Cultural Percussionist

Smiley Lewis Day

Overton Amos Lemons (July 5, 1913 – October 7, 1966), known as Smiley Lewis, was an American New Orleans rhythm and blues singer and guitarist. The music journalist Tony Russell wrote that “Lewis was the unluckiest man in New Orleans. He hit on a formula for slow-rocking, small-band numbers like ‘The Bells Are Ringing’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking‘ only to have Fats Domino come up behind him with similar music more ingratiatingly delivery. Lewis was practically drowned in Domino’s backwash.”

Lemons was born in DeQuincy, Louisiana, a rural hamlet near Lake Charles, to Jeffrey and Lillie Mae Lemons. He was the second of three sons. His mother died while he was a child, and later he named a song and several automobiles after her. In his mid-teens, he hopped a slow-moving freight train with some friends, who jumped off when the train began to speed up. Lewis alone remained on the train, getting off when it reached its stop in New Orleans. He found boarding with a Caucasian family in the Irish Channel neighborhood and eventually adopted their surname, Lewis.

Share this post

Leave a Comment