Linda Gail Lewis, the little sister of Jerry Lee Lewis, arrives at the Continental Club

As a child and little sister of Jerry Lee Lewis, Linda Gail Lewis had a front row seat to the birth of mainstream rock and roll. “Like Carl Perkins said in that song she wrote, ‘I was there when it happened.’ It was a really cool thing to be a part of and to be around,” Lewis says from her Hill Country home.

Linda Gail Lewis will perform in Houston on Saturday, August 13 at The Continental Club. “It’s a great place and I love it. I’m excited and really looking forward to it,” she says of her return to The Continental Club, which falls at the start of her month-long Family Jewels tour.

Joining her onstage and as a supporting act will be her daughter Annie Marie Lewis and son-in-law, Danny B. Harvey. Both are also part of his next release. family jewels on Cleopatra Records. family jewels is a live recording and DVD capturing a powerful performance from 2015 before an audience of 10,000 in Arzon, France, which will be available for purchase in October and is available for pre-order now.

Annie Marie and Danny also lent their talents to his 2020 single, “Oh Pandemic,” where Lewis reflected on the fear that reigned in these uncertain times. Harvey linked it all to the 1917 Spanish flu pandemic and created images for the video using historical footage from that time.

Talent has always run deep in the Lewis family with a rich tradition of famous preachers and cousins ​​Jimmy Swaggart and the recently deceased Mickey Gilley, who was working on an album with Lewis at the time of his death.

Last year, all the cousins ​​got together to celebrate The Killer’s 85th birthday, where his little sister fought her nerves to perform in front of her talented friends and family.

“When it comes down to it, you just have to go ahead and do it no matter how scared you are or how nervous you are. I was blessed that day because once I started playing I forgot how scared I was, thank you.” God,” says Lewis.

If life has taught Lewis more than just mastering the piano and the stage, it’s the importance of family and courage. He now relies on Annie Marie, Danny B. Harvey and her husband Eddie Braddock, a former Stax promoter, as her support system to navigate her career and touring.

Lewis grew up watching his older brother play the piano in church, in the family’s small home in Ferriday, Louisiana, and on stages around the world as he became one of the biggest stars of the day. She joined him when she was a 10-year-old girl to perform with Johnny Cash in Monroe, Louisiana and she’s been hooked ever since.

“I’ve been a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis my whole life,” says Lewis in his warm southern drawl. “At home I was playing all the time, hours passed and I loved that. When I was a kid, I would stand by the piano and listen to him play and sing, and I loved it. So of course I wanted to go on tour with him. He wanted to be a singer and be in show business. That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t like school at all.”

Lewis found her freedom from school at the young age of 14, at the same time she married her first husband. From then until the late ’70s, he toured and recorded with his brother, a period of time in which he describes going through a lot of “stuff,” including marriages, divorces, starting a family of his own, and learning about what it takes to be an entertainer

It was during these tours that she called her brother in for some piano lessons and saw firsthand how a woman could rock after seeing Wanda Jackson, who shared a bill with the Lewis brothers, change from a sweet lady of the church at brunch, a grumpy rocker and roll queen on stage.

“I will never have that kind of voice like her, nobody does. She’s totally different, but the feeling that you can put into it and the way you can really get into rock and roll and you can rock like a man if you’re a woman, I discovered that because of Wanda.”

Simultaneously, Jerry Lee taught his little sister something she describes as “Jerry Lee’s invention,” much like what Bach used to create for his students. Her brother assured him that if he learned this trick, he would open everything for her.

“He showed me this really special thing with his left hand and his right hand and sure enough, I did it when I needed to,” she says. It was after the birth of her third and fourth child that Lewis decided to stay home and shift her focus from rock and roll to raising his family, where he remained for ten years.

“So of course I decided that I would go back to the music business because there was never a time that I didn’t miss it. To be honest, it was so painful even thinking about it, that if the idea of ​​going back on stage came to mind, I had to put it out of my mind very quickly because it was so painful.”

The desire to entertain became so great that she knew she had to return to acting, but was faced with an unwelcoming former sister-in-law in her brother’s band pushing her to pursue a solo career in her 40s.

Lewis was told he was “too old” and “overweight” to consider a solo career, but continued to perform regularly at Hernando’s Hideaway in Memphis. Knowing that his audience was expecting to hear some of his brother’s music and that his pianist at the time was “murdering” the songs, Lewis took it upon himself to take over the keyboard duties and create his own piano sounds. high energy

He had his ex-father-in-law sign him as a co-signer to buy a piano of his own and practice that “Jerry Lee Invention” he had learned along the way. Lewis describes practicing every day in his small Memphis apartment until a few months later, when his hard work paid off.

“I was working as a singer at Hernando’s Hideaway and they had another singer who could absolutely sing. She hadn’t been singing and she wasn’t in great shape,” Lewis describes, pointing to the 20-year age gap between her and her competition.

“I’ll tell you what, when I got up on that piano and did ‘Great Balls Of Fire,’ I was the hit of the night. Nobody cared about anything else. They were on Hernando’s dance floor having a lot of fun when I was singing and playing.”

Lewis was able to combine everything he had learned along the way from his brother and Jackson to create his own rock and roll performance. “I found that when I was playing piano and singing at the same time, that really helped me because I can do so much better when I have that instrument and I’m playing piano and singing at the same time.”

Many minds don’t immediately think of the piano and instead focus on the guitar when they think of rock and roll, but there’s nothing quite as moving and earth-shattering as hearing the real boogie woogie, rock and roll piano music that can shake the walls and compel. the public to dance.

“I think it’s also very special,” agrees Lewis when he talks about the powerful effect of a well-played piano. “Not to say I don’t appreciate guitars, I love them, but I love rock and roll piano. What I like the most is my brother’s style and I also totally appreciate Little Richard’s style, although it’s quite different. I love rock and roll piano and those licks my brother plays that I don’t even know how to describe but really make you want to rock out.”

“I love rock and roll piano and those licks my brother plays that I don’t even know how to describe, but they really make you want to rock out.”

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Lewis may have his roots in rock, but his country roots are just as strong and evident in his beautiful voice and influences. “Well, let’s face it, when I open my mouth to talk or sing or anything, she’s a country girl who comes out because that’s who I am and I’ve always loved country music,” says Lewis.

This perfect mix of country, rock and roll and rockabilly was captured on her recent release on Cleopatra Records, Linda Gail Lewis- Early Sides 1963-1973. The 18-track collection covers ten busy years in Lewis’s life and features his brother on two tracks. The collection is filled with historic photography and is available on CD and purple splatter vinyl.

After all these years building her own legacy, Cleopatra Records seems to be providing an ideal space for Lewis to not only celebrate what she has done, but continue to push forward into the future. She will feature on a Cramps tribute album due out next year, where Clem Burke joins her on drums in the studio. “I’m a punk rocker now,” laughs Lewis.

“Now I have a record company that believes in me and promotes me, but it’s really the first time. Cleopatra has been very good to me and they are an unusual record company because not only do they do a lot of research on the things they release, but with Cleopatra it’s not just about the money. They love paying the artist and that’s unusual.”

Linda Gail Lewis will perform with Annie Marie Lewis and Danny B. Harvey on Saturday, August 13 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main. 9:00 p.m., $22-32.

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