2006-10-05 / Arts & Entertainment

Rock Pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis Is Still Rocking

By Woody BairdAssociated Press Writer

Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis Jerry Lee Lewis is the last man standing from his generation of rockers, and no one could have expected that.

His hardheaded life of self-destructive recklessness - filled with drugs, booze and broken marriages - wasn't exactly the formula for a long career, but "The Killer" is still rocking.

Just shy of his 71st birthday, Lewis is releasing his first studio album in more than a decade. Its title? "Last Man Standing."

"I just felt like I was ready to do it again," Lewis said with a smile.

As a pioneer rock 'n' roller for Sam Phillips' Sun Records, Lewis was a member of the so-called "Mil-lion Dollar Quartet" with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Together, the young Sun stars carved a special place in the history of American music for Phillips' label and influenced generations of future rock 'n' rollers.

Of course, they never really performed together as a quartet, even though a photo from Dec. 4, 1956, shows them gathered together at a Sun Studio piano - with Presley, not Lewis, at the keys.

Now, Lewis is the only one left.

Presley died in 1977, Perkins in 1998 and Cash and Phillips in 2003.

"I AM the last man standing,'' Lewis said.

The new album, released Sept. 26, was five years in the making, produced by Jimmy Rip and Steve Bing for Bing's Shangri-La Entertainment.

He's joined on the 21-song album by 21 guests that include Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, George Jones and Kid Rock. But the focus is clearly on Lewis.

The guests are big names, but they mostly sing harmony, backup or play instruments without singing.

And he's still plenty loud, even though he may not pump the piano as easily as he once could.

"He's 70 years old, you know," said his daughter Phoebe Lewis, who handles her father's personal affairs. "But he's always able to come through with what he's got to do. He just does it."

Rip said he asked longtime friend Mick Jagger to take part on "Last Man Standing," and other artists began signing up as the project grew.

Many of his guests recorded their contributions elsewhere, with the final product mixed by Rip, who refused to say which artists were in the studio with Lewis.

The album includes "Pink Cadillac" with Spring-steen, "Traveling Band" with John Fogerty, "That Kind of Fool" with Keith Richards, "Trouble in Mind" with Eric Clapton, "You Don't Have to Go," with Neil Young and "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age" with George Jones.

Nowadays, according to daughter Phoebe, Lewis spends his free time entertaining friends with lemonade and stories of the old days and with leisurely drives around rural Mississippi in his red Cadillac convertible.

Lewis wraps up the new album with Kris Kristofferson and "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33,'' a song about a life of wrong turns spent reaching for the stars. The album ends with Lewis speaking one of song's main lines -- that "the goin' up was worth the comin' down."

"I don't know if I agree with that line or not," Lewis said, "not all the way."

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