Brian May Recalls Jerry Lee Lewis’ Compliment About His Guitar Playing

Jerry Lee Lewis passed away on October 28, 2022, after a life full of contributions to rock music, making him one of the pioneers of the genre. He was one of Brian May’s music heroes, so it was hard for the guitarist to get over Lewis’ passing. While his pain is still fresh, Brian May spoke to UK’s Gold Radio and recalled receiving praise from the late musician for his guitar talents.

Brian May had a chance to share the same stage with Jerry Lee Lewis in 1989 at Hammersmith Odeon. It was a thrilling experience for May since Lewis was a legendary figure in the scene and someone very important to him. Following the singer’s passing, the guitarist posted a video of them performing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ during that show and said getting the approval of the rock legend meant so much to him. Undoubtedly, it was an unforgettable moment for May.

“Anyway, my time comes, and it’s like: ‘I know what song we’re doing,’” recalled Brian May about that show. “I think we did a couple. And I go on there. We’ve also had the instruction: ‘Nobody goes in front of the piano. Nobody upstages Jerry Lee. You do not go between him and the audience or between his piano and the audience.’ So we’re all standing in a line. You can see it in the clip. I think it’s Dave Davies who’s next to him.”

“I get carried away because I’m like, ‘When do I get the chance to play with Jerry?’” May continued, expressing his excitement for playing with his hero. “I’m looking around. ‘Does he want me to play? Yeah, he wants me to play.’ So I go forward, and I start doing it.”

“And suddenly, I’m between him and the audience,” said the guitarist. “I think, ‘Oh, I’ve made a mistake here.’ But I looked over to him, and he gave me that kind of wry smile, like, ‘Okay, buddy.’ And what you don’t see in the clip that I put up is that at the end of that – you can see it in the full version, and I didn’t realize this until yesterday — he says, ‘That guy with the guitar made me want to sing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ all over again.’ And he means me.”

Brian May then added, “He doesn’t know my name. He has no idea. I’m just some guy who came up and played loud guitar beside him. But the result is – and I only found this out this morning – a good friend of mine was working with Jerry Lee until he died. He’s a good friend of mine. They started talking about me. And Jerry recalled that moment. He said, ‘That was an amazing moment when Brian came over and did that.’ So he knew who I was afterward. It was just before he was taken from us. So that feels very emotional, yeah.”

As it turns out, Jerry Lee Lewis didn’t know much about Brian May when they first took to the stage together. Although May was hesitant about going forward and shredding his guitar in front of Lewis, he impressed the rock icon with his playing. Years later, the guitarist found out that Lewis knew who he actually was after the show and was glad May stepped in and played his guitar. It’s no doubt that hearing this from his musical hero made May so emotional.