Despite the fact that he’s known for blowin’ the big baritone horn with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Roger Lewis declares, “I’m really a tenor player at heart.” He took piano lessons at age eight but became interested in saxophone because his cousin, Alvin Daily, played alto. His father bought him a sax when he was 10 years old and a few years later Lewis was gigging in the Lower 9th Ward with a group called The Wailers. In both junior and senior high he played tenor with the schools’ marching and concert bands. After a stint with Deacon John, the saxophonist made his first road trip in 1962, hitting the “chitlin circuit” with pianist Eddie Bo. Good thing the road agreed with him, because for 25 years he’s been touring with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and that last year boasted a whopping estimated 300 gigs. After playing both tenor and baritone in Irma Thomas’ band during the late 1960s, Lewis joined Fats Domino’s ensemble in 1971. “Going with Fats was like going to an [educational] institution,” says Lewis. “Actually, New Orleans is an institution in itself.” Early on, he also attended the Grunewald School of Music, took numerous private lessons and attended Southern University where he hooked up with trombonist Charles Joseph (All-Star 2004) who was a factor in his joining the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Lewis makes his presence known when he arrives back home. In the 1980s he’d get together to blow with the likes of saxophonist Fred Kemp (All-Star 1996) hitting the jams and making gigs. These days he jumps in with the Treme Brass Band for second-line parades and jazz funerals, playing baritone or soprano sax. Jazz is in the house when Lewis is onboard, even when the rhythm and blues of Fats Domino is on the menu.
Wyckoff, Geraldine. “Our Jazz All-Stars The Class of '07,” New Orleans Magazine, 03/27/2007. Available online at www.neworleansmagazine.com
Full Name: Roger Lewis
Contact: Please communicate any messages or requests for information about this principal to Folkstreams administration by our
Contact Form. Thank you.