Roy “Pop” Lewis: 1905 to 2004
The patriarch of bluegrass gospel’s Lewis Family, Pop Lewis of Lincolton, Georgia, died of natural causes on March 23. He was 98.
Known as the First Family of Bluegrass Gospel, the Lewis Family were pioneers from the early 1950s on, and counted Elvis Presley and Chet Atkins among their fans. Paving the way for generations of bluegrass gospel artists and stylists, they traveled extensively each year and made scores of recordings; their gospel music TV show in Augusta, Georgia, aired from 1954 until 1992. The Lewis Family was given the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Distinguished Achievement award in 2001.
Though Pop’s children and, eventually, grandchildren were the featured members of the group, his leadership and stage presence underscored the ensemble’s family roots and offered a calm counterweight to son Little Roy’s instrumental pyrotechnics and antic humor. He frequently capped their sets by singing “Just One Rose Will Do”, a dignified and typically modest epitaph for a lifetime of accomplishment: “When time shall come for my leaving/When I bid you adieu/Don’t spend your money on flowers/Just one rose will do.”