HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAMSEY: STILL THE IN CROWD @ 80


posted by Robert J. Carmack  #@blues2jazzguy

Ramsey Lewis in Color older version

Ramsey Lewis posing in recent times

Composer, Pianist, TV host and Jazz legend RAMSEY LEWIS has been referred to as “the great performer,”  a title reflecting his performance and style. It seems strange saying Ramsey Lewis in the same sentence as 80 years old.  Still youthful looking and playing at the peek of his power ,one would never know it.

I grew up on Ramsey sort of..I mean, One day me and a buddy was fooling around with his cousin’s jazz albums listening and just checking out people we never heard of before. we were able to do this unsupervised because his cousin was in Viet Nam, a long ways away from seeing us . Especially since we were only 13, well, almost 14.

We were just trying to be cool and mature by knowing all the latest Cats in Jazz and those before as well. Anyway, I ran across this one album that had a beautiful black woman with a dress sitting by a pond barefooted looking all sexy.

As all young boys do, we started bragging on our latest girls looking as good or better than . Finally I said,  “lets play that record?” my friend said, ” Man,I don’t know??? looking at them  is one thing, but playing it might mean trouble. But I egged him on by telling him he was chicken,”I’m Not CHICKEN! ,He said loudly. “OK you not chicken then play it and prove it, I replied.

Huffing and puffing, He finally reached over and took the album out of the sleeve and put it on the stereo Hi-Fi (that’s right Hi-Fi).. from the very first cut we were popping our fingers and lighting imaginary “Joints” , then we went into full “Hipster-mode” the rest of that whole album. This album “swung like a gate” on a well-oiled post.

Barefoot Sunday Blues .(ARGO Jazz label, a div. of Chicago based CHESS Records.)

I was a fan from that day on, then the big day came. Ramsey hit #1 on the radio, a cover song to an already Hit Soul tune by Dobie Gray, “The IN-CROWD”. That sealed the deal for me, that one cut changed the whole music industry for jazz. Here we are 50 years later, and Ramsey is still part of the In-Crowd, just ask anybody in music like Nancy Wilson or Quincy Jones.  

His performances and records touch all genres of music for the last 6 decades. A native Chicagoan born May 27, 1935, Ramsey represents the great diverse music for which Chicago is noted. Ramsey Lewis first captivated fans with his first album Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956.

He has three Grammy Awards and Seven Gold Records to his credit. Often called legendary, Mr. Lewis concedes “It’s a high honor when someone says so, but I don’t see myself that way. What keeps me enthusiastic and energizes me, is the realization that the more I learn, the more I find there is to know.”

Ramsey Lewis Trio in Europe  1960s

Ramsey Lewis Trio in Europe 1960s photo by William Claxton

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