Left to right: Kenny Baker, Butch Robins, Bill Monroe,
Randy Davis, Wayne Lewis.
Photo by Jim Moss
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A extended interview with Wayne Lewis
conducted by Jim Moss 6-21-03: Part 2
permission to reprint this is granted by owner, each part must presented
in its entirety with the "by line" and URL "www.candlewater.com"
Continued from : Part
JIM MOSS: I am surprised you didn't lose your hearing (driving a bulldozer)
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, it has effected it. It is showing up now.
JIM MOSS: So when you were playing with Monroe, you also had a day job.
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah, we owned the company...
I had a booking agency too.
I had one of the largest Bluegrass booking agencies in Nashville. We had like 12 Bluegrass
groups in our agency, plus we booked 3 or 4 Country groups.
We couldn't have made it on what Bill paid... you know...
JIM MOSS: Yeah, I guess he didn't pay to
much. When Baker quit, you called ahead and
I got the call to play fiddle that night in San Francisco. I was recording my album
"Through The Windshield" with Bob Black when we got that call. I felt that it be would much
better if Monroe used our bass player as I might not have finished the sessions in time to play
the beginning of the show. Our bass player, Paul Squyres got $80 to play that show in San Francisco.
He didn't care, he was having a great time.
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah... Monroe... did not....
JIM MOSS: Pay a lot!
WAYNE LEWIS: Pay a lot. I made good
money working with Bill, but I did
two or three jobs for him. I was band leader, I was guitar player, I was bus driver.
JIM MOSS: So he paid you for each one?
WAYNE LEWIS: Oh yeah!
JIM MOSS: He didn't just pay you a flat amount.
WAYNE LEWIS: I was paid a flat amount for
singing, which was union. Well, it was better
than union scale. Baker and I were probably the highest paid band members he had. Me and
Baker, he paid us the same money. But he uh... If I sold records. If I went to the record table
and sold records, then I got 15 percent of what I sold. and uh... He and I had that agreement
before... You know, I told him if you ask me to do something then you'll have to pay me cause
I figure that you will have to pay somebody else to do it. If I volunteer to do something, you don't
owe me. and uh... One reason I made more money than the rest of us because I was... you know
I took care of all the business on the road. And I made sure that the motels were there. I made
sure that everything was taking care of. I was road manager, band leader, guitar player, and singer.
And I didn't mind doing it as long as I could make a
living. That was my whole thing.
And like Monroe use to say "most musicians are lazy" they won't... Well, number one they
can't get out of bed. If they play half the night, they won't get out of bed the next morning. you know..
And me, I never slept more than three, four hours at a time. And so I could sit up half the night
and pick, and then sleep three and a half, four hours, and I was up and I was ready to go.
Me and Monroe was up the next morning when we was on the road... he and I were up, and out,
taken care of business. you know and.... I stayed with him pretty close.
JIM MOSS: Did he ever have any rules about you not recording with anybody else?
WAYNE LEWIS: you know... he never
uh... He never said anything to me about that.
The only time he ever said anything, was one time a guy asked me to work a show with him.
And uh... we were doing the Opry. And he wanted me to go do a show with him after our
spot at the Opry? and Monroe told me I couldn't do it. And I told him, I said well...
I am finished for tonight. Your not paying me tonight. You only pay me the days I work.
And I said uh... The Opry paid me tonight. and I said uh.... As far as I am concerned I am
not on duty and I am going go do it. and I just walked out and did it. and uh... he never
said anymore about it. but I know he uh... Baker... I think Baker told me once that back
earlier, he had told him that he couldn't record with some people? but, you know how uh...
Well, Baker went ahead and did it anyway.
JIM MOSS: Yeah, I would say that as far as I
Baker could do pretty much anything he wanted.
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah its... you
know... Monroe wasn't a hard man to work for. Everybody
has that... everybody... they said that... Everybody would talk about how rough he was to work for.
If he knew that you were trying. If he knew that you were putting out as hard as you could, if you
could do the job real good or not, really trying to do good, Monroe never said anything to you.
JIM MOSS: He seemed like, as long as you liked his music, then you were in.
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah. There was
uh.. When I first went to work for him. See I was up in my
thirties when I went to work for him. Most the guys who he had hired, except for Baker and Joe Stuart
they were just young guys. And I was pretty head strong about my music. and uh... Bill and would
argue some over... He'd say, "Your doing that wrong" and if I felt like I was not doing it wrong,
then I would voice my opinion. And uh... I told him... I always told him, I said, if I am not singing
it they way you want it sung, you tell me. I will try my best to sing it how you want it. And the only
thing he ever told me about my guitar playing was uh... Well, I guess there was two things.
Uh... When you catch your D cord, you don't hook your thumb over the E string... and play the 6th string?
He didn't want that note, he didn't want you to hit that bass D note.... on the second fret?
He did not want you to hit that... (laughs) and uh... course he only had to tell me a second time
and I didn't do it. And he didn't... You know that bouncing run that Martin did on some of that...
you know that "dew dew, dew dew".
JIM MOSS: Yeah right!
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah we was playing something
one night... and I hit that run pretty heavy?
bouncing that... that run and he told me he said "that right there, that's that stuff that Jimmy Martin
plays. That don't fit my music". (laughs)
So, uh... I didn't play it anymore.
JIM MOSS: Did you ever hear him talk about Earl? Lester and those guys?
WAYNE LEWIS: ahh? When I first
went to work for him... uh.. Well, when I first started
hanging out around him, you know... He didn't want you spending a lot of time... uh.. talking about them.
They were "Taboo" you know...
JIM MOSS: Oh is that right? At that late date?
WAYNE LEWIS: And then uh... When was
it that he and Lester kinda patched things up?
1972 I think, cause I know I was at Bean Blossom when it happened. and uh... He used to tell Baker
and the band members uh... Not to hang out with them guys. you know... Uh That was what I was
told, I never heard him tell em, but that was what I was told. but uh... He never really gave me any
ultimatums on who I could talk to, who I could play with, because I was hard headed and probably
if was told that I could not go do something, I would have done it. If I knew that it would kill me, you know.
Cause like I say, I was older than the people he was use to having. But I always told him, I always told him
"Monroe, I will never lie to you". But if you ask me a question and you want the absolute truth I'll
give it to you. If you don't want the absolute truth, don't ask. I am not a yes man.
JIM MOSS: Well, when did this actually come into play?
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, I can't really
remember... there was a couple of times... One night
when we were getting ready to leave the Opry... we were going to Bean Blossom, he wanted uh...
He had a big cattle truck with a big trailer behind it... had a tractor on the trailer and had a load
of lumber in the truck and he wanted the truck to go to Bean Blossom that night. And I told him
I wasn't... There weren't any lights on the trailer. And he said that it had to be up there in the
morning. I said, I am not taking it up there tonight, till they get the lights fixed, I am not driving it.
So he and I had a pretty decent argument over that. Butch (Robins) still laughs about it... cause Butch
thought he and I were going to get into a fight over it. But you know, uh... I stood my ground.
I told him, I said, "if you want it up there, you drive it".
JIM MOSS: Did you ever go out and do work on his ranch at all?
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah, he and I use to raise
cattle. There was an on and off period of maybe
a couple of years when Baker was raising hogs.... lot of money in livestock... and uh.. Monroe said,
"If you'll help me, we'll...." he said, "I'll buy a big cattle truck and will go to the stalk market and we'll
run them" on these two or three different farms that he owned. We'd run them all summer on these
JIM MOSS: Monroe owned three or four farms?
WAYNE LEWIS: Yes.
JIM MOSS: I always thought he only had that one place.
WAYNE LEWIS: Oh no, he had a big place in
Beaver Dam Kentucky. He had a big place in Bean Blossom.
That farm up there in Bean Blossom there was 50, 60 acres. And of course we only had the two festivals up there
and the rest of the time that grass can grow up. So we'd haul the cattle up there and let them eat.
JIM MOSS: What kind of money is there in cattle?
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, back in that time, pretty fair... decent turnover in it.
JIM MOSS: I know I went to an auction house with
Baker and Bobby Osborne and uh... Blaine was
there too as I remember. Then one year Jesse McReynolds had calves or something they were
getting ready to butcher. They were always doing something back there. It was always fun to
go there because there would always be some sort of thing going on.
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, I was raised on a farm. So the farm work, I love it.
JIM MOSS: Do you live in the city now?
WAYNE LEWIS: I live in Hendersonville.
JIM MOSS: Well, that is country!
WAYNE LEWIS: It's got some
country. I am not sure how long it's been since you have
been back here.
JIM MOSS: I was there in the 1970's 1980's.
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, Hendersonville is about
4 times the size it was then. Its an appendage
of Nashville now. When we would come in off the road, when we didn't have other things
going on? Shoot, I enjoyed going with him (Monroe) working on the farm.
JIM MOSS: Well, I'll tell you one thing...
One time when I was back there with Baker, he had
come in from working on the farm, he was showing me a tune... Roxanna Waltz I think it was.
He said to me, "When you play those notes, you pull them just like you were milking a tit".
I thought to myself... hmm ?! I hadn't been around cows, right? It took me off guard for a moment.
WAYNE LEWIS: What did you think that he was a pervert?
JIM MOSS: I didn't know what to think! It
took a few minutes, then I thought, well he must
be talking about cows!
WAYNE LEWIS: That's funny!
JIM MOSS: Well, that was his reality, cows and farm animals. My list of experiences...
WAYNE LEWIS: Well see growing up in the mountains, in the country, you pick up slang.
JIM MOSS: We had this fiddler who also had a
bluegrass show in England at Baker's house once,
Doug Mchattie, he would MC at Bean Blossom from time to time. He was out there at Baker's
and he wanted me to find him some biscuits. Well, I found him what we call biscuits and he
just looked at me like I was making fun of him. I said, hey it says Biscuits on the package!
WAYNE LEWIS: Maybe he wanted a cookie. We ran into that when we were in Europe.
JIM MOSS: There is nothing like having a language barrier at that level.
WAYNE LEWIS: I would jokingly call a
homemade biscuit a hockeypuck. Of course hockey
to Monroe... uh... these old farmers who grew up 70 years ago... Hockey was going out behind
the barn and ....
JIM MOSS: No!
WAYNE LEWIS: Oh Yeah. We went
in this truck stop and the lady said, "do you want dinner rolls or
white bread or toast?". I said, "Do you got any hockey pucks?". Monroe said, "did you say... You can't say
that word at the breakfast table! Don't you say that at the breakfast table no more!". Because the first thing
come into his mind....
JIM MOSS: Right! Well, you must have
seen... Baker told me about... well pretty much he came out of the
and then he went into the military. His experience in the military sort of made him realize that there was more
to the world then just that one little community he grew up in.
WAYNE LEWIS: Where we grew up. You
can go there today and if uh.. those people... you start
being friendly with them and just asking friendly questions? They'll just turn you off man. Yeah, cause they
think you are a revenuer or some kind of a government man coming in to spy on them?
JIM MOSS: Baker told me that. He said that when
he grew up, where he grew up... he said, if you moved
in to an area and ask the neighbor on the left about the neighbor on the right, that they would run you out of town
WAYNE LEWIS: Yeah!
JIM MOSS: See that whole code... I bet a lot of people get into a lot of trouble going around there.
WAYNE LEWIS: Well, its just like, when I
was growing up, my grand daddy... I remember one of the
things he always told me... They'd talk about... you'd hear them kinda whispering in the house about
women that were loose? Women that were ladies of the night, or could have been if they were in a
different district? He always said, "Son, you treat a woman like a lady regardless, because you don't
know.... you treat that woman exactly like a lady".
JIM MOSS: You know you can even get into trouble doing that.
WAYNE LEWIS: Is that right? (laughs)
JIM MOSS: Yeah Man, I got into trouble at Bean
Blossom in 1982 when.....
----------------------------- To be continued
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