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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " FURRY LEWIS " WAS A COUNTRY BLUES GUITARIST AND SONG WRITER FROM MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "

BLACK           SOCIAL           HISTORY                                                                                                                                            Furry Lewis


Furry Lewis
Furry-Lewis.jpg
Lewis c. 1927
Background information
Birth nameWalter E. Lewis
BornMarch 6, 1893
OriginGreenwood, Mississippi, United States
DiedSeptember 14, 1981 (aged 88)
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
GenresDelta bluescountry blues
OccupationsSinger, guitarist, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years activeLate 1920s – 1970s
LabelsVocalionVictorBarclay, Lucky Seven, Universal
Walter E. "Furry" Lewis (March 6, 1893 – September 14, 1981)[1] was an American country blues guitarist and songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. Lewis was one of the first of the old-time blues musicians of the 1920's to be brought out of retirement, and given a new lease of recording life, by the folk blues revival of the 1960s.

Life and career

Walter E. Lewis was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, United States, but his family moved to Memphis when he was aged seven.[1]Lewis acquired the nickname "Furry" from childhood playmates.[2] By 1908, he was playing solo for parties, in taverns, and on the street. He was also invited to play several dates with W. C. Handy's Orchestra.[2]
His travels exposed him to a wide variety of performers including Bessie SmithBlind Lemon Jefferson, and Alger "Texas" Alexander. Like his contemporary Frank Stokes, he tired of the road and took a permanent job in 1922. His position as a street sweeper for the City of Memphis, a job he would hold until his retirement in 1966, allowed him to remain active in the Memphis music scene.[2]
In 1927, Lewis cut his first records in Chicago for the Vocalion label. A year later he recorded for the Victor label at the Memphis Auditorium in a session with the Memphis Jug BandJim JacksonFrank Stokes, and others. He again recorded for Vocalion in Memphis in 1929.[2] The tracks were mostly blues but included two-part versions of "Casey Jones" and "John Henry". He sometimes finger picked, sometimes played with a slide.[3] He recorded many successful records in the late 1920's including "Kassie Jones", "Billy Lyons & Stack-O-Lee" and "Judge Harsh Blues" (later called "Good Morning Judge").
In 1969, Lewis was recorded by the record producer, Terry Manning, at home in Lewis' Fourth Street apartment near Beale Street. These recordings were released in Europe at the time by Barclay Records, and then again in the early 1990s by Lucky Seven Records in the United States, and again in 2006 by UniversalJoni Mitchell's song, "Furry Sings the Blues", (on her Hejira album) is about her visit to Furry Lewis' apartment and a mostly ruined Beale Street on February 5, 1976. Lewis despised the Mitchell song and demanded she pay him royalties.[4]
In 1972 he was the featured performer in the Memphis Blues Caravan, which included Bukka WhiteSleepy John Estes, Clarence Nelson, Hammy Nixon, Memphis Piano Red, Sam Chatmon, and Mose Vinson.[citation needed]
Before he died, Lewis opened twice for The Rolling Stones, played on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, had a part in a Burt Reynolds movie, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975), and had a profile in Playboy magazine.[1][3]
Lewis began to lose his eyesight because of cataracts in his final years. He contracted pneumonia in 1981, which led to his death from heart failure in Memphis on September 14 of that year, at the age of 88.[5] He is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in South Memphis, where his grave bears two headstones, the second purchased by fans.[4]