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Music Arts Monthly

(Oct 21, 2015)

Rhythms Of The Rainbow

From Father to Son

Life-long love of music
Results in first CD

Norwalk native John Lewis grew up watching His father perform jazz around their home and decided to join in. Now, decades later, he has released his first CD; Rhythms Of The Rainbow on his independent label.

I watched my father and his friends around the house when I was little because I couldn't go to clubs then, Lewis said in a recent interview, It amazed me how jazz was played and how my father and his friends could ad-lib the songs. One song was never played the same way.

The Willingboro, N.J. resident said that he named his company Musical Thirds Records because he is John W. Lewis III.

His father and mentor, the late John W. Lewis Jr., died of throat cancer in 1991.

The elder Lewis, a pianist and xylophonist, played at the Peppermint Lounge on West Avenue and the White Swan Hotel on Old Post Road, former Norwalk Businesses, as well as the Yale University Night Club in New Haven when the family lived in Norwalk.

My father worked for Van Buren Cleaners and West Avenue Cleaners
(in Norwalk) during the day and gigged at night Lewis said.

Though Lewis left Norwalk at a young age, he said that he remembers lots of snow and his time spent at Tracey Elementary School.

I remember singing duets at Tracey, said Lewis 44. I remember Mrs. Vogel, the principal; Mrs. Bredice, my kindergarten teacher; and Mrs. Doulens my fourth grade teacher. She was my father's teacher too.

He also remembers lots of musicians around the house.

There was Horace Silver, the jazz pianist from Norwalk, who's been recording for 40 years and was recently honored at one of the school reunions, he said. ?He played the tenor sax, but he had a back problem. So my father got him playing the piano. "

Lewis said that Norwalk native Keter Betts, a bass player who played with many well-known jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald, also rehearsed in their home before his father moved the family to Washington, D.C. in 1966.

In the city Lewis was a member of the All-City Junior High Chorus, the DC Youth Chorale, and the Howard University Gospel Choir. He went on to study music at The University of D.C., and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

It's funny, said Lewis sister, Fran Johnson. I thought Johnny might be a podiatrist because he always wanted to fix your feet. He had these plastic instruments hitting here and there. He was a quiet, cooperative kid, but he always had a passion for music. I knew he’d be a singer when he was in junior high because when our father had music jams at the house on Sundays Johnny would be right there." Johnson, a Stamford resident, said that though Lewis worked various jobs, she knew it was just until he could become financially stable enough to sing fulltime.

I began singing professionally in clubs with my father when I was 21, Lewis said.

After working at the Pentagon for 23 years, Lewis decided to relocate to New York City to advance his music career.

There he met Ronald Bostick, or BOZ a bass player who produced Rhythms Of The Rainbow.

The CD will do well with people who appreciate music, said Bostick, a Brooklyn N.Y. resident who has worked with James Brown, Lionel Hampton, Parliament and the Funkadelics, and SWV. The phony stuff is fading, John doesn't listen to someone and try to write like that person. His lyrics are poetic, positive and unique.

Record labels rejected his work, so Lewis recorded his CD on his label, which he began in 1993, hoping that a major label will later pick up the distribution.

When your CD kicks-off independently, the major labels approach you, he said.

It feels wonderful to release my own CD and on my own label too, and not having anyone give me direction on how it should sound, Lewis said. I also formed my own publishing company, Slamin' Jams Music in 1994, so when record labels do approach me I'll still have my publishing rights.

Lewis said that when writers write songs that do well on the market, they get paid royalties for writing and owning the song; from air play; and from how many records are sold, if they published the song themselves.

If someone else publishes your song, they get the royalties, Lewis said. They pay you for the song and that's it.

When an artist belongs to Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) or American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), both in Manhattan, the company keeps track of how many times an artist's work is used.

ASCAP reviews your music before accepting you, Lewis said, but it costs nothing to join BMI.

Slamin' Jams Music is an affiliate of BMI. And Musical Thirds Records is an affiliate of the Association For Independent Music (AFIM) located in Whitesburg, Ky.

AFIM helps independent companies with contacts, record companies, distributors and sales representatives, Lewis said.

Lewis said AFIM was a great help during the five years it took to complete the CD.

I started in 1992 and finished in 1997. he said. It took me so long because I wrote all of the songs myself and produced the CD independently.

The CD is soothing, Johnson said. Rhythms Of The Rainbow is the relaxing type of music you listen to after work to wind down, but then again it's also music you can dance to.

Lewis said that the title track is about his life.

Music is my escape. That's why I chose to write and perform, he said.

He dedicated the CD to his wife Sarah who died during an epileptic seizure in 1997.

She wrote Follow Our Hearts and Never Stop to me as poems before we were married, he said, so I wrote the music and turned them into songs for the CD.

Lewis added that he is interested in starting foundations for cancer and epilepsy in the names of his late father and wife.

Rhythms Of The Rainbow is on sale at CD Revolution, 281 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk, and Sally's Place, 190 Main St. in Westport, as well as Tower Records in New York. Lewis can be reached by e-mail at

My songs are getting air play in Australia and the Bahamas, Lewis said. I’m considering going abroad for a while, but I'd love to perform in Norwalk soon to see if people are still as down-to-earth as I remember.
Sherelle Harris - The Hour