MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jerry Lee Lewis, battling to recover from surgery for a ruptured stomach, was removed from a respirator Tuesday and remained in critical but stable condition, his manager said.
'You're not spending too much money, are you?' Lewis was quoted as asking his girlfriend, K.K. Jones.
It was the first time the piano-thumping singer was able to talk since Friday when the respirator was hooked up after five hours of surgery to correct complications from an earlier operation.
'He looked more pleased since they took the respirator off,' said J.W. Whitten, a close friend, who visited Lewis briefly. Whitten said Lewis 'looked good.'
Hospital officials did not say how long Lewis would be off the machine thatwas used to help him breathe, but Whitten said he was 'pretty sure they might leave the respirator off unless complications occur.'
Lewis' former wife of 13 years, Myra Brown Lewis, stayed in the intensive care waiting room answering telephone calls that came almost constantly.
'There are so many people that love him,' she said. 'They just come out of the woodwork.'
The 45-year-old singer and piano player, who first hit the top of the charts with 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On,' was rushed to the Memphis hospital from his ranch in Nesbit, Miss., June 30 after he complained of stomach pains and started coughing up blood.
He underwent surgery and was showing slow improvement until he took a turn for the worse last week. A second operation was needed to try to clear up the infections that developed.
Cause of the intitial stomach perferation has never been pinpointed.
Lewis, known for his showy piano-banging style, has 18 gold records for songs that varied from early rock 'n' roll to country.
A brief visit over the weekend by Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, seemed to perk up Lewis' spirits.
Lewis, Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, who also stopped by the hospital, all started their musical careers at Sun Records with Memphis producer Sam Phillips.
Get-well wishes have come from Johnny Carson, Gene Autry, Dick Clark, Elizabeth Taylor and the Doobie Brothers band.