George Strait, Chris Stapleton, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack Pay Homage To Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Stapleton, Toby Keith, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Payne, and George Strait perform onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

I’m Real Nervous But It Sure Is Fun, goes a line from Jerry Lee Lewis’ signature 1957 hit “Great Balls Of Fire.”

The sentiment could have been shared by nearly every artist who took the stage at Nashville’s Skyville Live on Thursday night (Aug. 24) who paid homage to rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis. Artists like George Strait, Toby Keith, Kris Kristofferson, Lee Ann Womack, The McCrary Sisters, Chris Stapleton and Waylon Payne mentioned the honor, and nerves, that comes with performing before an iconic entertainer with more than six decades of recording and entertaining under his belt.

Flanked by a band of ace musicians the headliners paid tribute to Lewis, performing several of his biggest hits.

Skyville Live’s Wally Wilson noted each of the evening’s performers could have filled the Bridgestone Arena. Instead, he said, they jumped at the chance to perform for Lewis in Skyville Live’s intimate performance venue. Womack was said to have even canceled a personal appearance to be part of the show.

George Strait performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Strait opened the show with Lewis’ signature “Great Balls of Fire,” followed by “Middle Aged Crazy.” The “King of Country” clearly enjoyed every minute.

“He is a member of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame,” noted Toby Keith, who then offered a convicted rendition of “39 and Holding,” and wrapped his burly voice around the classic “Chantilly Lace.” “He should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame,” endorsed Keith. “You have no idea how good a country singer he is.”

One of the evening’s most soulful moments came courtesy of Stapleton and vocal quartet The McCrary Sisters, on the stirring gospel number “I’ll Follow Him.”

Kris Kristofferson’s performance revealed the Skyville Live producers only had asked him to record a message for Lewis. Instead, he offered to perform on the show. Kristofferson’s world-weathered voice was sturdy on the clever “Mean Old Man.”

Lee Ann Womack’s voice was smoky and silky on “What Made Milwaukee Famous.” She then traded earthy for ethereal textures on “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” noting it as one of her favorite Jerry Lee Lewis songs.

“I love your singing,” she told Lewis. “I like to think I learned a little from you, or at least I tried.”

Chris Stapleton (L) and Alfreda McCrary, Regina McCrary, Deborah McCrary, and Ann McCrary of The McCrary Sisters perform onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

One of the evening’s highlights came from Waylon Payne, who portrayed “The Killer” himself in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line. His voice was polished and soulful on “Who Will The Next Fool Be.”

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Lewis said as the hour-long show neared its conclusion, and the crowd offered him a standing ovation. Lewis sat at his stately piano, leading an all-star performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” At 81, Lewis proved his piano prowess is still as keen and lively as ever.

“This is some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life,” Lewis said. “I’ll never forget this.”

Neither will anyone else in proximity to Skyville Live that evening—both onstage and off.

Lee Ann Womack performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Kris Kristofferson performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Jerry Lee Lewis performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Toby Keith performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

George Strait performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Pictured (L-R): Kris Kristofferson, creator of Skyville Live Wally Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Payne, and Toby Keith attend Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

Kris Kristofferson performs onstage during Skyville Live Presents a Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on August 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Skyville

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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