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Music HoF honors Lewis & Wright

By Mary Allyce Special to the Courier

The 2013 Bandera Music Hall of Fame Vocalist, Gary Lewis, will receive his award in a year of "firsts."
He and Blue Cowboys' bandmate, Mark Wright - the first drummer to be recognized by voters - will both be honored in a ceremony that moves for the first time to the Silver Sage Community Center on Oct. 27. It will take place from 3 pm to 5 pm.
As frontman and bass player for Arkey Blue's Blue Cowboys at the Silver Dollar, Lewis had mighty big shoes to fill when he stepped in for the late Doug Livingston when Livingston's health forced him to retire. Livingston was the Music HoF's 2012 Living Legend. Lewis calls Livingston his "mentor and a great friend," a friendship Lewis more than returned during the last year. He also stepped into those "big boots" with ease, energy, talent and vocal range as impressive as the playlist that keeps dancers on the sawdust covered floor at the 2012 Legendary Venue.
Born in Waco, Lewis's early exposure to music was not guitar. "I played the tuba in the school band in sixth grade," he recalled. Lewis played tuba for six years until his parents bought him a guitar, which he taught himself to play.
During the year between high school and his military service, he played bass in several bands in the Corpus Christie area; however, two tours of Vietnam while serving in the United States Navy put Lewis' music on the backburner for years. It was Bandera and the music scene here that relit the fire and drew him back in 1988.
"The first place I found was the Silver Dollar," he said. "The minute I walked down those stairs, I felt like I was home. Doug Livingston heard me sing and let me get up on the bandstand. Kenneth Stroud at the old Bandera Forge - 2008's Legendary Venue winner - got me in there on the Sunday jams." After repeated trips over the years, Lewis made Bandera his permanent home in 2009.
The winner of the Vocalist honors has no formal training, but credits his clear, pure baritone to "a little Baptist church" where his mother sang in the choir. He said, "That's where I learned to use what God gave me."
Referring to his current success and the style it takes, Lewis noted, "I hung onto traditional country music. It's my forte." It's also what sells in Bandera, specifically at the Silver Dollar where fans and dancers from all over the world come to scoot a boot and two-step around the sawdust covered floor.
In addition to the bandstand at the Silver Dollar, Lewis has played for local Chamber of Commerce events, private parties at Williams Creek Depot in Tarpley and for private parties. "Music is strictly a pleasure," he stated firmly, echoing what his audiences would surely say of his performances.
"Join Lewis, Mark Wright and their fellow honorees, Tooter Ripps, the Loyd Bonham Band and representatives of the late Lore Orion when they take the stage at the Silver Sage from 3 pm to 5 pm, Sunday, Oct. 27," said a spokesman for the Bandera Music Hall of Fame. "It's going to be a great show featuring the best of the best of Bandera music and musicians."