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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.

Repository: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.archivescenter@si.edu 202-633-3270 www.americanhistory.si.edu/archives

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

Administrative/Biographical History:

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

Series 1, Press Clippings and Career Ephemera, 1950-2007, undated
Series 2, Awards and Honorary Degrees, 1993-2007
Subseries 1, Awards, 1996-2007
Subseries 2, Honorary Degrees, 1993-2000
Series 3, Photographic Materials, 1945-2007, undated
Subseries 1, Personal Photographs, 1945, 1946, 1971, undated
Subseries 2, Professional Photographs, 1959, 1966-1967, 1975, 2005-2007, undated

Acquisition Information: This collection was donated by Ramsey Lewis Jr. in March 2008.

Access Points:

Subject/Names:
Bennett, Tony
Cole, Nat King
Lewis, Jerry
Lewis, Ramsey
Poitier, Sidney
Robinson, Jackie
Taylor, Billy
Wilson, Nancy
Wonder, Stevie

Subject/Topical:
Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Tribune
DePaul University
Honorary degrees
Jazz
Jazz piano
Legends of Jazz
National Endowment for the Arts
Radio programs
Ramsey Lewis Trio
Ravinia Festival
St. Xavier's College
Steinway piano
University of Chicago
University of South Carolina

Geographic:
Chicago (Ill.)

Form/Genre:
Magazines
Newsprint
Photographs
Posters

Occupations:
Jazz musicians
Musicians

CONTAINER LISTING

Box

Folder

 

 

 

Series 1, Press Clippings and Career Ephemera, 1950-2007, undated

1

1

1950

 

2

1959

4

1

1966

1

3

1967

 

4

1972

7

1

1976

1

5

1978

 

6

1989

6

1

1989

1

7

1990

6

2

1990

1

8

1991

6

3

1991

1

9

1992

6

4

1992

1

10

1993

6

5

1993

1

11

1994

6

6

1994

1

12

1995

6

7

1995

1

13

1996

6

8

1996

1

14

1997

6

9

1997

1

15

1998

6

10

1998

1

16

1999

6

11

1999

1

17

2000

6

12

2000

7

2

2000

1

18

2001

4

2

2001

1

19

2002

4

3

2002

6

13

2002

1

20

2003

4

4

2003

2

1

2004

 

2

Legends of Jazz, 2005-2006

 

3

2005

 

4

2005

4

5

2005

2

5

2006

6

14

2006

2

6

2007

6

15

2007

2

7

Undated

6

16

Undated

7

3

Undated

6

17

Undated ephemera

2

8

Ephemera

 

9

Personal materials

 

 

Series 2, Awards and Honorary Degrees, 1993-2007

 

 

Subseries 1, Awards, 1996-2007

 

10

Chicago Legacy Award, 2000

 

11

Citizen of the Year, Gateway Foundation, 1996

 

12

Gold Medallion Award, International Visitors Center of Chicago, 2003

 

13

Jazz Master Award, National Endowment for the Arts, 2007

 

14

“Legendary Landmark of Chicago” honor, 2007 March 3

 

 

Subseries 2, Honorary Degrees, 1993-2000

5

1

DePaul University, 1993

 

2

Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 1997

 

3

Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 1997

4

6

St. Xavier University, 2000

 

7

University of Illinois, Chicago, 1995

5

4

University of South Carolina, Spartanburg, 2000

 

 

Series 3, Photographic Materials, 1945-2007, undated

3

 

Subseries 1, Personal, 1945,1946, 1971, undated

 

 

Early Childhood

 

 

Family and Friends

 

 

Subseries 2, Professional, 1959, 1966-1967, 1975, 2005-2007, undated

 

 

Performances, social events, award and fundraising galas and with actors and musicians

4

8

1974

 

9

1993

 

10

undated

7

4

undated

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Revised: August 6, 2008