Boogie Woogie Piano Greats

Meade Lux Lewis

Lewis was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1905. His father, a guitarist who made two recordings of his own, introduced Meade to music and arranged for violin lessons. Meade gave up the violin at age 16, shortly after his father's death, and switched to the piano. The nickname "Lux" was given to him by his boyhood friends. He would imitate a couple of characters from a popular comic strip and his friends started calling him the Duke of Luxembourg because of this. The name stuck for the rest of his life. He became friends with Albert Ammons during childhood, a friendship that would last throughout their lives.


A 1927 rendition of "Honky Tonk Train Blues" marked his recording debut and his performance at the historic From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938 brought Lewis to public attention. 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.

Lewis was quite fond of the Minneapolis area, where a niece lived, and would visit as often as he could. He appeared annually at the White House Restaurant (no longer existing) in Golden Valley. He began a successful three-week engagement there in May 1964. Around 2 am on the the morning of Sunday, June 7, leaving the parking lot of the White House and heading east on Olson Memorial Highway, Lewis' Chrysler Imperial was rear-ended by another car that was traveling at an estimated 80 mph. Lewis' car was pushed 400 feet, impacting a tree and killing him instantly.