Tender ballads were best left to the old folks. Lewis was all about lust and gratification, with his leering tenor and demanding asides, violent tempos and brash glissandi, cocky sneer and crazy blond hair. He was a one-man stampede who made the fans scream and the keyboards swear, his live act so combustible that during a 1957 performance of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" on "The Steve Allen Show," chairs were thrown at him like buckets of water on an inferno.
"No group, be it (the) Beatles, Dylan or Stones, have ever improved on 'Whole Lotta Shakin'' for my money," John Lennon would tell Rolling Stone in 1970.
A classmate at Bible school, Pearry Green, remembered meeting Lewis years later and asking if he was still playing the devil's music.
"Yes, I am," Lewis answered. "But you know it's strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I am playing for the devil and they don't."
- Hillel Italie, AP Guest Writer, Oct. 28, 2022