The Life And Times Of Rock n’ Roll’s ‘Killer’

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

Southern storyteller Rick Bragg’s big, new biography of “The Killer”—Jerry Lee Lewis.

Jimmy Velvet, Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Everly and Buddy Holly in an undated photograph. (BP Fallon / Flickr)
Jimmy Velvet, Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Everly and Buddy Holly in an undated photograph. (BP Fallon / Flickr)

Jerry Lee Lewis. A rock and roll pioneer. “The Killer” on the piano.  Friend to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins. Notorious womanizer.  Married seven times, including to his 13-year-old cousin. Addicted to pills and alcohol. Survived the deaths of wives and children. Now he’s shared it all with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg. This hour, On Point: the rock and roll life of Jerry Lee Lewis.
-- Jane Clayson


Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist. Author of the new book, "Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story." Also author of "All Over But the Shoutin'" and "I Am A Soldier, Too," among others.

From The Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Number One With a Bullet — "Rick Bragg appears to have read everything written about the seminal musician and talked with scores of people who know him, though this book is largely shaped by the interviews he conducted with Mr. Lewis over the course of two summers. As it turns out, Mr. Lewis was 'mostly' gracious during the days Mr. Bragg spent with him, even though the shooting, or at least the opportunity for it, never seemed to abate: Mr. Lewis keeps a “small arsenal” of weaponry in the bedroom where many of the interviews took place, and the walls and furniture bear the unmistakable signs of indoor target practice."

GQ: The New Jerry Lee Lewis Biography is Definitively Undefinitive -- "The real problem is the way that Bragg can't resist claiming a kind of narrative authority on visibly creaky foundations, and how it reveals the strange kind of hybrid book he has written: one without the consistent scrupulousness and reliability of an objective account, but also lacking the pure intimacy that comes with real autobiography. Circumstance may not have permitted Bragg to write any other kind of book, but it has consequences."

The Daily Beast: The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis — "Quickly, it became apparent that this unexpected, inexplicable death was not out of the ordinary in the world of Jerry Lee. And not long after, it would become equally clear that the official version of events diverged early and often from the facts. Something went violently wrong at the Killer's mansion on the night of Shawn Lewis's death. And as soon as that death was disclosed, everything went wrong with the investigation."

Read An Excerpt Of "Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story" By Rick Bragg


This program aired on October 28, 2014.


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