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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Rock > JulAug 18 > SHAKE UP THE WORLD

SHAKE UP THE WORLD

JW Brown was bassist, also later manager, of Jerry Lee Lewis when the Ferriday Fireball exploded on to the rock’n’roll scene in 1957 with Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On. In a rare interview, 91-year-old Brown candidly recalls the wildness and unpredictable nature of his cousin The Killer as the rocket-ride to fame began.

JERRY LEE LEWIS

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The name JW Brown may not be well known, but what we know as rock’n’roll might sound a whole lot different without him. Jay ‘JW’ Brown, an aspiring musician, left his home near Memphis one day during the autumn of 1956, heading for Louisiana, where he hoped to find a young, piano-playing cousin of his and convince him to pursue a music career in Memphis. He found him in a juke joint and talked it over with him. A little while later, the young cousin moved in with Brown. His name was Jerry Lee Lewis. As Brown, now 91, is fond of saying: “And that’s when all hell broke loose.”

Within a year, Lewis went from a country boy with raw talent to a rock superstar, and Brown had a front-row seat to the transformation. As bassist, he took part in more than a dozen recording sessions at Sun Records — including playing on the classic version of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On – and toured extensively with Lewis. Brown also played with him during his TV debut on The Steve Allen Show in the summer of 1957. A scandal came later that year when Lewis married Brown’s teenage daughter, Myra Gale.

”MY GRANDMOTHER SAID: ‘JAY, ARE YOU GOING TO SEE JERRY? I’M TELLING YOU. THAT BOY WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE’. I GUESS HE HAD ALWAYS BEEN WILD”

The Killer goes wild in New York in 1958 alongside his cousin, father-in-law and bass player JW Brown
Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
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