Jerry Lee Lewis was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s brightest stars – and one of its first casualties. Ten years after his career imploded, he spectacularly remade himself in country music. Altogether, he scored more than 40 country hits, in addition to era-defining rock classics like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Those early rock ‘n’ roll hits were produced by Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis.
Jerry Lee left Sun in 1963, but, like Elvis, returned often. By the mid-1970s, the studio was run by Sam Phillips’ son, Knox, who produced one of the era’s biggest hits, the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ “Third Rate Romance.” Like his father, Knox intuitively understood how to produce Jerry Lee Lewis, allowing him free rein to plunder his subconscious for half-forgotten songs and reimagine them as Jerry Lee Lewis songs, just as he’d done with “Whole Lotta Shakin’” twenty years earlier.
Over the course of several nights, Knox recorded Jerry Lee Lewis as he crossed the breadth of American music from Stephen Foster to Jim Croce’s still-current hit “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Alongside a nineteenth century gospel standard, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” Jerry drawled his way imperiously through pop classics like “Harbor Lights,” and timeless country hits like “Room Full of Roses.” Although he wrote none of the songs, Jerry Lee imprints himself forcefully upon them, perhaps never more so than on the bitterly regretful “That Kind of Fool.”
THE KNOX PHILLIPS SESSIONS: THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS features ten songs capturing one of the true, enduring giants of American music at his best. He played the music that he wanted to record and made every song into an expression of himself. There are plenty of Jerry Lee Lewis records, but none like this!