The drumming legend talks drink, drugs, suicide and kidnapping in an exclusive NME interview.
b. 18 July 1947, Ferriday, Louisiana, USA.
Encouraged by his success, the youngest sister of Jerry Lee Lewis was only 13 when, with sister Frankie Jean, she recorded a single for Sun Records on 13 December 1960. It was not released but it sparked her desire to be a singer. Frankie Jean, however, never had her sister's desire to be a singer, although she had made rockabilly duets with Jesse Lee Turner for Sun in 1958, that attracted Chet Atkins. She claimed she wanted to sing Patsy Cline material, not rockabilly like her sister, and turned down a Decca Records contract. She toured with Jerry Lee Lewis for some years and later became involved with the Jerry Lee Lewis Museum in Ferriday.
Linda Gail quit school in the early 60s and took to the road as a backing vocalist with her brother's show. She gained no preferential treatment from the unpredictable star, on one occasion being embarrassed when, after missing her cue, her brother stopped singing to ask through the microphone 'Are you watching this show or are you in it?' She was not so backward regarding marriage.
She first married at 14, and soon divorced to marry a sailor after a three-day romance when she was 15. He went back to sea and she never saw him again. She soon married Jerry Lee Lewis' best friend Cecil Harrelson. They had two children, Cecil Jr. and Mary Jean, then divorced; but after a brief marriage to husband, number four, Jerry Lee Lewis' guitarist Kenneth Lovelace [which incidentally made her Linda Lovelace], she remarried Cecil in 1971.
In March 1963, she duetted with her brother on "Seasons Of My Heart," and at the same Sun session cut two solo numbers, "Nothin' Shakin'" and "Sittin' And Thinkin'". They were set for release on Sun 385 but for some reason were not issued. When Jerry Lee moved to Smash Records in 1964, she duetted on "We Live In Two Different Worlds", which appeared on Another Place Another Time, Jerry Lee's first album for the Smash. The success of this record led to a duet album, which contained fine versions of "Milwaukee Here I Come," as well as two chart hits, "Don't Let Me Cross Over" (#9) and the less popular "Roll Over Beethoven" (#71).
She recorded several singles for the label (some were later reissued by Mercury Records), including "Turn Back The Hands Of Time," a superb version of "Paper Roses," and "Before The Snow Flies". She also gained her first solo album, and registered her only solo chart hit in 1972 with Mercury Record's "Smile, Somebody Loves You".
In the early 70s the whirlwind life style of her brother's touring show finally slowed her stamina and resilience. Her health began to cause concern; she suffered from drug addiction, and underwent a nervous breakdown. While confined to hospital in 1976 she almost died, but after a long period of convalescence, she regained her health and broke the drug addiction. In 1977, she married husband number six, Brent Dolan and retired from show business for 10 years, during which time she had two more children, Oliver and Annie.In 1987, she re-emerged as a rockabilly revivalist. She again began to appear with her brother and accompanied him on his European tour that included an appearance at London's Wembley Festival. However differences with her brother's sixth wife, Kerrie McCarver, who had vocal aspirations of her own, soon saw Linda Gail leave to pursue a solo career.
In this she was initially helped by husband number seven, an Elvis Impersonator, Bobby Memphis (b. Robert Stefanow). With a backing group that included her daughter, Mary Jean singing backing harmonies and mainly featuring rockabilly material, she began to tour with her own show. She played piano (standing up) in a similar pounding style to her brother and cousin Mickey Gilley and recorded a second album. Her first tour to the UK in June 1991, proved so popular (one critic described her as "the hottest rockabilly act in Europe at this time who served up piano playing rock 'n' roll that was not a million miles away from the style of her illustrious brother") that she made two further European tours in 1991-2.
In December 1991, she married husband number eight, Eddie Braddock. She continues to perform into the new millennium, especially Europe, where she enjoys considerable success in the Scandinavian countries.
By 1998, (she was now married to husband number nine) she was becoming more respected for her fine singing of material other than rockabilly.
In 2000, she collaborated with Van Morrison on You Win Again, which increased her public profile considerably.