Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wink Lewis on Queen 153 (UPDATE)


Wink Lewis (with) Buz Busby Band - Low Ball Blues / Stand Still (Queen 153)

"Low Ball Blues"



"Stand Still"


Singer/Disc Jockey: rare indeed was the CV of any aspiring country star in the 1950s that didn't list both qualifications. Most of them, like Biff Collie for example, were far better disc jockeys than singers. A small minority, like Bill Mack and Fred Crawford, were far better singers than disc jockeys. But the court of public opinion -- cold, brutal, but more often, merely silent -- doesn't have time to weigh everything in the balance, and therefore many a deserving singer shuffled dejectedly off to a lifetime spent in soundproof booths reading from prearranged "playlists," usually featuring boring, tepid vocalists who simply got lucky with a few hits.

What of W.E. "Wink" Lewis, then? He zig-zagged all around Texas and Louisiana for most of the '50s and '60s, DJ'ing for a variety of 10,000 watters, along the way cutting some very good records on small labels...a few of which he owned, or co-owned,  including Queen. By the mid-'60s we find him in Houston,  still trying to put out records, this time on the Pla-Boy label (Jimmie Heap's Banned In Tijuana album...if you've never heard it, don't worry, the title is the most clever part). Lewis then drops off the radar. Did he stay in radio? 





Billboard, May 21, 1955


Lewis is probably best remembered for his uncredited vocal on Hoyle Nix's 1955 "Real Rockin' Daddy," which is a western swing record often mistaken for rockabilly (record collector logic: since it has the word "rock" in the title, what else could it be?). That record is simply an update of Wink's slightly earlier "I'm a Honky Tonk Daddy" (Feature), which is also quite good honky-tonk from the Jay Miller Studio. 

From this same time period (late 1955/early 1956), still based in the West Texas town of Snyder (south of Lubbock), Lewis emerges with "Low Ball Blues" (actually the B-side) b/w a strong ballad, "Stand Still," already recorded by Jerry Dove on TNT. The least known of Lewis's records, I think it makes a worthy companion piece to "Real Rockin' Daddy." Unfortunately, Lewis tried to "lowball" production costs by having the Queen records pressed by cheapo TNT, so even mint copies of these singles usually play with a massive dose of hiss. Anybody out there who can "remaster" this so we can actually hear the band, feel free to do so. 


UPDATE: Joe Specht wrote to confirm that Wink Lewis's real name was Winfred E. Lewis. Thus, he is probably the Winfred Earl Lewis listed in the 1951 Houston Musician's Union Directory. Kevin Coffey wrote with the surprising info that Wink Lewis died in 2007, still living in Cameron, Tx. He must have gotten out of music after the '60s.


2 comments:

  1. Does anyone know if the back-up band for this record could be the same as Buzz Busby and the Bayou Boys? They were a bluegrass band that had a spot on the Louisiana Hayride from ca. Nov. 1955 to May 1956 and recorded a single for Jiffy. Other than a fiddle, it's hard to recognize any similarities, though they could have played other instruments, or Busby himself could have collected mostly other local musicians and played as an alternative band.

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  2. I think it could be the same Buzz Busby. Busby made a couple of rockabilly singles in the late '50s so he wasn't exclusively bluegrass.

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