The Lewis Family is known all across the globe as Georgia’s “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music.” The Lewis Family (based in Lincolnton, Georgia) has always blended old-time string-band music traditions with vocal harmony singing we all know as Blue Grass Gospel Music or Southern Gospel.
The Lewis Family has performed at numerous festivals and bluegrass and gospel music venues from the moment they started out in 1951. The band’s gospel harmony singing was accompanied by guitar, autoharp, banjo, and upright bass.
The Lewis Family had a weekly show for more than 38 years on WJBF television station in Augusta, Georgia. One of the most prominent fans of the group in the Memphis area was Elvis Presley. On November 7, 2009, the Lewis Family held its farewell concert at the Lewis Family Pavilion in Lincolnton.
Here are the Members of The Lewis Family:
Roy “Pop” Lewis, born on September 22, 1905, in Sickens, South Carolina
Roy passed away on March 23, 2004, in Washington, Georgia
His primary instrument was the bass
Bluegrass singer and bass player James Roy “Pop” Lewis was the family patriarch of the world-renown “1st Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music.” Pop Lewis brought The Lewis Family to stardom as one of America’s best bands in Southern Gospel. At the beginning of the 1950s, Pop started to promote his talented children while singing and playing together with them at bluegrass and gospel concerts all over the nation. Read also this post about the three main traditions of Gospel Music.
Blanche Pauline “Mom” Lewis, born Holloway on June 20, 1910, in Washington, Georgia
Pauline passes away on February 8, 2003, at the age of 92, in Washington, Georgia
Her primary involvement was supporting the Lewis family tours and vocals
Pauline Holloway “Mom” Lewis was really the matriarch of The Lewis Family. She and Roy “Pop” Lewis had been married for 77 years. The couple had 8 children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Nannie Omega “Miggie” Lewis, born on May 22, 1926, in Augusta, Georgia
Miggie died in December 2017 in Lincolnton, Georgia
Her primary involvement was vocals
Miggie was one of the original Lewis Family members. She spent almost six decades (58 years to be precise) singing and traveling with her parents, siblings, nephews, and nieces. Check out also the Lewis Family Biography.
James Wallace Lewis, born on July 6, 1928, in Lincolnton, Georgia
Wallace passed away on May 16, 2007, in Washington, Georgia
Wallace’s main instrument was the guitar
James Wallace Lewis was one of the founders of the Lewis Family (“the 1st family of gospel bluegrass music). He played the rhythm guitar and was singing for more than 50 years. In 1992, he was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Georgia. In 2015, he was inducted as well in the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor.
Talmadge Lewis was born on December 31, 1934, in Lincolnton, Georgia
Talmadge died on Saturday, January 13, 2007, and is buried in Paramore Hill, Georgia
His primary instruments were the fiddle and mandolin
Initially, the Lewis Family started out as “The Lewis Brothers.” The group included Esley, Wallace, Talmadge, and Little Roy. Esley left the band in the ’50s for military service and Talmadge (mandolin and fiddle) continued to play in the group for some 20 more years after which he started an automobile sales business in 1972.
Polly Lewis Copsey was born on January 23, 1937, in Lincolnton, Georgia
Her primary involvement was vocals
Polly Lewis Williamson Copsey was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame but due to health issues, she couldn’t attend that great event herself. Copsey was one of the three sisters who were the backbone of the Lewis Family’s sound for many years.
Janis Lewis Phillips was born on February 13, 1939, in Lincolnton, Georgia
Janis’ primary involvement was vocals
Janis Lewis Phillips contributed a lot to The Lewis Family’s ongoing success. The daughters Miggie, Polly, and Janis gradually joined the group in the 60s and 70s as some of their brothers dropped to pursue their business careers. The sisters’ beautiful harmony singing became characteristic of many of the family’s songs.
Roy “Little Roy” Lewis was born on February 24, 1942, in Lincolnton, Georgia
Little Roy’s primary instrument is the banjo
Little Roy started to play the banjo when he was only six years old. It wasn’t long before Little Roy became the group’s center and he played multiple instruments. He was also a great clown and, to be honest, Little Roy’s fine banjo playing is still somewhat underappreciated in the world of Bluegrass Music. At the age of 8, “Little Roy” already won a banjo contest at the Lincolnton high school auditorium, in 1950.
Travis Lewis, born on December 26, 1958, in Greenwood, South Carolina
Travis’ primary instrument is the upright bass
Travis joined together with other Lewis Family members to form the Lewis Tradition by the end of 2009. The group’s debut release, (titled Precious Memories) delighted many fans that have always enjoyed the Lewis Family’s music. Janis Lewis Phillips, “Pop” and “Mom” Lewis’ youngest daughter, joined her son (Lewis Phillips) and her nephew (Travis Lewis) to form this new group. Travis’s oldest son, Jameson, also joined the group.
Lewis Phillips, the son of Janis and Earl Phillips, was born on April 5, in Washington, Georgia
Lewis’ primary instrument is the banjo
In 2010, following the end of the Lewis Family as a band, Lewis started to work with a new band named The Lewis Tradition. The band included his mother (Janis Lewis Phillips), his cousin Travis Lewis (late Wallace Lewis’ son), and Jameson Phillips, Travis’s oldest son.