congrats, JLL!!
May 17, 2022 @ 9:16 am
As someone not extremely familiar with the Country Music Hall of Fame, can someone provide some more context? Do they tend to not take into account the artist’s personal life or criminal past? I know that many famous country artists were terrible human beings, but by many accounts Jerry seems to have taken it to another level.
There’s absolutely no denying his talent as a performer. I consider Live at the Star Club to be the greatest live album of all time.
I guess I’m just a little surprised that the overall sentiment from commenters here and on Facebook seems to be that this is a slam dunk.
May 17, 2022 @ 9:23 am
They definitely take it into account and that’s likely a reason it took so long for Jerry Lee to get in. It’s also why David Allan Coe, for one example, isn’t getting in anytime soon.
But Jerry Lee certainly belongs and I think a lot of people are glad he got it while he’s still alive.
May 17, 2022 @ 9:41 am
As Andrew said, the main thing you should take away from the Jerry Lee Lewis induction is that it was done while he was still with us. That’s the reason it happened today, that’s the reason he was a front runner, and that’s the reason so many are happy about it. Clearly, his musical legacy deserves it. Clearly he was going to get in at some point. So do it while he’s still around. Sure, someone’s personal life also factors into this. But ultimately, the Hall of Fame isn’t condoning that behavior, they’re celebrating music contributions.
All that said, I think it is important that we are honest about the situation. That is why I specifically addressed Jerry’s personal behavior in this article. I feel it’s the responsibility of journalists, the country music community, and even fans to not try to brush past behaviors under-the-rug, lest it send the wrong signal. THAT would be where you run this risk of condoning it. We can forgive, but we don’t have to forget. It’s part of Jerry Lee’s legacy.
May 17, 2022 @ 10:36 am
Thanks, Trigger. This is a great response. I’m much more familiar with sports Hall of Fames, and they often wrestle with this same issue.
I know it is exceptionally difficult to decide where to draw the line, and determining whether or not time passing can or should play a role ads yet another layer of complexity.
May 17, 2022 @ 4:46 pm
I have whined about this for years on this site. Now if MLB puts Roger Maris in their HOF, I can die happy.
May 22, 2022 @ 1:12 pm
I have to laugh, though, regarding the hypocrisy of his cousin, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. I saw a documentary about Jerry Lee where Swaggart is worried about the state of Jerry Lee’s soul. Not too long after that, Swaggart was caught with the prostitute. We’ve all got our history, don’t we?
May 17, 2022 @ 11:55 am
This is well deserved both Jerry Lee and Keith Whitley absolutely solid picks. Frankly I don’t care about the personal issues, was the career they had HOF worthy and in both cases there is zero doubt about it. Now can we get Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary Stewart, DAC, Paycheck and above all Gram Parsons in please.
May 17, 2022 @ 12:57 pm
Finally!! Congratulations to Jerry Lee Lewis, should have been inducted decades ago!
May 17, 2022 @ 1:22 pm
Jerry Lee’s “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” is reason enough by itself to be inducted into the HOF. One of the best country songs ever recorded.
May 18, 2022 @ 1:51 pm
I will have to check that out, but I am really partial to hearing Mickey Newbury song his own songs so who knows if I will be swayed. It is a pretty amazing song though!
May 17, 2022 @ 1:49 pm
Congrats to Jerry Lee! He deserved it. His country is some of his best stuff in my opinion and it’s good they are recognizing him before he’s gone as he is getting up there in years.
Cheryl G French
May 17, 2022 @ 2:28 pm
Congratulations to Jerry Lee Lewis for being inducted to the hall of Fame it took them eighteen years before they inducted in the hall Fame and that’s sad it took them so long
May 17, 2022 @ 2:44 pm
Kudos to Keith Whitley & Jerry Lee Lewis for getting in. So richly deserved and I love the comment on the Keith Whitley story about him being the “Sandy Koufax of Country”-short but great career!
Not taking anything away from these two deserving folks, but maybe someday soon the Maddox Bros & Rose get in? Or will they just fade into a distant memory and be forgotten by the CMHOF?
May 19, 2022 @ 6:27 pm
Rose Maddox and brothers aren’t the only ones who have been forgotten.
So has the Bailes Brothers who raked in more Barrels of Mail on the Opry than any other group. They wrote Dust on The Bible that Kitty Wells made a hit of too.
Also Kitty Wells husband and her brother in law duo: Johnny and Jack 1940s to 1960s aren’t in the Hall of Fame.
Molly O’Day isn’t in. She was Hank Williams favorite female singer.
Albert E Brumley songwriter of I’ll fly Away an Opry closure standard and other familiar Opry Gospel Songs.
Lulubelle and Scotty a husband and wife popular singing duo of the 1930s to 1970s.
String bean 1930s til murdered 1973 after Opry performance.
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.
I could go on and on etc.. Forgotten Country Stars forgotten by the Country music Hall of Fame or Shame ?
May 17, 2022 @ 3:57 pm
Great balls of fire, indeed! Jerry Lee’s huge country hit list in the 60’s and 70’s should have merited his induction long ago. If he’s better known for his rock years, it’s because the rock industry has always supported him more enthusiastically than the country establishment ever did.
Still, sad that once again we will see no new women into the Hall of Fame despite major contenders in every category. Some things actually don’t change and it appears Nashville is still a good ole BOY town, treating only a handful of it’s female artists with the respect it gives to their biggest male stars.
Re Joe Galante, didn’t he infamously drop all the classic country artists off RCA when he became head of the Nashville office in the very late 70’s or early 80′, eventually including Charley Pride and Waylon Jennings? Maybe modern Nashville doesn’t care but I suspect his induction is a bitter taste for a lot of veterans.
David: The Duke of Everything
May 17, 2022 @ 7:53 pm
Don’t care about his past behaviors. That 40 minute stint on the opery should have earned him entrance to the hall just on its merits. Far as his second or third cousin, we have far weirder relationships nowadays so that isn’t that big of a deal now. This one they finally got right.
May 18, 2022 @ 8:03 pm
Yeah, at least he didn’t kill that one
May 17, 2022 @ 9:25 pm
Jerry Lee Lewis Induction Country Music Hall Of Fame.
May 18, 2022 @ 4:45 am
One of my regrets is that I never got to see him in concert. I had gone to visit my family in NC several years ago in part because Jerry Lee was playing at a festival in Charlotte. My brother and I walked around for a bit and found our way to the parking lot where the stage was set up. After waiting a bit, a giant of a man with no hair came out, waved his arms like an umpire calling a runner safe, and yelled out. “He ain’t comin'” You had to have been there but that scene was almost worth the price of admission. But that’s as close as I got to see him.
May 18, 2022 @ 5:45 pm
I saw him at the Meadowlands in NJ in 1985 on a Legends of Rock and Roll bill that included Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. Fats didn’t show, and while it was a dream fulfilled to see two of my heroes in JLL and Chuck, I regret to this day that I never saw Fats in person.
May 18, 2022 @ 8:12 am
All 3 indictees have made their mark on country music.
May 18, 2022 @ 4:01 pm
I believe that Jerry Lee should be in the country music hall of fame, but it seems really unreasonable that he is in but the Stanley Brothers, the Maddox Brothers and Sister Rose, the Carter Sisters and others aren’t in yet and may never be.
May 18, 2022 @ 7:52 pm
Way pass time for the Killer. Jerry Lee is the greatest, and thankfully he is being rewarded by the CMA. I lived in Memphis in the 70’s, and Jerry Lee played in several clubs there. I saw him at least a half dozen times and each was as good or better than the other. Kenny Lovelace (his brother-in-law) at the time lead the band. The band just played til Jerry Lee was ready and he would come onstage. I agree that “She Even Woke Me up to Say Goodbye” is one of the best but don’t forget “Would You Take Another Chance on Me” as well as his version of Kristofferson’s” Me and Bobby McGee.”
He is The Last Man Standing.”
May 18, 2022 @ 11:30 pm
The work of mister Lewis is 80% country music of course he became a star by R’n’R music. He should be inducted in the country music hall of fame in the 70’s. I see him 9 times on stage and meet him most of the time. He was an extraordinary showman. Congratulations mister Lewis !
Laurent Mouillet. (FRANCE)
May 19, 2022 @ 1:02 pm
It’s about effing time, like Hank Williams Jr. Jerry Lee should have been inducted years ago. I don’t understand why they put Jerry Lee and Hank Jr. in the veteran’s era and Keith Whitley in the modern ERA. Just don’t get the logic in that.
May 19, 2022 @ 1:06 pm
I remember when I was a kid going to see Jerry Lee Lewis with my dad at Astroworld. We had to wait in line for a while before the concert began (in that little amphitheater by the Texas cyclone for you old folks like me). After a while, the lady next to us struck up a conversation with my dad. She kept talking about how funny he was and how good it was that he supported the MD telethon. My dad let her go a while before he broke it to her that this was Jerry Lee Lewis the singer not Jerry Lewis the comedian. Ha. She got out of line. Her loss!
Great balls o fire! Congrats!
May 20, 2022 @ 11:05 am
Congratulations Killer! You right where you belong & this has been long overdue so many great songs from you.
Setting a piano on fire & telling Chuck Berry to “Follow that Mother……” Is more than enough to be inducted into both the Country Music & Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in my opinion.
NOBODY FOLLOWS THE KILLER!
May 20, 2022 @ 3:12 pm
Jerry Lee Lewis was a very Good Friend to St. Jude Children’s Research. Earlier in my life I worked For-.
ALSAC, St Jude as a fund raiser for the hospital. I was in charge of fund raising for three states including Tennessee. Jerry Lee Lewis was involved in several fund raising events to benefit hospital. These were very successful. He was always willing to perform for St Jude. Great man with a huge heart for children!