Little Roy Lewis: Big Enthusiasm & Gratefulness


Little Roy Lewis!

enthusiasm and gratefulness

by Emerald Butler

Long-time banjo player and entertainer Little Roy Lewis of The Little Roy and Lizzy Show turned 80 years old this year

but his spirit and exuberant personality portray him as still in his 20s. He was born in 1942, and he first made money performing when he was only six years old. While speaking with Little Roy, he shared his enthusiasm and gratefulness for the music he has performed throughout his life and is still to come.

Little Roy and Lizzy like to keep the roads hot, so when the band gets home, Little Roy says that “when you live in a bus for three weeks, it turns into a hog pen.” Though the bus may have its blemishes, Little Roy likes to keep his performances and shows like a tight ship. 

Roy's Musical Journey

“I learned a long time ago from watching the gospel groups,” Little Roy recalls.

Little Roy has never heard a complaint about his lively showmanship, but he admits that he wouldn’t listen to them anyway if there were any complaints. “I know what I want to do, and I started finding out that people like to have fun.” Little Roy’s advice on being a good entertainer is to “always have something to talk about,” which contradicts old adages of “shut up and play” once instilled in some traditional groups. “A lot of people don’t understand that when you’re on the stage, you’re not recording.” He advises to, above all else, keep the show going.

Roy began his musical journey performing with his family, The Lewis Family, and gospel music groups like The Blackwood Brothers and The Statesman Quartet. “They just knew how to do it,” Little Roy stated. He also enjoyed watching Lonzo and Oscar on the Grand Ole Opry. Little Roy has always had an eye and ear for  entertainment, not just music.

“I loved to watch cartoons, and I just got it from all kinds of directions. The main thing that I want to do is that when I walk off that stage, I want everybody happy, and I want the music to be right. If it’s not right, then I’m in a bad mood for a few days because it takes me a while to get over it. I guess I’m just a—I don’t know what you’d call me, but I want everything right and on time. I tell people if I’m not there, check with the funeral home.”
The group keeps the show and the wheels turning all over the states. “Pennsylvania has been awful good to us. My family, Lizzy, and me too. I love to go to Pennsylvania because there are so many Amish people and Mennonites. They all really like us. Well, I like everybody; I’d like to say that I guess I don’t have a real favorite place, but if I get there and the crowd is into it, then I’m into it too!”
If the crowd isn’t into it, let’s just say the Little Roy puts them into it. “I have jumped out into the crowd and clapped for my own self!” That’s not one of his jokes, but Little Roy says it works every time to get the crowd going.
The happiest memory Little Roy shared happened in 1961 during a television performance he did with his family. “I can say that was one of the happiest times of my life. Bluegrass was new to everyone back then. The record sales that we had were just unbelievable. At the time, we wouldn’t get that much at the door, but we just couldn’t believe the records that we sold. That was a happy time of my life because we were making good money.”
Little Roy

Record sales might not be like they used to be, but that’s not stopping Little Roy and Lizzy from releasing new material. The group releases its new album on April 28th, and it premieres at the 9th annual Little Roy and Lizzy music festival. Little Roy shared that he thinks this new record is the best one he and Lizzy have done together so far.

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