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Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr. (born May 27, 1935) is an Americanmarker jazz composer, pianist and radio personality. He has been referred to as "the great performer", a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections which display his early gospel playing and classical training (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.) along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. Ramsey Lewis has recorded over 80 albums and has received five gold records and three Grammy Awards so far in his career.


Ramsey Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinoismarker, to Ramsey Lewis, Sr. and Pauline Lewis. Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four. At 15 he joined his first jazz band, The Cleffs. The seven-piece group provided Lewis his first involvement with jazz; he would later join Cleffs drummer Isaac "Redd" Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

The trio started as primarily a jazz unit and released their first album, Ramsey Lewis And The Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. Following their 1965 hit The In Crowd (the single reached #5 on the pop charts, and the album #2) they concentrated more on pop material. Young and Holt left in 1966 to form the Young-Holt Trio and were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White. White was replaced by Maurice Jennings in 1970. Later, Franky Donaldson and Billy "The Bhudda" Dickens replaced Jennings and Eaton; Felton Crews also appeared on many 1980's releases.

By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy, and Wade in the Water. Many of his recordings attracted a large non-jazz audience. In the '70s, Lewis often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups.

In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosted a morning show on Chicago "smooth jazz" radio station WNUA (95.5 FM) until May 22, 2009. His weekly syndicated radio program Legends of Jazz, created in 1990, features recordings from artists such as David Sanborn, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau and Miles Davis. The show can be heard in 60 U.S. cities and overseas. On December 4, 2006, the Ramsey Lewis Morning Show became part of Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network, simulcasting on other Smooth Jazz stations across the country for the first time. However, the show was still based in Chicago until it was cancelled when WNUA switched over to a Spanish format.

In 2006, a well-received 13-episode Legends of Jazz television series hosted by Lewis was broadcast on public TV nationwide and featured live performances by a variety of jazz artists including Larry Gray, Lonnie Smith, Joey Defrancesco, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Pat Metheny and Tony Bennett.

Lewis is artistic director of Jazz at Ravinia (an annual feature at the Ravinia Festivalmarker in Highland Park, Illinoismarker) and helped organize Ravinia's Jazz Mentor Program. Ramsey also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music, a Chicago inner-city music program and The Chicago High School for the Arts, the new public arts high school in Chicago. Early in 2005, the Ramsey Lewis Foundation was created to help connect at-risk children to the world of music. As an offshoot of that foundation, Lewis plans to form a Youth Choir and Youth Orchestra. In January 2007, the Dave Brubeck Institute invited Lewis to join its Honorary Board of Friends at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Lewis is an Honorary Board member of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Lewis is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

Lewis still lives in Chicago, Illinoismarker, the city of his musical roots. He has seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.


Album Date
Gentlemen of Swing 1956
Gentlemen of Jazz 1958
Lem Winchester with the Ramsey Lewis Trio 1958
Down to Earth (Music from the Soil) 1959
An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio 1959
Stretching Out 1960
More From Soil 1961
Never on Sunday 1961
Sounds of Christmas 1961
Bossa Nova 1962
The Sound of Spring 1962
The In Crowd Live at the Bohemian Cavern 1962
Pot Luck 1963
Barefoot Sunday Blues 1963
Bach to the Blues 1964
More Sounds of Christmas 1964
At the Bohemian Caverns 1964
Country Meets the Blues 1964
The In Crowd 1965
Choice! The Best of the Ramsey Lewis Trio 1962-64
Hang on Ramsey (Live) 1965
Wade in the Water 1966
The Movie Album 1966
The Groover (Live) 1966
Hang on Sloopy 1966
Goin' Latin 1967
Dancing in the Street 1967
Up Pops Ramsey 1967
Greatest Sides, Vol. 1 1964-67
Maiden Voyage 1968
Mother Nature's Son 1968
Live in Tokyo 1968
Solid Ivory (His Greatest Hits) 1963-68
Another Voyage 1969
The Piano Player 1969
The Best of Ramsey Lewis 1970
Them Changes 1970
Back to the Roots 1971
Upendo Ni Pamoja 1972
Funky Serenity 1973
Newly Recorded . . . Golden Hits 1973
Solar Wind 1974
Sun Goddess 1974
Don't It Feel Good 1975
Salongo 1976
Love Notes 1977
Tequila Mockingbird 1977
Legacy 1978
Ramsey 1979
Routes 1980
Best of Ramsey Lewis 1981
Blues for the Night Owl 1981
Three Piece Suite 1981
Live At The Savoy 1982
Chance Encounter 1982
Les Fleurs 1983
Reunion 1983
The Two of Us (with Nancy Wilson) 1984
Fantasy 1985
Keys To The City 1987
A Classic Encounter 1988
We Meet Again (with Billy Taylor) 1989
Urban Renewal 1989
Electric Collection 1991
This is Jazz #27 1991
Ivory Pyramid 1992
Sky Islands 1993
Urban Knights I 1995
Between the Keys 1996
Urban Knights II 1997
Dance of the Soul 1998
Appassionata 1999
Urban Knights III 2000
Ramsey Lewis's Finest Hour 2000
Urban Knights IV 2001
Meant To Be (with Nancy Wilson) 2002
20th Century Masters - The Millennium

Collection: The Best of Ramsey Lewis
Urban Knights V 2003
Simple Pleasures 2003
Time Flies 2004
Urban Knights VI 2005
With One Voice 2005
The Best of Urban Knights 2005
The Very Best of Ramsey Lewis 2006
Mother Nature's Son 2007
Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey 2009

Awards and recognitions

Grammy history

  • Career Wins: 3
  • Career Nominations:

Ramsey Lewis Grammy Awards History
Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1965 Best Jazz Performance - Small Group or

Soloist with Small Group
"The In Crowd" Jazz Argo/Chess Winner
1966 Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance -

Vocal or Instrumental
"Hold It Right There" R&B Chess Winner
1973 Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance "Hang on Sloopy" R&B MCA Winner

Gold records

Currently, the normal RIAA certifications for a gold album is 500,000 units.

Gold Records
Year Title Label
1965 The In Crowd Chess
1966 Hang on Sloopy Rhapsody
1966 Wade in the Water Chess
1968 The Sound of Christmas Chess
1976 Sun Goddess Columbia


  • 2002: Ramsey Lewis, carried the Winter 2002 Olympic Torch, Ramsey lights the cauldron for its brief stop in Chicago.
  • 2003: NAACP Image Award, Best Jazz Artist, for his album Simple Pleasures (2003)
  • 2006: 22nd Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, Best Gospel Instrumental Album, With One Voice (2005)
  • 2007: National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Masters Award
  • 2007: Landmarks Illinois, Legendary Landmark Award, as one of living treasures of Illinois. "Just like our landmarked buildings, our three Legendary Landmarks have been critical to the civic well-being of Chicago and stand as a testimony to the greatness of our cultural integrity." said David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois.


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