Mike Towler’s Jerry Lee Lewis set list

As he wishes to document his efforts at transforming himself into a Jerry Lewis impersonator, Mike T. here presents to you what would be his ideal 19-song set list, if only he was better at learning to play music by listening to it, and assuming he can learn to sing in the proper rock and roll style (which currently makes him cough, but you never know..). If you can help him perform this – by playing, singing, by transcribing songs, etc.. – then let him know. This is some of the exciting popular music ever recorded – enjoy!.

Just to get you in the mood, first have a look at pretty much the only high-quality colour footage of the man from the 1960s, along with none other than the legendary Tom Jones, who had his own TV show back in those days. They’re only screwing around – you’ve got to love the ‘comedy’ sequence (not) – but clearly these are two geniuses at the height of their powers:


To those young people who think Tom Jones is just a television presenter, check out ‘Tom Jones dances like an animal‘, especially from 1:18 onwards (a feat also attempted, somewhat less convincingly, by a Guatemalan peasant here.)

And here’s Jerry Lee with three familiar faces – it’s Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis!

Live at the Vallico Sotto Star Club – sometime in the future..

Lots of web links, some audio only, some videos and film clips. Some of the links are blocked on mobile devices but they all work on my proper computer. Some of the audio quality is a bit rough and you should really listen to the CD instead. Headphones at maximum volume required!

1. Mean Woman Blues (from ‘Live at the Hamburg Star Club’)


2. Money (from ‘Live at the Hamburg Star Club’)


3. Lewis Boogie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c31qo7xio3Y (original record)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhulYR9UhT8 (very good Waylon Payne impersonation from the Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line’)


4. High School Confidential
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzxDc2TyOEk (original record – too much guitar for us)
http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/262424/High-School-Confidential-Movie-Clip-Open-High-School-Hop.html (from the movie; best piano-only recording)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Y51bM5vAmY (live on UK tour 1964 – video – teens go wild again)
(Live at the Star Club – best live version – better sound quality than above)


5. I’m on Fire
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zarQE_Btlio (overproduced Mercury original – hard to hear piano)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs5rBPy9RoI (live on Granada TV – 1964)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gYNRwDgya8 (modern version done for the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ biopic; old man voice; good solo)


6. I Believe In You (great solo!)
Difficult to find online: the following may work.

7. Hit The Road Jack
Required: Three comedy singing ladies with incredibly high voices – unless we can find gentlemen with a falsetto – and we need to lose the saxophone and massive Mercury overproduction and make it a bit more sparse.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNIuFmiiy9E (original record)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fycMC6jsH10 (bizarre slow live version with under-rehearsed singing dolly birds, at least one of whom appears to be on drugs. And is that Dr. McCoy from Star Trek on Guitar?)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Tiz6INF7I&list=RD6XdVefBj8UI (Ray Charles original)

8. Drinkin Wine Spo-dee-o-dee
First song ever played live by JLL in a garage in Ferriday, Louisiana;
‘spo-dee-o-dee’ is apparently a euphemism – because you couldn’t say
‘motherfucker’ on the radio. For some bizarre reason.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e5R-xFtqyQ (original record)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtrVRMdrPe0 (surprisingly excellent modern version)

9. It’ll Be Me
This one grows on you after a while.. love the solo! And how do you do
that funny ‘washboard’-y effect in the background..? (edit: buy a washboard!)

10. Pink Pedal Pushers
(this just reminded me of one of my favourite songs by the Stray Cats:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYiwxM_RVEI )

13. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFxRTLmtsbE (original record – “There is nothing conceptually better than rock & roll,” John Lennon told Jann Wenner in a 1970 interview for Rolling Stone magazine. “No group, be it Beatles, Dylan or Stones, have ever improved on ‘Whole Lotta Shakin” for my money.”)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifEc-RazQlY (live On Granada TV 1964 – watch the insane teenagers!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7SBF-35Es (first ever live TV appearance on the Steve Allen Show 1957 – this is what made him famous)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQhQq0Pg_V8 (Dennis Quaid and some fabulous old lady dancing – ends up being the movie version of the above)


11. Lovin’ Up A Storm

12. Rockin My Life Away

14. Crazy Arms
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xx6e00_jerry-lee-lewis-crazy-arms-1958_music (original record)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rxDXy2yH3c (From the 1989 Movie)

Sun Records boss Sam Phillips brings ‘Crazy Arms’ hot off the press to the radio station..

15. I’ll Sail My Ship Alone

16. Lucille
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jmNe77vces (Little Richard original – superior to the JLL version. But I can’t sing like that, and neither – probably – can anyone else..)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3-OaNevkfg (As above but ‘live’)
You can find many JLL versions on the internet but they’re all a bit slow and lazy.. A live version would need to be based on the Little Richard).

17. You Win Again
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Def3BsdYnJ4 (original record)
The B-side to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ no less – I can play this!

18. She Was My Baby
Comedy gold.

19. What’d I Say
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owCiPI4xBn4 (original record)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5dOlLvHNG4 (‘Live at the Hamburg Star Club’ – awesome..)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPLZL4s_jtI (Ray Charles original – so sloooow – but still awesome)

and as an encore..

20. Wild One (as impersonated by Dennis Quaid) – just for the standing on the keyboard trick..
Here’s the original:


21: Lust of the Blood (“You know, if anybody ever asks me why I do this radio show, I could just play them that – Jerry Lee Lewis singing Shakespeare. That’s what this show is all about.” Bob Dylan on Jerry Lee Lewis’ Lust of the Blood from the rock musical, Catch My Soul.)


and just for fun, as we’ll never get anyone who can drum like that (Barry Jenkins of the Nashville Teens, later of The Animals):

22. Good Golly Miss Molly… (‘Live at the Star Club’)


and finally a slow one , because I agree what the reviewers say “a one man tour-de-force, a stunning fusion of everything that was Jerry Lee Lewis. The bluesy piano licks thrown into the middle of the stone hillbilly classic and a vocal of scorching intensity.

23. Your Cheating Heart (‘Live at the Star Club’)


Some of you may be wondering ‘why hasn’t he mentioned Great Balls of Fire yet’? Well, to tell the truth I find it a bit over-familiar now and stupidly I decided not to include it in my set list. That said, you really must watch (a) Jerry Lee – played by Dennis Quaid – utterly humiliating Chuck Berry with this song whilst totally ignoring Health and Safety Regulations in the 1989 Movie. This was apparently based on a real incident –  ‘Follow that, Killer!‘. Rumour has it that three of the letters in that phrase were substituted with other ones, but don’t worry – JLL and Berry were later to become great friends..


and (b) the real Jerry Lee Lewis – at around 97 years of age – completely owning Dennis Quaid at the post-movie wrap-up party.


There you go. Hope you enjoyed it!

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