‘The definition of cool’: Franklin man remembers Jerry Lee Lewis’ legacy

Fans across the country mourned the loss of Jerry Lee Lewis on Friday.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 10:58 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Rock ‘n’ roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis died Friday morning. But his legacy will live on through his music and stories.

Lewis was known as the Killer and was the ultimate showman, with the reputation as the bad boy of rock ‘n’ roll.

WSMV 4 asked Stephen Shutts, who represents Lewis’ family on memorabilia and artifacts, about Lewis’ legacy.

“The way he attacked the piano when he played, it was just animalistic on stage,” Shutts said. “He’ll be remembered for that image that he’s projected on and off stage.”

Lewis burst onto the national spotlight in the 1950s. Lewis got his start at Sun Studio in Memphis, alongside other pioneers like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Shutts, the owner of Rockology Auctions, said Lewis was a one-of-a-kind artist.

“Jerry Lee was the originator. A pioneer. Not only as an artist, but in his personal life as well,” Shutts said. “Who couldn’t watch his performance and realize, ‘Wow, he’s added to the definition of cool. His clothing was flashy, flamboyant, and I think people will recall the ruffled shirts and the tux suits and the tux jackets and seemingly always wearing white shoes.”

Lewis’ career wasn’t without missteps, but in the late 1960s, he came to Nashville and reinvented himself as a country star. Friday afternoon, Madame Tussauds in Nashville honored him with a bouquet and a sign reading, “In Loving Memory.”

As a member of both the Rock and Roll and Country Music Hall of Fames, Lewis helped inspire the next generation of songwriters. Shutts said that includes stars like Bruce Springsteen.

“I found a letter that came out of the attic from Bruce Springsteen to Jerry Lee, basically just praising him and what a wonderful thing it was for Bruce to meet Jerry Lee,” Shutts said. “Bruce is a major, major pop culture icon and for him to kind of bow down at Jerry Lee, it spoke volumes to me.”

Lewis died Friday at the age of 87.