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Furry Lewis


Furry Lewis was born on 06/03/1893 in Greenwood, Mississippi, probably. There is a little confusion over the year of his birth, many sources quote 1893, but others suggest 1899 based on his 1900 census and 1895 along with 1898 are also suggested. His birth name was Walter E. Lewis. When he was seven he and his family moved to Memphis. When he was a child his friends nicknamed Furry.
By 1908, Lewis was playing solo at parties, bars and on the street. He was also invited to play a few dates with W.C. Handy's Orchestra.
Whilst travelling as a musician he came into contact with performers such as Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Alger "Texas" Alexander.
In 1922, Lewis stopped travelling and became a street sweeper in Memphis. He would stay in the job till he retired in 1966 and the job allowed him to keep playing music in Memphis.
In 1927, he made his first recordings for Vocalion Records in Chicago.
In 1928, Lewis recorded with the Memphis Jug Band, Jim Jackson, Frank Stokes, and others at the Memphis Auditorium for Victor Records.
In 1929, he recorded for Vocalion Records again in Memphis. Most of the songs recorded were blues songs, but the songs "Casey Jones" and "John Henry" were recorded as two-part versions. His guitar style was sometimes fingerpicked and sometimes used a slide.
In the late 1920s, Lewis recorded many successful records including "Kassie Jones", "Billy Lyons & Stack-O-Lee" and "Judge Harsh Blues".
In 1969, Lewis was recorded by producer Terry Manning in his apartment near Beale Street, Memphis. The recordings were released in Europe by Barclay Records. The recordings would be later released in the 1990s by Lucky Seven Records in the US and in 2006 by Universal Records.
In 1972, he performed in the Memphis Blues Caravan. Other artists included Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes, Clarence Nelson, Hammie Nixon, Memphis Piano Red, Sam Chatmon, and Mose Vinson.
In 1976, Joni Mitchell released the album "Hejira" that included the song "Furry Sings the Blues". It was about Mitchell's visit to Lewis's apartment on 05/02/1976 and a run down Beale Street. Lewis hated the song and demanded royalties for it.
Lewis would open twice for the Rolling Stones and perform on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He would also appear in the Burt Reynolds film "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" and was profiled in Playboy magazine.
Lewis would begin to lose his eyesight due to cataracts.
In 1981, he contracted pneumonia.
On 14/09/1981, Lewis died from heart failure.