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A Musical Guru
Relaxing at home after his daily massage last Wednesday, Joey Lewis said: “I am feeling well; so far so good. I am just here, just chilling. I get my massage in the morning and my masseuse is really good. Just let the fans know that Pal Joey is well.”
A protege of both Clarence Curvan and Joey Lewis, Roy Cape has also been an admirer of Lewis for more than half century. He said: “The joke with me and Joey is that the first big band I ever had an audition with was the Joey Lewis Orchestra in 1961. I failed the audition.
“Joey had staying power. Since my playing with Clarence Curvan and Ron Berridge, since back in the day, bands came and bands went, but Joey Lewis remained there. He is like the Rock of Gibraltar.”
Cape also said he is greatly impressed by Lewis’ influence on the local music landscape. He explained: “Outside the calypsonians Joey was the first musician and band to begin composing his own songs. In those days there was the Saga Ting dance and Joey actually composed a song named Saga Ting. I have many good memories of Joey like in the 60s when there used to be a lot of ‘non-stops’; that is bands succeeding each other, one behind the other, on stage at a fete. We played a lot of non-stops with Ron Berridge, Dutchy Brothers, Clarence Curvan and Joey Lewis. It was continuous music from the time the party began til it ended.”
Cape hailed Lewis as an outstanding musician and band leader, adding: “Joey is the longest serving band leader in entertainment in this whole wide world. After him is Byron Lee, followed by me. It is a major challenge to successfully keep a band going for more than 60 years and Joey has done so successfully.
Joey has been committed to local music for many years. He has made a significant contribution to composing local music, like his hit Joey Saga.
One of the creators and progenitors of the soca music genre, Pelham Goddard also has fond thoughts of Lewis. He said: “Joey Lewis is a child prodigy. As a young guy playing guitar, I admired him and his versatility. Joey could play any instrument. He inspired me in a big way. He was one of the first musicians to play the electric keyboard in this country.
“I also admired him as an arranger/producer as he had a vision and was the first musician to have a home studio.”
Echoing Cape’s views, Goddard continued: “Joey’s music has lasted a lifetime. For somebody who had no formal training in music this is phenomenal. When superstars like Frank Sinatra began performing, Joey was already in music. I really admire Joey’s style of doing Latin music. He is incomparable in this area. Joey has endured since the days of Clarence Curvan, Dutchy Brothers, Mano Marcellin and all those heavyweights. I really hope that he beats the illness which had him laid up as he still has so much inside him, and so much to offer.”
Like so many of Lewis’ fans who grew from childhood enjoying his music, Woodbrook resident Michael Germain is a life long devotee of the music guru: He said: “My first exposure to Joey Lewis and his music was while attending school at St Mary’s College. Back then combos were the big thing. Growing up with Rediffusion and Radio Trinidad we got to hear the big bands of the day so we were exposed to good music as young people. I was on the committee for the school’s graduation fete at the Hilton. It was unanimously decided that Joey’s band would play at our HC (Higher Certificate / Sixth Form) grad. It was amazing because, at that time, Joey actually had a band in a band. At the start of the fete his full band would play and afterwards would be replaced by his smaller Latin combo. Joey influenced me more than anything else in the kind of music I would like and embrace the rest of my life.”
As he attained manhood, Lewis’ music continued to have an influence on Germain. “I followed Joey’s band for many years as his was one of my favourite bands,” he confessed. “Then, in 2000, I was asked to be the musical director for a Latin band (Pa’l Destino). At first we played no where public for six months; just doing rehearsal after rehearsal. Joey heard the band and called me and said that Latin music is our tradition as Trinidad is closer to Spanish-speaking people that we imagined. Both he and the late Andre Tanker encouraged me not to reduce the size of the band but play always with full force. The first time Joey heard the band live, we were performing at a function at Grand Bazaar and he told me afterwards that he was ecstatic about the band and our music. This has given me encouragement and today the Pa’l Destino CD is a collector’s item.”
Wishing Lewis a speedy recovery from his illness, Germain said: “I think Joey had been one of the forgotten icons in our nation. We need to let our young people know from whence our music originated. We need to play more of the old music on the airwaves; the music from both the combos and big orchestras. We have a treasure trove of good, amazing music that is just lying in the dust.”
Lewis’ fans are numerous and are spread across our entire twin-island state, and abroad. Now resident in Pennsylvania, USA, Jackie, 66, actually lived for a while with Lewis and his family. She said: “What can I say of Joey Lewis? He is truly a Godsend, having myself and son living with him and his family for two years.
Joey is caring, trustworthy and always willing to give advise. My family and I will always be indebted to the family. He is a father to my nephew and nieces who lost their father at an early age. Of course, I am also grateful to God for giving Joey the gift of music and him sharing that gift with so many people.”
Avid ballroom dancer Irene Lewis is also a fan of Joey Lewis. The Chaguanas resident said: “Joey is the best. There is no other band that can touch him and his band. His music is incomparable.”
A 60th anniversary celebration is being planned to commemorate Lewis’ musical career on May 30 at a venue to be chosen. Many of Lewis’ past colleagues and fans are to be invited.
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