A recording made by Jerry Lee Lewis at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in New Orleans before 1954, probably in 1952, has been discovered, after its owner approached the Silver Dollar Pawn Shop in Alexandria, Louisiana seeking to price and sell the disc.
The US TV show ‘Cajun Pawn Stars’, broadcast the discussions between the disc’s owner and the owners of the shop.
Mike Shepherd, President and Executive Director of the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame was called in by the Pawn Shop as an expert to authenticate and place a value on the recording. Shepherd had previously provided the showâ€™s producers information on the existence of the disc, contacted its owner Cecil Harrelson and engineered Harrelsonâ€™s appearance and the recordâ€™s presentation on the show.
â€śAlthough I had never seen the actual record before, it was pretty easy for me to authenticate that it was the real deal,â€ť Shepherd explained. â€śJerry Lee Lewis himself had told me during my induction visit to his Mississippi ranch that the recording existed and was in the possession of Cecil. During that same visit, Cecil further confirmed that to me, telling me the story of how it came to be recorded.Â Secondly, the record was signed on both sides by Jerry Lee Lewis,â€ť Shepherd added. â€śThe other factor sealing the deal was that Cecil himself came to offer the record to Jimmie DeRamus at Silver Dollar Pawn.â€ť
â€śAlso, Cosimo Matassa, the owner of J&M Recording Studios in New Orleans in the early 1950â€™s, in a previous conversation told me that Jerry Lee Lewis had indeed come into his studio and cut a record around that time,â€ť Shepherd elaborated. â€śHe didnâ€™t know Jerry Lee at the time, but years later recognised him as the kid that had been in his studio with a buddy.â€ť
â€śThe significance of this time line is that it validates that Jerry Lee Lewis had indeed recorded,Â in New Orleans, his first two songs, at least two years earlier than has been accepted as the date of his first ever recordings, or at Sun Studios in Memphis,â€ť Shepherd pointed out.
â€śThis recording by Jerry Lee Lewis prior to his previously known work indicates how important Louisiana, New Orleans and Cosimo Matassa were in introducing and pioneering the rock and roll music scene in the early 1950â€™s,â€ť Shepherd noted. â€śCosimo recorded the first recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Lloyd Price in a span of around four years, while Elvis was getting his first contract and becoming committed to a career in music at Shreveport, LAâ€™s historic Louisiana Hayride, thus constituting the beginning of rock and roll.â€ť
Cecil Harrelson, was twice married to Linda Gale Lewis, Jerry Leeâ€™ s sister. The disc was valued at around $25,000 but Harrelson, asked $100,000 – Â he originally paid $2.25. Mike Shepherd, the showâ€™s â€śexpertâ€ť on music, valued it at around $20,000. However, Jimmie DeRamus, the owner of the Silver Dollar Pawn Shop and star of Cajun Pawn Stars made Harrelson a firm offer of $30,000 for the recording. Harrelson turned down the offer.
The record, a 78rpm disc is a J&M custom disc. Studios such as Matassa’s Â would often record one-off or ‘vanity’ recordings for walk-in customers and budding talent who needed a disc that they could play to other record labels, club owners etc. Â Watching the film clip, the disc looks pretty beat up – but without doubt it is a real find and may make its way to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland or into one of the collections of a major record dealer. At a 100,000 bucks its a big ask though!