THE JOHN HANNAM INTERVIEW – Lewis Berry
The man behind the music…
I first met popular Island musician Lewis Berry back in 1979, when he was a family member of the Havens Showband, who were resident at Ryde’s Ponda Rosa roadhouse.
The classy band had headed south from Bradford to make the Island their new musical home. When I recently went to see Lewis and his twin brothers, Adrian and Malcolm, at Django’s, Newport’s new venue for live music, I left with a brand new copy of his brilliant debut album, Guitar Man.
Lewis has thrilled audiences all around the Island with his guitar and vocal skills and this new solo CD is long overdue. It’s full of guitar classics, like Albatross, Apache, Lily Was Here and, of course, Parisienne Walkways. He’s appeared in our pubs, clubs, theatres, pop festivals and has enthralled both locals and visitors alike. His audiences have varied from just a dozen to nearly 5,000.
Lewis’s talents have enabled him to make a career in the music industry. He joined the Havens as a ten-year-old guitarist and has never stopped playing. His early grounding included the northern clubs, Butlin’s holiday centres and working at American bases in Germany, where they toured in an old transit van and survived some horrendous digs.
Proving his versatility for a few years he worked in a song and dance act called The Romance Duo. They were even voted Club Act of the Year on the northern circuit. They also supported several star acts, including the Brotherhood of Man and Vince Hill. Lewis had a lucky escape during a night at the Barn Club, Aston. He had set his pyrotechnics on stage and the comedian on just before them accidentally kicked one under the chair where Lewis was going to sit. It went off, set his trendy vest alight and burnt his back. He ended up in a Birmingham Hospital. The next day he had to drive to Newcastle for a 10-day tour.
Lewis has appeared on several records. These include an album by The Havens and another when they appeared on an LP by Spencer K Gibbins, who worked on the Island for several seasons.
In 1986, Lewis recorded a single for Record Shack, which was produced by Islander Rod Gammons. This was a Record of the Week on Capital Radio and his backing musicians included Steve Gregory, who became famous for his amazing saxophone solo on George Michael’s number one hit Careless Whisper.
Lewis also appeared on a 2011 contemporary album by Island-born 50s and 60s popstar Craig Douglas. This was called The Craig Douglas Project and produced by Andy Gray. Many who heard it raved over the sensational guitar solo on the Auberge track. No need to ask who that was!
The Lewis Berry Blues Band make occasional appearances and he’s been a member of The Mix, a band well known to Islanders, for many years. They do numerous mainland gigs and have played at London’s Savoy Hotel, Claridge’s and The Ritz.
When Lewis is not performing solo gigs he works with the family band called the Newberries. They consist of his twin daughters, Bethany and Natalie, and his twin brothers.
Lewis is a musician who can play for every occasion and can easily adapt his music to varying audiences. He’s played at local weddings, donned a Bob Dylan wig to sing once every hour at a mainland two-day promotion for the Island and entertained thousands at The Needles. He also supported Nine Below Zero at Newport’s Medina Theatre. Once, he appeared in front of 5,000 people in a special Southend soul night. He was shocked when he found out it was also going out live to half a million radio listeners.
So, why this brand new solo album?
Lewis said: “I have always noticed the same songs going particularly well and, thanks to Tony Wheatley, I have been able to record them. I have been self-indulgent on one track. It’s called Spring High and written by Stevie Wonder. It was the music that played behind Tom Browne’s countdown on his old Top 40 national radio show.”
The album is available at his gigs and can be downloaded from several popular sites. There are more details on his website and Facebook page. There is also a blues EP, called the Lewis Berry EP, available to download. He now has plans for more albums, including one featuring his vocals.
Ironically, he only went solo when his local musical partner, Colin King, had a spell in hospital. They had dates to fulfil and he was forced into it.
The morning I interviewed him, he’d had three gigs the day before and was still up early. Just before I left I did a quick audition in his studio, where his latest album was recorded. Sadly, he quickly realised I can’t play a note. No album for me then!