American Routes Shortcuts: Linda Gail Lewis

Nov 9, 2018

Linda Gail Lewis
Credit American Routes

Linda Gail was the last of the Lewis brood and witnessed the meteoric rise and fall of her brother's celebrity over the course of her childhood. Having been shunned from rock ’n’ roll, Jerry Lee Lewis converted to hard luck honky-tonk and hired his teenage sister, Linda Gail, to join him singing country duets. Following the lead of Conway and Loretta, and Porter and Dolly, Jerry Lee & Linda Gail put out a hit record of love songs called Together. Over time Linda Gail came into her own as a singer and parlayed her family’s notoriety and hard-earned chops into a solo career that has carried her worldwide. But it was in the small town of Ferriday, where the boogie-woogie rhythms first took hold.

Linda Gail Lewis: Daddy was a sharecropper, and you know Nick, sharecroppers didn’t make very much money. They got a very small share. We didn’t have a whole lot, we didn’t have much, but you know, it was always wonderful to walk over to that piano, or toddle over to it, depending on what age I was, and listen to my brother play and sing. It was wonderful too when we would all get together in the evenings sometimes, and Daddy would play his guitar and Jerry would play his piano, and we would all sing gospel songs. We grew up in church-

Nick Spitzer: Assembly of God, did you sing there?

LGL: You know most of the singing was done by my brother and Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley. That didn’t leave a whole lot of room for anybody else, but plus I was only about probably five years old or something in the beginning of that, and then of course when I was ten years old, Jerry was already having his hit records.

NS: Some people say it’s in the genes, others say it’s just because you’re near each other and you hear each other, but you guys vocally match just so beautifully.

LGL: Oh well thank you! You know I love singing with my brother. I really enjoy our duets, you know, I have always loved singing with him.

NS: Let’s talk about one of your duets with your brother from I guess around 1969, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over.” That’s a waltz.

LGL: Yeah that was our hit then, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over.” That’s an old Carl and Pearl Butler country song. And we had a lot of trouble singing it together because I mean he’s my brother, and we’re singing you know, “Don’t let me cross over.”

NS: It’s a cheating song, let’s just be clear to the wider audience.

LGL: Nick honestly, we only got through that song one time. We could only get through it without laughing once, and Jerry said, “Well that’s it, that’s gonna have to be it because we can’t do it again.”

NS: When do you first get up and rolling in public, whether you’re with Jerry Lee or not?

LGL: To be honest, Nick, I never had any desire to not be with my brother. If my sister-in-law at that time hadn’t given me a push, I would’ve just stayed with my brother. So I thought, “Well I should just go out and have my own career so I don’t cause problems for my brother and his wife, and they have a new baby,” they had a little baby boy, and so I appreciate what my sister-in-law did because I wouldn’t take anything from my career. It’s been absolutely wonderful.

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