Monday, February 9, 2009

Ain't gonna be a low-down dog no more!

Meade Lux Lewis was a favorite of mine from my 33-1/3 RPM vinyl records days.
Recently my son took one of my old scratchy Lewis records home with him and transferred it to a CD with his zap-nin now? technology, and I'm enjoying it as I type.

Here's what Wikipedia has on him:

Meade Anderson "Lux" Lewis (September 3, 1905June 7, 1964) was a United States pianist and composer noted for his work in the Boogie Woogie style. His best known work, "Honky Tonk Train Blues", has been recorded in various contexts, often in a big band arrangement. Early renditions include 1940s recordings by Adrian Rollini, Frankie Trumbauer, and Bob Zurke, with Bob Crosby's orchestra. Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer often includes it in his program, but Lewis himself did not need accompaniment, his solo performances had the power and intricacy of a sophisticated orchestral arrangement.
Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois in September 1905 (September 3rd, 4th, and 13th are given as his birthdate in various sources). In his youth he was influenced by pianist Jimmy Yancey.
A 1927 rendition of "Honky Tonk Train Blues" on the Paramount Records label marked his recording debut. He remade it for Parlophone in 1935 and for Victor in 1937, but it was his performance at John Hammond's historic From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall, in 1938 that brought Lewis lasting fame. Following the celebrated event, Lewis and two other performers from that concert, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson often appeared as a trio and became the leading boogie-woogie pianists of the day. They performed an extended engagement at Café Society, toured as a trio, and inspired the formation of Blue Note Records in 1939. Their success led to a decade long boogie woogie craze [1] with big band swing treatments by Tommy Dorsey, Will Bradley, and others; and numerous country boogie and early rock 'n' roll songs.
Meade "Lux" Lewis continued recording until 1962 and died in an automobile accident in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1964.
Lewis was mentioned in Chapter 81 of author Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle.


Meade was a very hefty man and played with great energy, to the point that he was legendary in breaking down upright pianos while overcoming them, reducing them to a pile of strings, keys and boards, squeezing his music from then til he could no more. No mechanism left.

As a dabbler in the boogie style, the SRN editor was a devotee of Lewis, and is glad to have this disk he can just pop into the computer, scratches and all, while composing the raccoon news. U Tube has a few antique cuts of him in their latter-day offerings. Here's one:

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