Jerry Lee Lewis' Seven Marriages and the Controversy Surrounding Them
Rock 'n Roll legend, Jerry Lee Lewis' journey to finding love saw him tie the knot seven times. One of his marriages was so controversial it nearly cost him his career. According to rockstar Jerry Lee Lewis, he had been 14-years-old when he walked down the aisle for the first time. In interviews, he revealed that his wife was just 17-years-old. His marriages were often controversial. Four ended in divorce, two others ended after his wives passed away in tragic accidents. So far only his relationship with current wife, Judith Brown whom he married in March of 2012, has lasted long.
Jerry Lee Lewis became of rock music’s early showmen thanks to his flamboyant and innovative piano playing, along with his uptempo and catchy songs. Born in Ferriday, Louisiana, his musical talents were evident from a young age. Lewis taught himself how to play the piano, and would sing in church during his childhood. His early influences included Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Al Jolson
At the age of 10, Lewis got his very own piano, after his father mortgaged the family farm just to buy him the instrument. At 14, Jerry had already given his first public performance and successfully managed to wow the crowd with his impressive piano skills. With essentially no formal education, Lewis made the decision to drop out of school entirely and focus on music instead.
Rise to Fame
Lewis’ path eventually led him to Memphis, Tennessee, where he ended up working as a studio musician for Sun Studios. His first single, a cover of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms,” was recorded in 1956 - and ended up doing extremely well. Lewis worked with Carl Perkins and even jammed with both Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley during his time at Sun. The session dubbed the “Million Dollar Quartet,” was recorded, but wasn’t released until later.
Thanks to Lewis’ unique piano-drive sound, the musician officially became a star in 1957. His song, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” became a massive hit on pop, country, and even R&B charts. The singer also adopted some of his own, famous stage antics by this point as well, including playing standing up and lighting the piano on fire. Because of his crazy enthusiasm and energy, the star earned the nickname “The Killer” - since he simply knocked out his audience!
Jerry was clearly on a roll, as his next single, “Great Balls of Fire,” turned into another hit as well in 1957. He struck once again with “Breathless” the following March, making the Top 10 in pop charts. Alas, things weren’t as perfect as they seemed - the musician was making some questionable personal choices, which earned him a decent amount of negative press and dampened his career.
By 1957, Lewis had two marriages under his belt - until he decided to marry Myra Gale Brown, his own cousin. Although their marriage license stated that Brown was 20 years old, she was actually only 13 at the time. As soon as the news broke, everything went downhill. Scheduled to start a tour of the United Kingdom, the outcry caused the musician to quickly cancel the tour. And upon returning to the States, Jerry didn’t receive a warm welcome there either. Radio stations boycotted the singer’s songs, and Lewis wasn’t lining up live performances like he used to.
First Wife - Dorothy Barton
In an interview, Jerry Lee opened up about his first marriage. He met his first wife Dorothy Barton in Dec 1951 and they married on 21st Feb 1952. Just a year later they were divorced. "I was 14 when I first got married. My wife was too old for me; she was 17," Jerry explained. "Then I met Jane Mitcham."
Second Wife - Jane Mitchem
"One day she told me she was going to have my child. Her brothers were hunting me with whips. I was real worried so I married her, but never properly," said Jerry Lee.
Their entire marriage had been explosive with jane once throwing claw-hammers and Father Christmas figurines at the star's car windscreen which he admits he deserved. “No, no, I love these women who loved him. But those wives were much younger than him, most of them, and past is past.” his current wife Judith explained when asked if she was ever scared of Jane.
Third Wife - Myra Gail Lewis
In May of 1958, England was abuzz as fans geared up for Jerry Lee Lewis'upcoming tour. However, the star had one more shocking surprise up his sleeve.
“I’m Myra, Jerry’s wife,” said Myra Gail Lewis.
He was coming to England freshly married. More shocking than the news of his marriage was how young Jerry's new bride turned out to be. An inquisitive reporter, Paul Tanfield, accidentally unleashed the scandal when he asked who was the mystery woman in the Killer’s entourage. “I’m Myra, Jerry’s wife,” said Myra Gail Lewis.
Tanfield then enquired how old she was and Jerry Lee lied saying she was "fifteen” when she was actually 13 at the time. Her real age and the fact that she was his first cousin once removed would surface later on.
The pair actually married five months before his divorce from his second wife was announced. However, Jerry Lee maintained his second marriage was null and void as it had taken place before his divorce from his first wife. The press began hounding the couple and his first three shows proved to be unpopular. After many shows were canceled and people began avoiding him, Jerry's career appeared to be ending.
Fourth Wife - Jaren Pate
Jerry Lee Lewis made a comeback to the entertainment industry in the late 1960s. Lewis and Myra's marriage ended in divorce in 1970. After his relationship with Myra ended, the entertainer moved on. He fell for Jaren Elizabeth Pate and they married in 1971. However, nine years later they were caught in a messy divorce. They were scheduled to appear in divorce court in Hernando when Jaren accidentally drowned in a friend's pool at the age of 39. They had a daughter, Lori Lee Lewis, together. Jaren also had another daughter from a previous marriage.
Fifth Wife - Shawn Michelle Lewis
A year after the tragic accident, the pianist fell in love again. This time he married former secretary, Shawn Michelle Lewis. Friends of the pair claimed they were extremely happy and trying to have a child together. Unfortunately their happily ever after came to an unexpected end when Shawn passed away after reportedly accidentally overdosing on sleeping tablets.
"The preliminary cause of death as given by Dr. Jerry Francisco is pulmonary edema due to undetermined causes," said the sheriff. "At this time we have no evidence of foul play."
Sixth Wife - Kerrie McCarver
In 1983, Kerrie McCarver and Jerry Lee Lewis fell in love. They tied the knot on April 24, 1984, and were married for 21 years. They had a son named Jerry Lee together. Unfortunately, their love story ended after 21 years with a divorce in 2005.
Seventh Wife - Judith Brown
Following his divorce, Lewis went on to marry Judith Brown. Judith was actually previously married to Lewis' cousin Rusty Brown. They fell in love with each other when she nursed him back to health years before their marriage. The couple has been together ever since with Judith helping him get better again after he had a stroke earlier this year.
“He was very sick, so in taking care of him and talking about the way we grew up, we fell in love with each other,” revealed Judith in an interview once.
Although he was a well-respected musician, there's no denying that Lewis' poor, personal life choices made a massive impact on his success. For somebody that possessed this amount of natural talent, it truly was disheartening to see the demise of such a legendary musician. What do you guys think about the singer's personal life?
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