24 February 2022

Happy birthday, Little Roy Lewis!

Photo: B Chord Photography

Roy M. 'Little Roy' Lewis of Lincolntown, GA, was born eighty years ago today (24 Feb. 1942) and from the age of 9 was performing with his parents and siblings in the Lewis Family, the 'First Family of bluegrass gospel', playing 5-string banjo, guitar, and autoharp, singing, and (outstandingly) clowning - of his entries, exits, antics, and costuming, all you could predict was that they would be unpredictable. Sonny Osborne, in his much-missed Bluegrass Today column 'Ask Sonny anything', gave examples of the pranks with which Little Roy would punctuate Osborne Brothers performances.

Ted Lehmann's 2018 article for No Depression, 'Little Roy Lewis: an icon of bluegrass culture' is an excellent assessment and biographical outline, and includes six performance videos. A briefer interview by Elizabeth Tracy, 'Little Roy Lewis: still on the road', appeared in Banjo News Letter in Nov. 2017. For over twenty years he and his foster-daughter Lizzy Long have been performing as a duo and leading the Little Roy and Lizzy Show (also on Facebook). Typical quotes from the Elizabeth Tracy interview are: 'I always try to find something new' and 'Everywhere I go is fun'. Happy birthday, Little Roy!

Update 25 Feb.: See also Richard Thompson's much more informative article on Bluegrass Today, with two videos and several photos.

© Richard Hawkins

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