Mississippi music legend Jerry Lee Lewis is set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Announced on Tuesday by the Country Music Association (CMA), Lewis will be inducted alongside recording executive Joe Galante and singer-songwriter Keith Whitley.
“This year’s inductees are trailblazers who each paved their own unique path within country music,” Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, said. “Jerry Lee, Keith, and Joe each found their musical callings early in life and displayed a strong-minded and fierce passion for music making. In very different ways, they all have left a lasting impact on the industry and generations of fans alike. I am thrilled to welcome this deserving class to the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Lewis, a native of Ferriday, La. who has long called Mississippi home after learning from Johnny Littlejohn of Natchez, is known as one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll. “The Killer,” as he was infamously nicknamed, came to fame in the late 1950s with songs like “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” and “Great Balls of Fire.”
In the 1960s when he transitioned from Sun Records to Smash Records after a string of well-publicized controversies, producers Jerry Kennedy and Eddie Kilroy decided to focus on Lewis’ country side. Music historian Colin Escott described Lewis as “a rock ‘n’ roller who could never quite get the country out of his soul, and a country singer who could never forget rock ‘n’ roll.”
Lewis had country hits continue into the 1970s as he moved to Smash’s parent label, Mercury Records and later Elektra Records. Other songs that reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Country and Western Chart included “Me and Bobby McGee,” “To Make Love Sweeter for You,” “There Must Be More to Love Than This,” and “Would You Take Another Chance on Me.”
The successes did not stop there as Lewis’s 21st century albums, Last Man Standing (2006) and Mean Old Man (2010), received the best sales of his career.
Overall, Lewis has a dozen gold records and four Grammy awards. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience Hall of Fame. And now, he’s finally being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“I’m just overwhelmed that they asked me here today,” Lewis, 86, said during an event earlier this week at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, adding that his career has taught him to “be a good person and treat people right.”
The trio of Lewis, Galante, and Whitley – with Whitley’s widow Lorrie Morgan standing in for him – will be formally inducted during the Medallion Ceremony later this fall.