On this day, October 8, 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis records “Great Balls Of Fire” in Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis was not the only early rock-and-roller from a strict Christian background who struggled to reconcile his religious beliefs with the moral implications of the music he created. He may have been the only one to have one of his religious crises caught on tape, however—in between takes on one of his legendary hit songs. It was on October 8, 1957, that bible-school dropout Jerry Lee Lewis laid down the definitive version of “Great Balls Of Fire,” amidst a losing battle with his conscience and with the legendary Sam Phillips, head of Sun Records.
Jerry Lee Lewis had first made his way to Sun Records in September 1956, hoping to catch his big break in the same Memphis recording studio where Elvis had caught his. The result of Lewis’ first session, in November 1956, was the minor hit “Crazy Arms,” but six months later, he and Phillips struck gold with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,” a million-selling smash. Lewis’s signature piano-pounding style and electric stage presence made him an instantaneous star, but stardom didn’t quiet the doubts that his upbringing in the Assemblies of God church had given him about rock and roll. Those doubts would be on open display when he went back to the studio on this day in 1957.
It was hours into the “Great Balls Of Fire” session when Jerry Lee began arguing with Sam Phillips that the song was too sinful for him to record. As the two talked loudly over each other, Phillips pleaded with Lewis to believe that his music could actually be a force for moral good.
Phillips: “You can save souls!”
Lewis: “No, no, no, no!”
Lewis: “How can the devil save souls?…I got the devil in me!
Jerry Lee somehow made peace with the conflict over the course of the next hour, becoming comfortable enough to begin making various unprintable statements on his way to saying with enthusiasm, “You ready to cut it? You ready to go?” just before launching into the take that would soon become his second smash-hit single.
Later on in history, the MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET becomes a smash-hit musical inspired by the
famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis
Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first
and only time.
On December 4, 1956, history was made when these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest impromptu jam sessions ever. It brings to light the extraordinary story of broken promises, secrets, and the once-in-a-lifetime celebration of four friends that is both poignant and heartwarming. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "That's All Right," "Sixteen Tons," "Great Balls of Fire," "Walk the Line," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Who Do You Love?," "Matchbox," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Hound Dog" and more.
This thrilling musical brings you inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night.
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