Jerry Lee Lewis earned his rebel reputation. The “Great Balls of Fire” singer was once a friend of Elvis Presley, only to be arrested outside of Graceland years later. Let’s relive the iconic story.
December 4 is an important day for the history of rock and roll. In 1969, Jay-Z was born. In 1956, Sun Record Studios brought together four artists for an impromptu ham session. Presley, Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash formed the “million-dollar quartet.” Listen to the Drive-By Truckers song “Carl Perkins Cadillac” to learn more about their relationship.
The group reunited several times over the years, and the occasion would be turned into a Tony Nominated musical. In the intervening decades, all four would become hit hitmakers. Decades later, Lewis and Presley nearly had a deadly reunion of their own.
One Wild Night
Graceland was unexpectedly greeted by a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow early on November 22, 1976. Lewis showed up unannounced at Presley’s home and demanded to see his old friend. Presiding guard Harold Lloyd told him the “Suspicious Minds” singer was asleep, so Lewis left. A few hours later he flipped that car on a turn
24 hours after his original arrival, at 2:30 AM, Lewis rolled up to Presley’s house in a Lincoln Continental. This time, he was behaving erratically and had a gun. He told Lloyd “Get on the goddamn phone. I know you got an intercom system. Call up there and tell Elvis I wanna visit with him. Who the hell does he think he is? Tell him the Killer’s here to see him.” Lloyd wisely called the cops instead.
Presley called down to learn about the commotion and was happy to know the cops had already been called. It’s believed he watched the whole thing on CCTV. The police arrested Lewis and his father who arrived at Graceland not long after. The ordeal led to Lewis’ mugshot, perhaps the most memorable photo of him.
Lewis Tells A Different Story
Lewis told a very different version of the event. He relayed his story to the President of his fan club: “Elvis called him and asked him to come out to the house to talk to him.” Lewis arrived too late, and Lloyd misunderstood what happened.
The gun was given to him by a sheriff, but Lewis didn’t have a license to carry it. This is why the gun was on his dashboard in full view of Lloyd. Lewis sarcastically said “he hadn’t brought it to kill Elvis, so the guy should chill out. He didn’t. He called the cops. Jerry was PO’ed.”
Either way, this bit of rock history ensured the two would forever be intertwined. Presley died nine months later while Lewis is still going strong at 86.
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