Tokay Lewis

Barbara “Bobby” Lewis had been Four-J artist Jimmy Lewis’ wife and songwriter before a messy divorce pushed her back home to Mississippi. In her notebook was a brand new song called “Who Wants Me Now,” and after a phone call to the 404 area code, she found someone who did.

With something of a band, a few songs, and an unproven singer, all that remained was for Jesse Jones to sort out the finances. Jean Wallace was a beautiful blonde who used to sneak into the black clubs in the early 1950s, her audacity earning the respect of the local jazz and blues artists. Wallace had befriended Jones and had even helped subsidize his abrupt departure to Los Angeles. A real music lover, Wallace agreed immediately to stake Jones’ next move. With capital raised, Master Sound—the studio wing of NRC—was booked for a few days to lay down Bobby Lewis’ post-divorce query and the deep soul shuffler “What Can The Matter Be.” The session was a mess: the musicians understood nothing of the studio process, and the arranger, James Hudson, did more babysitting than chart corrections. The only bright spots were Morris’ broken blues guitar and Lewis’ brokenhearted vocal, the former picking around the left-for-dead carcass of a woman scorned. Studio work required discipline and experience, and these sessions became both a semester of study and the final exam. The results are enjoyable, but Jones gave them an F, regardless of the effort. These sides would eventually be issued under Lewis’ second pseudonym, Tokay, on the newly minted Tragar label, the name sharing syllables with Jones’ wife Tracy and his eldest son Gary.

Tokay Lewis Appears on: