DEAR JERRY: Who would have guessed that Jerry Lee Lewis, with his rowdy and reckless lifestyle, would outlive so many other Rock & Roll icons of the nifty fifties.
Unlike all the other baby boomers I know, my first time hearing Jerry Lee on the radio was NOT when “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On” became a huge hit.
Maybe it was because I lived in Louisiana, his home state, but in the Alexandria area Jerry was already known by that time.
Though I don't recall the title of the earlier hit, it must have inspired “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On,” enough to make me notice the similarity at the time.
Can you identify this long-forgotten mystery tune? Is it available?
June Hayes, Janesville, Wisc.
DEAR JUNE: Jerry Lee released only one record before “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On” (Sun 267) became a worldwide smash, in the summer of '57.
Jerry's first single, issued in December 1956, couples “Crazy Arms” with “End of the Road” (Sun 259). “Crazy Arms,” a monster hit for Ray Price at that time, is nothing like “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On,” meaning it is “End of the Road” that rocked Alexandria in early '57.
Your recollection is accurate. “End of the Road” sounds like the nascence of “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On.”
Besides the original Sun single, “End of the Road” is available on the CD, “25 All-Time Greatest Sun Recordings” (Varese Sarabande 302 066 130 2).
DEAR JERRY: I am compiling a list of Gospel songs that made the top hits charts, but there is one I am having trouble finding any listing for. It is “I Saw the Light,” written and recorded by Hank Williams.
We all know it was very popular and played on radio a lot, but none of my reference books mentions it at all.
What can you tell me about “I Saw the Light”?
John Spencer, Des Moines, Iowa
DEAR JOHN: Your chart books don't list Hank's “I Saw the Light” for the most obvious of reasons it didn't make any of the charts.
The original single, backed with “Six More Miles (to the Graveyard),” a secular tune (MGM 10271), came out in September 1948.
Also issued at that time are cover versions by Roy Acuff & His Smoky Mountain Boys (Columbia 20409), and Clyde Grubb (RCA Victor 20-2485).
Still, no versions of Hank Williams' “I Saw the Light,” charted until 1971, when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band teamed with, surprisingly, Roy Acuff.
This unexpected collaboration's remake of “I Saw the Light” (United Artists 50849) made the Top 60.
We specify Hank's “I Saw the Light” because some completely different songs with that same title became quite famous. One is a Todd Rundgren classic (1972), and another is by Wynonna (1992).
IZ ZAT SO? In her letter above, June Hayes mentions Jerry Lee Lewis outliving most of the other Rock & Roll icons of the nifty fifties.
How true it is. Here are a few examples among the departed:
Ray Charles; Eddie Cochran; Sam Cooke; Bobby Darin; Bill Haley; Buddy Holly; Clyde McPhatter; Ricky Nelson; Roy Orbison; Elvis Presley; Conway Twitty; Ritchie Valens; Tony Williams (of the Platters); and Jackie Wilson.
Meanwhile, some '50s icons happily joining Jerry Lee Lewis in the still alive and kickin' crowd are:
Paul Anka; Frankie Avalon; Chuck Berry; Pat Boone; Dion DiMucci; Fats Domino; Everly Brothers (Don and Phil); Connie Francis; Brenda Lee; Bobby Rydell; and Neil Sedaka.