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Jerry Lee Lewis hospitalized for drug detoxification

By VICKI BROWN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock 'n' roller who burst onto the music scene in the '50s and has lived on a roller coaster of professional success and personal tragedy since then, is being treated for drug addiction.

Lewis, 51, was hospitalized for detoxification in Nashville Friday and will go to the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., later this week for treatment of his addiction to painkillers, his manager said Monday night.

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'He decided on his own he wanted to get straightened out,' said Al Embry, who said he has been Lewis' friend for 26 years a well as his manager.

The entertainer, known by the nickname 'The Killer' because of his effect on audiences, has been in and out of hospitals with a variety of problems in the last several years.

The drug problem started because of a dislocated shoulder that was so painful Lewis could 'hardly play the piano,' Embry said.

'All of a sudden before I knew it he was taking painkillers all the time,' Embry said.

Embry said the singer's tolerance to the drugs was building up and he became concerned because of a number of important singing dates coming up including a New Year's Eve show in California and a date in Honolulu on Jan. 1.

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'He doesn't drink, people think he does, but he doesn't,' Embry said. 'I had been talking to him, but he was reluctant, he didn't realize how bad it was.'

He said Lewis also had a small infection on his leg that he wanted treated so he flew in from Memphis and Embry picked him up and took him to Vanderbilt Medical Center on Friday.

Lewis had to go through detoxification before he could check into the Betty Ford Center to be treated for drug addiction, Embry said. He said Lewis has a few more days in the hospital and will probably go to the California hospital on Friday.

The Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, just outside of the desert resort town of Palm Springs, has been popular among celebrities seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. The list of past patients includes Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis, Johnny Cash, Eileen Brennan, Mary Tyler Moore and Chevy Chase.

Lewis burst on the music scene in the 1950s with songs like 'Great Balls of Fire' and 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On,' and earned his reputation as 'The Killer' and a wildman for such antics as burning a piano.

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His popularity continues in the 1980s with songs like the theme song from the movie, 'Middle Age Crazy' and a new version of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.'

His personal life has been a parade of upheavals, including six marriages, losing two wives and two sons to accidents, alcoholism, health problems, broken bones and a battle with the IRS.

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