To anyone for whom the words “Lewis” and “wild piano” lead only to a response of “Jerry Lee”, meet Meade “Lux” Lewis, boogie woogie supremo, born today in 1905.
Pianist Meade ”Lux” Lewis born, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Taking his cue from older players, Jimmy Yancey and Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, Meade was one of the premier exponents of boogie woogie as the driving piano style caught the mood of late 1930′s America.
Recording “Honky Tonk Train Blues” in 1927, Lewis drifted away from music and was washing cars when record producer John Hammond heard the track and was enthused by his two- fisted, barrelhouse boogie woogie style.
Tracking him down in 1935 and persuaded him to return to recording and playing live, Hammond then booked Lewis for his 1938 “Spirituals to Swing” celebration of black music at Carnegie Hall – an event which saw jazz, blues and folk artists start to gain acceptance from white audiences.
Fellow boogie woogie pianists Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson were also on the bill and as the craze spread, Lewis would work with childhood friend Ammons – famously recording for the fledgling Blue Note label. As the boogie woogie craze died away in post-war America, Meade continued to record blues and barrelhouse tunes, making various appearances in films.
Meade died in June 1964, a victim of a car accident.
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And here’s some footage of Lewis in action: