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Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Jerry Lee Lewis

— Rock 'n Roll Highway 67 —

 
 
Jerry Lee Lewis Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
1. Jerry Lee Lewis Marker
Inscription.  "Great Balls of Fire” was his signature hit, and the title could just, as easily have described Jerry Lee Lewis himself. His unbounded energy on the stage made Jerry Lee a nearly unrivaled performer, unlike anything most crowds had ever beheld on Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67, or anywhere else.

Jerry Lee brought his rousing show to northeast Arkansas on several occasions. A ticket stub from a Walnut Ridge performance shows that it cost 50 cents to see him play at Fireman's Hall.

And play he did. Jerry Lee seemingly attacked a piano, thrashing it with both hands, and sometimes his feet. He would often stand as he played, famously kicking the bench aside. His wild hair and wild eyes only enhanced the rowdy performance.

Jerry Lee was raised in Ferriday, Louisiana, He grew up playing and singing with two cousins, country singer Mickey Gilley and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who would also achieve fame.

As a young man, Jerry Lee aspired to be a minister himself, but was told his animated style of music was not suitable for the church!

He eventually signed on with Sun Records, where Sam Phillips discovered how

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to capture the reckless energy of Jerry Lee in the studio: He simply rolled, the tape and let the musician do his own thing.

One of those sessions turned up the tune "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On." The record was banned as too, suggestive in many cities, but Jerry Lee's performance of it on the Steve Allen Show in 1957 made it a smash.

"Great Balls of Fire,” released later in '57, was a phenomenal hit that has endured across the decades. “Breathless” climbed the charts for him in '58, but his career was brought to a standstill later that year when it was revealed his new wife, Myra, was a cousin and only 13 years old, nine years younger than Jerry Lee.

He regained popularity as a country singer in the 1960s and '70s with a number of hits, including “What's Made Milwaukee Famous," "One Minute Past Eternity," and “Middle Age Crazy.”

[Inset]

Million Dollar Quartet
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley popped by the Sun Records studios in Memphis for a casual visit. He ran into rising star Cari Perkins, who was there to record some new material, and a promising young piano player named Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash also happened by that night. The result was a rare assemblage of rockabilly talent. Sun owner Sam Phillips, never one to miss an opportunity, rolled tape and
Jerry Lee Lewis Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
2. Jerry Lee Lewis Marker
the Million Dollar Quartet enjoyed an impromptu jam session that is now the stuff of legend. All four of the singers performed at various times along Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainment. A significant historical date for this entry is December 4, 1956.
 
Location. 36° 4.026′ N, 90° 57.442′ W. Marker is in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, in Lawrence County. Marker is on SW Front Street south of West Elm Street. Located at Guitar Walk near the Walnut Ridge Train Station. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 109 SW Front St, Walnut Ridge AR 72476, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Roy Orbison (here, next to this marker); Carl Perkins (here, next to this marker); Billy Lee Riley (a few steps from this marker); Johnny Cash (a few steps from this marker); Wanda Jackson (a few steps from this marker); Conway Twitty (a few steps from this marker); Sonny Burgess (a few steps from this marker); When The Beatles Came to Town (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Walnut Ridge.
 
Guitar Walk at Walnut Ridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
3. Guitar Walk at Walnut Ridge
The markers are arrayed around an epiphone casino shaped guitar.
Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
4. Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park
The Guitar Walk is a 115 foot long concrete guitar, complete with frets, and strings. Along the edges are interpretive markers that pay tribute to the early legends that gave birth to Rock n’ Roll, at venues along Rock n’ Roll Highway 67 that runs through the area. The free walk includes audio narration by none other than legendary Sun Studio recording artist, Sonny Burgess.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 7, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 226 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 7, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Feb. 27, 2024