Meade Lux Lewis (September 1905 – June 7, 1964) was
a United States pianist and composer, noted for his work in the
boogie-woogie style. His best known work, "Honky Tonk Train Blues", has
been recorded in various contexts, often in a big band arrangement.
Early recordings of the piece by artists other than Lewis include
performances by Adrian Rollini, Frankie Trumbauer, classical
harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe, theater organist George Wright (with
drummer Cozy Cole, under the title "Organ Boogie"), and Bob Zurke with
Bob Crosby's orchestra. Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer often
included it in his repertoire and recorded it in 1972. Biography
Lewis was born Meade Anderson Lewis in Chicago, Illinois in September
1905 (September 3, 4 and 13 have all been cited as his date of birth in
various sources). In his youth he was influenced by the pianist Jimmy
A 1927 rendition of "Honky Tonk Train Blues" on the Paramount Records
label marked his recording debut. He remade it for Parlophone in 1935
and for Victor in 1937 and a recording exists of a Camel Caravan
broadcast, including "Honky Tonk Train Blues" from New York City in
1939. His performance at John Hammond's historic From Spirituals to
Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938 brought Lewis to public
attention. Following the event, Lewis and two other performers from that
concert, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson often appeared as a trio and
became the leading boogie-woogie pianists of the day.
They performed an extended engagement at Café Society, toured as a trio,
and inspired the formation of Blue Note Records in 1939. Their success
led to a decade long boogie-woogie craze. with big band swing
treatments by Tommy Dorsey, Will Bradley, and others; and numerous
country boogie and early rock and roll songs.
He became the first jazz pianist to double on celeste (starting in 1936)
and was featured on that instrument on a Blue Note quartet date with
Edmond Hall and Charlie Christian. Lewis also played harpsichord on a
few records in 1941. After the boogie-woogie craze ended, Lewis
continued working in Chicago and California.
Lewis appeared in the movies New Orleans (1947) and Nightmare (1956).
Uncomfortable typecast as a boogie-woogie and blues pianist, Lewis spent
his later years playing rags and old-time pop songs. He also appeared,
unaccredited, in the movie It's a Wonderful Life playing piano in the
scene where George Baily gets thrown out of Nick's Bar.
Lewis died in a car accident in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1964,