Kissing Cousins: The Marriage that Almost Cost Jerry Lee Lewis a Career

We’ve heard of kissing cousins, but this is ridiculous.

It was 54-years-ago today that Jerry Lee Lewis walked down the aisle with bride Myra Gale Brown in a union that turned out to have severe repercussions for both the rock pioneer’s career and reputation. As it turns out, the only thing that people frown upon more than marrying your own cousin is marrying your own pre-pubescent cousin while still technically married to another woman. Incest, coupled with dash of pedophilia and a hint of bigamy is not, evidently, what people are looking for in a rock star.

In 1957, with hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” burning up the record charts, the 22-year-old Lewis was on the verge of challenging Elvis Presley for the crown of king of rock and roll. Of course, it all came crashing down when word of his nuptials with his first cousin (once removed), the 13-year-old Brown, got out. On top of that, Lewis was still technically married to his second wife Jane Mitcham.

The naïve Lewis defended his marriage, though press in both North America and Europe decried his union with a girl who still had to be in bed early on a school night. Sun Records, Lewis’ label, spoke out against him, radio stations blacklisted his music and concert dates dropped off almost completely.

It wasn’t until Lewis re-invented himself years later as a cross between a country music and a rock and roll star (rockabilly, if you will) that his career got back on track and he achieved a fraction of the fame he likely would have if he’d never suffered through his marriage scandal. Lewis and Brown, meanwhile, divorced in 1970. They had two children together.