Cajun Pawn Stars uncovers lost Jerry Lee Lewis recording from 1952

Cajun Pawn Stars Jimmie DeRamus

A huge part of the success of shows like Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow is that you just never know what people are going to bring in. Such is the case in the second episode of The History Channel’s new reality series Cajun Pawn Stars when Silver Dollar Pawn shop owner Jimmie DeRamus is presented with what his customer claims is a Jerry Lee Lewis recording from two years before it was previously thought he cut his first demo.

According to current biographies of Jerry Lee Lewis, he cut his first demo recording in 1954 during a time when he was playing piano at clubs in and around Natchez and Ferriday, Mississippi. (This was just after his infamous expulsion from Southwest Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas after performing a boogie woogie rendition of “My God Is Real” at a church assembly – one day after arriving on campus.)

But, according to Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Mike Shepherd, that history is about to be re-written thanks to a discovery made in Cajun Pawn Stars!

Jerry Lee Lewis photo“I’m not allowed to reveal all of the things that will be featured before the shows air, but one that the producers is already promoting is our discovery of Jerry Lee Lewis’ first recording made in 1952 at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio in New Orleans,” Shepherd says. “This is a historical bombshell because virtually all music historians have said Jerry Lee’s first studio work was at Sun Studios in Memphis and rockabilly was his main influence. This recording predates that by years and shows that his style originated with his gospel and country roots in Ferriday and early exposure to the “boogie” piano legacy of New Orleans blues and jazz. It’s yet one more proof to our assertion that rock & roll was born in Louisiana.”

Holy smokes! A Jerry Lee Lewis recording from 1952 that has never been released?!? I’m a huge Jerry Lee Lewis fan and that IS explosive stuff! (Now all of a sudden my Jerry Lee Bear Family box sets seem lacking.)

I’ll be tuning into the show and will update the post if they provide any more info on the recording. Until then, let’s all take a trip back to the early days of rock and roll with a clip of The Killer and his Louisiana boogie roots blowing the roof off the joint with his performance of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On!”

UPDATE – Here are some more details on the record, which was authenticated on the show as the real deal.

The record was brought in by a man named Cecil Harrison, who was a long-time friend of Jerry Lee Lewis. (Actually, Cecil reveals that he married Jerry Lee’s sister, but it eventually ended in divorce. And then they got married again! Yup, sounds like a Lewis!)

Cecil was with Jerry Lee Lewis when he got the idea to record himself – and that’s exactly what he did at a “J&M Records” do-it-yourself recording studio, which used to be quite common. You go in, pay a couple bucks, sing a song, and walk out with a record. What’s amazing is that the low-grade record was still in good enough shape to play!

Cecil payed $2.25 for the recording and it was appraised on the show to be worth at least $15,000 – $20,000. Jimmie offered as much as $45,000, but Cecil held firm at $100,000 and walked out still in possession of the historic recording.

They played a brief audio clip on the show and I imagine it will eventually surface online at some point, at which point I will add it to the post.

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  • Unfortunately, while that acetate shown on the tv show may be rare, it is not worth $100,000 by any stretch of the imagination. You see, both sides of the acetate (yes it had another song on the B side not heard on the tv show) were included in the Time Life box set, A Half Century Of Hits: therefore the rarity factor of the audio on the disc zilch, only the fact that the disc itself holds the original demos is the rarity….the songs on the box set are the last two tracks on disc 3. You can hear both of the songs on youtube:

    • Tom

      What any collectors item is worth is purely in the eyes of the beholder. I would say a rare master like this from a major artist of the era could very well be worth $100,000 to some wealthy collector.

      • Eddie

        To the right collector or museum $100,000 is a VERY realistic selling price for this first ever demo.

  • Chad

    Looks like the producers of the show got a hold of this guy to bring it down to the shop to try to get some buzz going for the show. This recording surfaced years ago and the songs have already been released on CD. Seems kinda shady for the album to mysteriously show up for the taping of this episode when the owner could have easily brought to any music museum or put it up for auction. He knows it’s real; he loaned it for the recording for the time life albums.

  • chris

    apparently Jerry lee Lewis got word of what his good friend Cecil did on television, and got so irate and angry that he decided to call up Cecil and yell at him. well, I guess Jerry was so furious that his yelling at Cecil got too much for Jerry to handle, that he started to experience shortness of breath mid conversation (or “argument”) and had to be rushed to the hospital. Jerry is currently there with no update on his current condition.

  • howard

    I would have done anything to get ht recording.The jackass owner should have raised money washing cars if he had to to get that historical recording. It is amazing and proves all music historians were wrong!JLL first demo was in 1952 not 1954.
    Can’t believe that owner didn’t pay the 100,000.When Lewis passes just as they all do it will be worth it’s weight in pure gold.What a nut to pass that up!!!Anyone who says it’s not worth at least 100,000 is out to lunch-dinner and all snacks in between!!!

  • I stand by my earlier comments. I mean seriously, the recordings have been reissued on cd, they’re no longer “rare”. The only thing the disc is worth is the historical value, that alone is not worth $100,000 and never will be. I have hundreds of rare records in my collection including many demo acetates that truly one of a kind. What happens if you accidentally bump the disc and the lacquer finish starts flaking away? Is the record still worth anything in unplayable condition? Not likely. When the discovery of the first demo recording by Elvis Presley was made, offers of up to $100,000 were made on that disc, however it had since been reissued and the owner, who never budged on the disc then, still owns it and will never sell it, even though its insurance value has dropped to under $20,000. Call me crazy all you want but I’ve had acetates flake away right in my hands and it’s not fun to see that happen when you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on one…let alone $100,000. Besides, the disc is likely near the end of its life anyway, I’ve never heard of a lacquer disc lasting more than 65 or 70 years even if it was left unplayed in all that time. The oldest acetate disc I had was from 1939 and it dried up and started flaking apart in 2004…it was not of musical importance but I never copied it before it became unplayable.

    In response to Tom above, I know many of the wealthiest record collectors in the United States and not one of them would ever shell out $100,000 on an acetate disc, no matter what the recording on the disc was. Even if it was a hard vinyl (indestructable) copy of which only one copy was ever made, they would never spend that much.

    In response to Eddie above, museums don’t pay for items, they are donated or loaned.

    You know, if you guys want a copy of the songs on an acetate disc, you can get acetates custom made these days if you know the right person… just send them the Time Life box set and tell them to make you up a couple copies. The labels can be faithfully replicated too. Paul McCartney did that for the first Beatles acetate when they were still known as the Quarrymen….he had exact duplicates made up….who says the disc on the show that was shown was even the true original disc? I’m just saying…. it would be completely nuts to shell out $100,000 for a 60 year old metal disc with a thin coating of lacquer on it, especially if the music on the disc is already available to the public.

  • Mike Shepherd

    the acetate is real… as confirmed by Jerry Lee Lewis himself, face-to-face… he even told me who had possession…Cecil was outside smoking at JLL’s ranch. the acetate is also signed on both sides by Jerry Lee… Cosimo Matassa, the recorder, also has spoken of remembering the face of JLL when he first saw him in a TV appearance in the mid-fifties… the two sides were released on a Time Life box set, but there arose issues and it became a very short run, with no PR on the use of the two songs…
    The disc is real, the story is accurate and it squarely puts Jerry Lee Lewis in the more than capable hands of New Orleans’ Cosimo Matassa, also the first recorder of Fats Domino, Lloyd Price and Little Richard, to name only a few of the hundreds that started and found successes with Cosimo…
    Mike Shepherd, President & Executive Director, The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame