Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis — who passed away at 87 on Friday, just two days after his death was erroneously reported by TMZ — had a whole lotta lovin’ going on, getting married seven times.
But it was then-22-year-old Lewis’ third marriage to Myra Gale Brown — his first cousin once removed — when she was just 13 that truly rocked his career. The ensuing scandal led to boycotts of his music, blacklisting at venues and appearance fees that plummeted from $10,000 a night to $250.
Goodness gracious, indeed.
The “Great Balls of Fire” singer — known for his boogie-woogie piano playing — married Brown on Dec. 12, 1957. At the time, his young bride, who was 9 years his junior, still believed in Santa Claus. And Lewis even moved in with his wife’s parents after their wedding.
When the newlyweds went to England on Lewis’ first European tour, he lied about his new wife’s age, telling the British press that she was 15. But when the truth was discovered, he was labeled a “cradle robber” and “baby snatcher” by the UK media, with one paper suggesting that Lewis be deported.
The scandal followed Lewis back to the US. Meanwhile, it turned out that his second marriage to Jane Mitchum had not yet been finalized before he wed Brown, so the couple got rehitched in another ceremony on June 4, 1958. And Lewis even had an open letter printed in Billboard that he hoped would validate their relationship.
For his part, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer didn’t understand all the uproar. “I plumb married the girl, didn’t I?” he told one reporter.
Lewis and Brown went on to have two children, Steve and Phoebe, but after all of the controversy, theirs would not end up being a blissful union. In 1970, she filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery and abuse, claiming that she had been “subject to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable.”
The rock legend went on to get married four more times, tying the knot in 2012 with his seventh and final wife, Judith Lewis — who also happened to be the ex-wife of Brown’s brother.