Jerry Lee Lewis burst onto the American pop music scene in the late 1950s, delivering a handful of singles that have become rock 'n' roll staples: "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," "Great Balls of Fire," "Breathless" and a bunch more. Now, more than 60 years later, he's performing in Sarasota, with a show that kicks off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
While he rose to fame as a rock 'n' roll pioneer alongside fellow Sun Records artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, Lewis developed a second career in the late 1960s as a country crooner, scoring hits with songs like "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)" and "Another Place Another Time." Interest in his work was revived again in recent years thanks to the hit play Million Dollar Quartet, which revisits a legendary 1956 jam session featuring Lewis, Presley, Cash and Carl Perkins. (Florida Studio Theatre staged that show in 2016.)
Lewis, who these days performs roughly a dozen times each year, tells Sarasota Magazine he plans to cover all facets of his career at his upcoming show. "I like doing it all," the 83-year-old says. "I just mix it up. I get a feel for what the audience wants."
In his early years, Lewis was known for his wild stage antics, kicking over his piano stool and even lighting his piano on fire. Don't expect pyrotechnics in Sarasota. "We don't burn up pianos anymore," he says. "That got too expensive."