The Lewis Family

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From a humble beginning in 1951, the Lewis Family rose to prominence as an icon of bluegrass gospel music to untold thousands of fans throughout the United States and Canada and wherever else throughout the world the music is played.  It was October 25, 1925 that Roy Lewis used a ladder to take 15 year old Pauline Holloway from her home to elope in nearby McCormick, South Carolina.   They may have been young at the time, but their marriage lasted 77 years, ending only at Mom's death February 8, 2003.  They had eight children: Miggie, Wallace, Esley, Mosley, Talmadge, Polly, Janis and Roy (Little Roy) Lewis.  
 

The family had a love of music, and the children began to play instruments at a young age.  Mom Lewis taught Wallace a few chords on the guitar when he was twelve.  Little Roy began to learn to play the banjo when he was only six.  When Little Roy was eight years old, he won a local talent contest singing and playing a 5-string banjo.  Today Little Roy is recognized as one of the foremost five-string banjo pickers in the country.  

The Lewis Family began as "The Lewis Brothers" (Talmadge, Esley, Wallace and sometimes Little Roy).  In the 1950's Esley left the group to enter military service.  Talmadge, who played mandolin and fiddle, continued about 20 more years until 1972, when he left to devote full time to his automobile sales business in Augusta.  The brothers played country songs, fiddle tunes and played for square dances.  The first performance as The Lewis Family was in 1951 when they were invited to do a gospel music program for Woodmen of the World in Thomson, GA.

In the early 1950's the Lewis Family was invited to appear on a TV program at WJBF-TV in Augusta, GA.  It was approximately April 1954 when they began their own TV show appearing every Sunday afternoon.  The show ran every Sunday for a national record of 38 years, ending in 1992 due to the family's demanding travel schedule.  The Lewis Family continued to record a Christmas show for WJBF until the group's retirement.

The Lewis Family bought their first bus in 1960 and gave up their day jobs soon after to sing and play full time.  In 1970 the Lewis Family began playing on the bluegrass festival circuit. The Lewis Family appeared regularly at the Albert E. Brumley Singing and at other gospel music concerts as well.

The Lewis Family first recorded in the early 1950's for the Hollywood label.  Then they had four songs recorded on two 78's for Sullivan, who was also the Lewis Family's first sponsor on TV.  The Lewis Family spent 15 years recording for Starday, and 16 years at Canaan.  After a few years at Riversong, the Lewis Family recorded with Daywind Records.

One of the Lewis Family's best known songs is "Slippers with Wings", written by Randall Hylton, who wrote many songs for the Lewis Family, including some of their title songs "Hallelujah Turnpike" and "Good Time Get Together".  Pop Lewis' trademark song was "Just One Rose Will Do."

During their years of travel, The Lewis Family averaged around 200 concerts a year. For 22 years The Lewis Family Homecoming & Bluegrass Festival was held in The Lewis Family's hometown, Lincolnton, GA, at the Elijah Clark State Park. In the late 1990's Wallace had to retire from the group due to Parkinson's disease. Wallace's son, Travis, played bass fiddle for the group and helped drive the bus from 1974 until 2004.  Pauline "Mom" Lewis passed away on February 8, 2003, and patriarch Roy "Pop" Lewis died at age 98 on March 23, 2004. The Lewis Family continued to travel until the fall of 2009 when the group officially retired. At the time they retired, The Lewis Family onstage included Miggie, Polly, Janis, Little Roy, and Lewis.

(Lewis Family History information can be found in "The Lewis Family history/picture book - 45 years on the stages of America, a retrospective" by Lance LeRoy. Some information on this page provided thanks to the Singing News and Danny Jones.)


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