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March 15, 2023

That Time When Jerry Lee Lewis Married Myra Gale Brown, His 13-Year-Old Cousin

Jerry Lee Lewis was an infamous rock n’ roll star during the mid to late 1950s, however his career ended abruptly in 1959 when he married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown.

Jerry Lee Lewis had been warned ahead of his British tour in May 1958 that he shouldn’t take his new wife to the U.K., but he didn’t listen. He couldn’t see any problem with bringing her with him on the road. Lewis was one of the few who saw things so simply. In the eyes of others, there were several issues.

First, Myra Gale Brown had been just 13 years old when they got married on December 12, 1957. Second, she was his cousin, and the daughter of his bassist J.W. Brown. She was also his third wife. And their marriage had taken place before Lewis’ second divorce had been finalized. And that second marriage had also taken place before his previous one was terminated.

When they stepped off the plane on May 22, 1958, Lewis obligingly told the British press that Myra was his wife (although he gave her age as 15 and moved up the date of their actual wedding). His bride, for her part, told the gathering that 15 wasn’t too young to marry back home: “You can marry at 10 if you can find a husband.”

The press in both London and Memphis soon discovered the truth about Myra’s age and the date of their wedding, and the response was immediate. The British press began labeling Lewis, a “cradle robber” and a “baby snatcher,” criticizing his performances, and calling for a boycott of his concerts. More than one paper went so far as to suggest his deportation. After several tour dates were canceled, Jerry and his new bride left the country.

When Lewis’ plane landed in New York, he found the scandal had crossed the ocean with him, cutting short a career that, at its peak, had seemed the only one capable of rivaling Elvis Presley’s. The American press proved just as harsh as their English counterparts, and Jerry Lee’s fee for personal appearances soon dropped from $10,000 a night to $250.

He tried to apologize, remarrying Myra in a ceremony that Lewis thought would validate the relationship and even going so far as to have an open letter printed in Billboard, but to no avail. To Jerry Lee, the uproar was hard to understand: “I plumb married the girl, didn’t I?” Jerry was quoted as saying to one reporter. About to depart for the Army, Elvis himself — who would soon fall in love with a 14-year-old girl — told reporters that if they were in love with each other, it was all right with him.

Jerry Lee Lewis eventually got his career back in the late 1960s as a country performer, where his personal life was not viewed with such outrage. He outlived Elvis, but his career as a rock star was forever crippled by the scandal.

The marriage ended in 1970, but the couple remained in contact. (Lewis’ seventh wife was formerly married to Myra’s brother.) They had two children: daughter Phoebe and son Steve, who died at the age of three.

In 2004, divorce proceedings began against his sixth wife, Kerrie McCarver, whom he married in 1984. He tied the knot with his seventh wife, Judith Brown, on March 9, 2012.


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