1975 Steve Lewins left his native Hatfield for London where he joined the embryonic Count Bishops [bass player]. Gigged mainly around London before recording an EP. “Speedball” for Chiswick Records. Toured the UK and Europe during which they were recorded at a club by Dynamite Records who released an album “Good Gear”.
Recorded a single “Train, Train” [Chiswick]. More touring followed by the album release “The Count Bishops”, again for Chiswick from which another single “Baby, You’re Wrong” was lifted.
Toured in a two-band bus with Motorhead who had had also just released their first album for Chiswick. Befriended Lemmy who put him in touch with Wilko Johnson, late of Dr. Feelgood. Formed the Solid Senders with Wilko and immediately went on the road before recording the album “Solid Senders” for Virgin Records plus a single “Walking On The Edge”. More touring followed before the band eventually burned itself out. Formed a short-lived but lively band The Untouchables with two members of Blast Furnace & The Heatwaves. Featured on the Hope and Anchor Festival Album.
Solid Senders at Knebworth 1978:
L-R, Wilko, Alan, Steve. Pianist John
Denton is off picture, right of Wilko
Joined the punk band Chelsea and after a short Scottish tour, went to the United States for a coast-to-coast tour that also included gigs in Canada. Filmed at the Santa Monica Civic for a movie “Urgh! – A Music War” which also featured The Police, The Cramps, Dead Kennedies, X and others. In New York he was able to check out the blues scene there which enabled him to re-focus. After returning to London he immediately made arrangements to return to the U.S. The night before leaving he played his last gig with Chelsea at the 100 Club.
In L.A. with Chris Bashford - eating tacos
As a “Bass-for-hire” session player he first recorded a single for a band who subsequently invited him to perform it on the TV show “New York Dance Stand”. He then stole the drummer for the two bands he was in the process of forming, Watt Tyler and Black Cat Bones. Both bands began working in the New York area and went through a string of colourful managers.
The Fugitives at CBGB's 1987:
l-r, Rick Bacchus(guit), Steve(voc,windmill bass), Billy Cardinal(behind
drums),Gene Casey(Ld.guit,voc) [Pic sent by Don Mead Jr of Connecticutt]
Bluesmen who came to NY would often arrange to have a band in that town to perform with, to avoid taking a band on the road. In this way, Steve played many shows with such people as Otis Rush, Bo Diddley Jnr., Hubert Sumlin, Little Buster’s Soul Brothers and Johnny Copeland in addition to playing impromptu sessions with such as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Being involved in the NY “new wave” scene he also played with Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Cheetah Chrome and continued doing regular recording sessions for many aspiring NY artists.
[Pic sent by Don Mead Jr of Connecticutt]
He relocated to New Orleans after a visit in 1992 preferring to play acoustic bass outdoors rather than electric bass indoors. The main street attraction at that time was the Big Mess Blues Band led by Augie Jnr. who had just lost their bass player. Not owning a double bass Steve assembled a washtub bass and was invited to join them.
Within a couple of months he had saved enough money to purchase a double bass. This band played on a daily basis and was a big local and tourist attraction. Being highly visible on the street he was offered many club gigs with artists such as Little Freddy King, Mighty Slim and The Moodswingers, Corey Harris and The “Crown Prince” of Zydeco, C.J. Chenier with whom he toured the Eastern Seaboard. He was also playing more club gigs with Jeremy Lyons who had arrived in New Orleans three months before Steve.
A bit of The Big Mess:- l-r, Corey Harris, Jeremy Lyons, Steve Lewins
The two of them had started playing club gigs with various drummers at places around the "Quarter" like the Dragon's Den, Margaritaville, House Of Blues and "live" sessions at WWOZ radio (Steve saw John Sinclair cycling up the street one day. pulled up alongside him and said that if he didn't have the band on his show he would be missing out big-time). By this time they had a regular drummer in Paul Santopadre and were the first Delta Blues "power trio". The band by now were playing several times per week and became very popular in and around New Orleans.
In the summer of ’97 they toured in Sweden and Switzerland (the Libertie Festival in Frieberg). Upon returning to the US he was refused re-entry and returned to the UK
Two problems: His bass was somewhere in New Orleans [for the European tour, basses were provided by the promoters to save the double expense of having a flight case made and transporting it] and the other being that he could not find a delta style guitarist having gone to several “blues jams” in and around London with a borrowed electric bass. Deciding on a different approach to the music he took up guitar and harmonica. Five months later he bumped into an old friend, Danny Bacon, ‘the perfect drummer’, laid the idea on him and gave him a pair of drum brushes. This became the Fly Jugband. The F.J. played a few local bars and then began being booked into the 12-bar club in Londons’ Denmark Street.
He then went to Amsterdam ‘to play on the street for the last couple of weeks of summer’, the London street-music scene being non-existent. This enterprise came to an abrupt halt when he was hit by a car and later dumped in a doss house by the Amsterdam police. While spending three weeks ‘busted up on his back’ all his possesions were stolen so that when he finally emerged from the place he had to start from scratch. This was a slow process but eventually he was busy enough to become a serious threat to the panhandlers, pick pockets and crack heads of the Amsterdam ‘underworld’. This was a very dangerous period as he was attacked many times over 'territorial claims'. "Nobody ever stopped me from playing, and they tried like Hell". He became a well-known fixture at Amsterdam's Markets and gig offers followed including a great many parties. " It's party music, so it follows".
Shortly after deciding to return to the UK he was spotted and videotaped by a talent scout for the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Holland’s most popular and versatile orchestra whose musicians are drawn from the best orchestras in the Netherlands. He was invited to appear at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s ‘Albert Hall’ as a guest of the NBE’s annual New Years Day (2003) Concert, a Dutch ‘institution’ broadcast ‘live’ on national TV. Reviewing the show the following day, Het Parool [Daily Telegraph equivalent] proclaimed “it took the skinny Catfish Slim (aka Steve Lewins) to magically transform the NBE into a true Blues-rock ensemble”. The show produced a CD and Video, both of which are commercially available. He played another show with the NBE in The Hague before returning to Britain to form the Mudbugs.
May 2005 Steve reverts the Mudbug Jugband to its original name of the Fly Jugband!
Key to photographs (from the top):
1. © Ace Records
2. Album cover "Solid Senders" Virgin Records 1978
3. © Margaret Steinman
4. © Thomas B. Trocco
5. © Halcyon
6. © NBE
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