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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Vic Lewis born 29 July 1919

Vic Lewis (29 July 1919 – 9 February 2009) was a British jazz guitarist and bandleader. He also enjoyed success as an artist's agent and manager. Primarily known as a conductor and composer than a performer, Vic Lewis was an important figure in British jazz from the early 1940’s onwards. 

Victor Joseph Lewis was born at Brent, north London, on July 29 1919, the son of a jeweller. He took up the banjo as a young boy, later switching to the guitar. At the age of 16 he formed his first band, the Vic Lewis Swing String Quartet. This won first place in a radio talent contest, which launched his career and was soon being broadcast by the BBC and Radio Luxembourg. His debut recording was in 1938 on a New York session featuring Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell and Bobby Hackett.  

During World War Two Lewis served in the Royal Air force and formed a band with drummer Jack Parnell – The Lewis-Parnell Jazzmen. They were a popular group who often topped music polls and recorded for Parlophone. Lewis also made a number of recordings with the Buddy Featherstonehaugh Sextet on HMV and formed his first professional band with Carlo Krahmer as co-leader featuring George shearing on piano. Shearing wasn’t the only international name to have an association with Lewis – a seven year old Victor Feldman made his recording debut alongside Lewis. Between 1944-1945, Lewis worked with Stephane Grappelli & Ted Heath before starting his own band. 

Lewis put together his first big band in 1946 to play swing jazz, but soon after its formation Lewis began to direct the ensemble toward the sound of Stan Kenton. Often billed as “The Music Of Tomorrow By the Band Of Today,” his sound was regarded as ‘progressive’ for the times, frequently featuring the arrangements and compositions of pianist Ken Thorne.

Many comparisons were made with Stan Kenton at the time and there’s no doubt that Lewis had a healthy regard for Kenton’s sound. Indeed, Kenton would give Lewis charts for music by the likes of Bill Holman and Pete Rugolo (including Rugolo’s ‘Hammersmith Riff’, performed at the inauguration of a twenty piece orchestra at the Hammersmith Palais).  

Lewis visited the US with his band during a tour in 1956-57 and again during 1958-59 and was one of the most respected British jazzers of the era, recording with the likes of Nelson Riddle on the July 1962 recording ‘Vic Lewis Swings Nelson Riddle’ Throughout the 1950s the orchestra toured with popular singing stars of the day, such as Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray, with Lewis as conductor. 

As the 60s moved on and with the demise of his orchestra, Lewis set up as a booking agent, his first client being Dudley Moore. In the years that followed he dealt with most of the established names in show business, on both sides of the Atlantic, with most of whom he was photographed, smiling broadly. His one failure, which he shared with every other agent, came with a vain attempt to lure Elvis Presley to Britain.  

In 1965 he sold his agency to Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, and gained a seat on the board of NEMS, Epstein’s company. When Epstein died in 1967, Lewis became managing director, overseeing the careers of stars such as Elton John and Cilla Black.  

Lewis went on to represent many other pop stars, including Robin Gibb and produced tracks on Gibb’s 1970 solo album ‘Robin’s Reign’ during Robin’s brief split from his brothers. Lewis also booked Elton John's first tour, as a support act at £60 a night. 

Lewis was an avid cricketer and established his own cricket club. Between 1976 and 2001, he also served as a General Committee Member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. In 1987 Lewis published an autobiography, Music and Maiden Overs and collaborated with Robert Feather on a collection of photographs, My Life in Jazz, published in 2007.  

Lewis also had a foot in the door of more serious music and conducted recordings of his own and others with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Vocalion, CDLF 8112 which included excerpts from his Russian Suite, a Romance for Violin, and two movements (Red and Jade) from a multi-composer suite called Colours.
Vic Lewis was appointed MBE in 2007 and died in London on February 9, 2009 at the age of 89. 

For Vic’s Discography go here: 

(Info compiled mainly from Wikipedia & The Telegraph)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Vic Lewis ‎– The Best Of "The EMI Years" go here:

1 Vic's Tune
2 Ricardo
3 Danielle
4 Last Minute Bossa Nova
5 Bossa Nova Scotia
6 Rio
7 Two Note Samba
8 Bossa Nova Blues
9 Town Talk
10 Bass Is Loaded
11 Sax Blue
12 Basiec Riddle [Alternative Take: Take 2 - Including Nelson Riddle's Speech]
13 Basiec Riddle [Issued Take: Take 5]

For “Vic Lewis – The Beatles My Way (1969)” go here:

01- Eleanor Rigby (04:31)
02- Blackbird (02:37)
03- She’s Leaving Home (02:57)
04- Julia (02:46)
05- The Fool On The hill (02:30)
06- I Will (01:56)
07- Norwegian Wood (03:00)
08- Yesterday (02:29)
09- Goodnight (03:13)
10- Strawberry Fields Forever (04:30)

A big thanks to Ludovico @ Entre Musica for original link of The Beatles My Way album.