A charter inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the uncompromising Lewis mixed his gospel roots with country music and roadhouse R&B, impossibly coming up with a raucous, startling and entirely compelling new type of rock 'n roll that forever changed the face of music. His recordings and riveting live performances are matched only by his larger-than-life personality. Lewis has scored 65 country hits, placed 22 albums in the Country Top 20, won a Grammy award, and was immortalized in the hit film Great Balls of Fire. The rock n' roll legend describes it best himself, "Just point me to the piano. In fifteen minutes, I'll have 'em shakin', shoutin', shiverin' and shackin'!"
This specially designed 3 CD box set is not only filled with his career defining rock hits, like "Great Balls of Fire," "High School Confidential," "Breathless," and the original hit version of "Whole Lot of Shaking Goin' On," but every major country hit, three previously unreleased live recordings, additional rare performances, and the very first two tracks Lewis recorded (also the first original Jerry Lee Lewis composition) "New Orleans Boogie" and a cover of Lefty Frizzell's "Don't Stay Away." No one, not even Jerry Lee, had heard those two songs since the day he sang them at a "record your own voice" studio in 1952 when he was just sixteen years old. The acetates, belonging to Lewis' friend, Cecil Harrelson, had been held back from release until such time as Mr. Lewis wished them to be distributed to the public and were painstakingly transferred by Country Music Hall Of Fame sound engineer Alan Stoker exclusively for A Half-Century of Hits.
The box set features 66 tracks in all. Other highlights include rare outtakes from sessions done for the Sun Records label and even a heated argument between Lewis and Sun founder Sam Phillips about whether rock 'n' roll was the Devil's music. "I got the Devil in me," Lewis yells, while Phillips tries to convince him that he can be both a believer and a rock 'n' roll star. Accidentally captured while the tape was still rolling at the studio, this tape has never been released in the United States. In addition to the hits, out-takes, studio argument, and the two 1952 recordings, this collection also features three previously unissued live recordings (recorded live by Jim Isbell at Opryland in 1981) and two live songs from his 1964 European tour. A Half-Century of Hits is accompanied by a 40 page book made up of extensive interviews with Lewis and compiled by Grammy Award winner Colin Escott, along with rare and previously unpublished photos, many of them from Phoebe Lewis' (Jerry's daughter) very own personal archives.
This collection also inaugurates a new series for Time-Life Music, LEGENDS OF AMERICAN MUSIC, in which Time-Life will celebrate the careers of artists who've made a significant difference to the music of our lives. "There are few totally original artists and Jerry Lee Lewis certainly tops almost any list of them." says Time Life Senior Vice President Audio & Video, Retail Mike Jason. "Our goal with the series, Legends Of American Music, is to focus on those artists that changed the cultural and musical landscape and we are honored to be working with Jerry Lee in this project. This set is truly the last word on one of the first names in rock 'n' roll."