Late last summer, my daughter told me that her friend’s dad is a "rock star." Well, I had to see for myself and sure enough, my daughter was right — Kenny Lee Lewis is both guitarist and bassist for the Steve Miller Band.
Interestingly, I've had numerous conversations with Kenny's wife, Diane, because our daughters attend the same middle school and are good friends. However, most of our talks were centered on our girls and teenage stuff. This past fall, the Lewis family was gracious enough to have my daughter over for Thanksgiving dinner and it was around that time I met Kenny.
As spring arrived, our girls started softball season. Because the Lewis' are supportive parents, they show up at every game, accompanied by their cute dog — arising another friendship: Sophie and my dog, Shorty. So, one day at a softball game, I had a thought and asked, “Kenny do you still like being in the limelight?” Kenny looked at me bewildered, not quite sure where I was headed (which was hitting him up for an exclusive interview for Blogcritics).
What I did know going into this interview is that Kenny and Diane are both in the music business, and more importantly, it is obvious that they are great at their most precious “gig,” raising two terrific daughters, who possess talent of their own.
This past weekend, on a beautiful afternoon here on the Central Coast of California, I arrived at the Lewis home with my daughter, dog, and notepad in tow. Lewis greeted me with his “cat that ate the canary” smirk and gift of storytelling –– and we sat outside and had a two-hour chat.
We discussed his lengthy music background, the music business in general as well as what really happens behind the scenes of a famous band. We briefly reminisced about some of the Steve Miller Band hits that I had listened to back when I was a teenager and young adult such as "Living In The USA," "The Joker," "Fly Like an Eagle," and others.
My interview proved to go better than anticipated. It revealed that Lewis is a gifted and multi-talented musician, who “rocks” with the best and also shines as a jazz artist. And dang, can Lewis play the guitar (as seen below in a 2006 video clip from the Shoreline Ampitheatre, shredding away with fellow guitar great Joe Satriani).
Lewis is no stranger to the music business. Back in the 70's he was a very successful studio bass player in LA. It was in 1978 that Lewis landed a record deal on EMI/UA with his own band, Pieces. Later in 1981, Lewis joined up with another band, Gerard McMahon and Kid Lightening. He became a songwriting partner with notable drummer Gary Mallaber, who had been a part of the many Steve Miller Band's hits from the 70’s. Lewis and Mallaber even started a band called, Robby Yubop (Yeah, it was named after beer induced belch-talk, Lewis explained).
After three decades, Kenny Lee Lewis is still "rockin" with Miller, and is very active with other projects. Toss in a movie script Lewis has written that is now under production, two novels in the works, and his recent solo instrumental smooth jazz CD, New Vintage, and you begin to wonder: does this guy ever sleep?
So Kenny, how did you get involved with the Steve Miller Band?
Lewis: Back in late 1981, Steve Miller called Mallaber and told him he was looking for material for his next album for Capitol Records. Miller took all eight of our Tascam 80-8 masters, and transferred them to 24-track format –– [translation: Miller used all of the Lewis and Mallaber songs, which included Lewis on guitar, bass and vocals as well as Mallaber on drums]. These songs ended up on the hit album, Abracadabra, which was released in the spring of 1982, selling over five million copies worldwide.