January 20th, 1973

Jerry Lee Lewis makes his Grand Ole Opry debut, breaking two promises: he won't sing rock & roll, and won't swear.


The set list includes "Another Place, Another Time", "Johnny B. Goode", "Great Balls Of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On". He had promised, through manager Eddie Kilroy, that if allowed on the hallowed Opry stage, he wouldn’t curse, he wouldn’t be drunk and he’d do only country songs. A few, basic, common-sense rules. No need to even agree to the things he already understood: that he’d only do a few songs, that there’d be need for commercial breaks, etc. I mean, Jerry Lee had been listening to the Opry since he was a kid. He knew the drill.

By this point, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire” had long since been classified as rock, so those were out. Jerry Lee was going to do — had PROMISED to do — recent-ish country hits, like “Another Place, Another Time”, “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me”, “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” and “Once More with Feeling”.

So Lewis walked out on the Opry stage and began with the song that got him back into the good graces of country radio programmers in 1965, “Another Place, Another Time”.

Alright, then. For a minute.


But in the next minute, he stormed his way through Ray Charles’ leering “What’d I Say”, and for 40 minutes, he careened through what would have been commercial breaks, playing country and rock and anything else that came to his hands and mind.

And folks went nuts.

“I am a rock ’n’ rollin’, country and western, rhythm and blues singin’ (expletive)!” he announced, thus breaking the no-cursing covenant. No one conducted a blood alcohol test, so I’m left to assume that...

  • photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment
    photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment


  • photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News
    photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News


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