OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
Title: Ramsey Lewis Collection
Collection Date(s): 1950-2007; undated
Extent and Forms of Material: 2 cubic feet, including photographs, press clippings and awards (7 boxes)
Creator: Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis Jr.
Abstract: The collection includes press clippings, awards, honorary degrees, and personal and professional photographs of Ramsey Lewis Jr., renowned jazz pianist. The majority of the collection is press clippings relating to Lewis’s social appearances, performances, and CD releases from the early 1990s to the present.
Collection Number: AC1126
Processing Note: Processed by Sarah Allan (volunteer), Tiffany Draut (intern), Reuben Jackson, archivist, March, 2008; supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist.
INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Preferred Citation: [Title and date of item], Ramsey Lewis Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX
IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION
Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 27, 1935, to Ramsey Lewis Sr. and Pauline Lewis. Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four. At fifteen, he joined his first ensemble, The Cleffs. This seven piece Chicago-based group provided Lewis with his first involvement with jazz. While a member of The Cleffs, he met drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt and bassist Eldee Young, with whom Lewis would eventually form the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
The Trio released its first album in 1956, Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing. In 1965, the Trio had a hit recording, “The In Crowd.” In 1966 Isaac Holt and Eldee Young left the trio to form their own group, The Young-Holt Trio, and were replaced by bassist Cleveland Eaton and drummer Maurice White. White would leave Lewis to form Earth, Wind and Fire in 1970.
By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists. He had additional commercial success with “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water,” recordings which attracted a large non-jazz audience.
In 1974, Lewis’s album Sun Goddess, which featured Maurice White and additional members of Earth, Wind and Fire, introduced him to yet another generation of music lovers. Lewis often played electric piano throughout the decade, but by the end of the 1970s he returned to the acoustic piano. In addition to recording and performing, Lewis currently hosts a morning show on Chicago radio station WNUA. He is also the host of a weekly syndicated Radio program entitled Legends of Jazz. In 2006, Lewis hosted a thirteen episode Legends of Jazz television series, which was broadcast on public television nationwide, and featured live performances by a variety of jazz artists. In 2007, Lewis was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Scope and Content: The collection documents the life and career of Ramsey Lewis Jr., famous jazz pianist, and later, host of a popular syndicated radio talk show. Though the majority of the collection consists of press clippings relating to Lewis’s social appearances, performances, and CD releases from the early 1990s to the present, it also includes photographs from his early life and career, as well as selected correspondence tied heavily to events mentioned in the press clippings and a very small amount of personal materials. The collection contains programs and menus from social and fundraising galas, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, slides, awards, honorary degrees and diplomas, and a medal. Those interested in Ramsey Lewis, as well as the social scene of Chicago in the 1990s, will find this collection useful.
Series 1, Press Clippings and Career Ephemera, 1950-2007, undated, includes event programs, fliers, mailings, newspaper and magazine articles, and other publicity materials relating to events or jobs (such as his radio show or the PBS television series Legends of Jazz). There is a small amount of sheet music for the theme song to Legends of Jazz, PBS miniseries. A very small amount of correspondence closely tied to a specific event or media article is also included among these materials. Box 2, folder 8 includes career ephemera: an audio interview, a Joint Venture Proposal, and an article on hip-hop in National Geographic. Box 2, folder 9 contains personal material including a birthday card from Lewis’s sister and a church program about his father, Ramsey Lewis Sr. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Series 2, Awards and Honorary Degrees, 1993-2000, presented to Ramsey Lewis from the early 1990s to the present. The materials are arranged first by type and then alphabetical order.
Series 3, Photographic Materials, 1945-2007, undated, includes photographs, slides, and reproductions of photographic prints of Lewis’s life and career, mostly from the early 1990s to the present, with some from his childhood and earlier life. There are a number of images of Lewis with actors and musicians including Sidney Poitier, Jerry Lewis, Stevie Wonder, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson and Billy Taylor. Photographs of Lewis’s performances, social events, award and fundraising galas are also included among the materials. The materials are arranged in chronological order.
System of Arrangement: The collection is arranged in three series
Acquisition Information: This collection was donated by Ramsey Lewis Jr. in March 2008.