Passings: James "Hot Dog" Lewis, Bobby Rush Keyboardist (1955 - 2015)

Keyboardist James “Hot Dog” Lewis died in his sleep after a battle with lung disease on Friday, October 23, at his home in Jackson. Lewis, who was 60 years old, was a beloved, respected figure in the Mississippi and international blues community.

Lewis was best known as the keyboard player in Bobby Rush’s band, where he earned his nickname with his zesty, freewheeling style on and off the stage for 27 years. He played on many albums with Rush and performed internationally as part of the Bobby Rush Band.

“‘Hot Dog’ played with me for about 30 years,” says Rush. “He was the most wonderful-hearted guy you would ever want to meet. He was a great musician who played in a lot of good bands. He will be missed by many friends and fellow band members. He was a dear friend, musician and player. He played on 25-30 of my records and we traveled on a lot of road together.”

“Hot Dog” was born on May 4, 1955 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and moved to Jackson, Mississippi when he was a child, after being adopted by his grandparents. He grew up and attended high school in Jackson, where he played locally with a band called Two-Three. Lewis traveled to Japan for about a year, and when he returned to Jackson, drummer Bruce Howard introduced him to Rush. He played exclusively with Rush for several years following.

Lewis’ work with Rush took him across the United States, Europe and Asia, including a performance for 40,000 people at the Great Wall of China. He will be remembered by his bandmates as an exceptional musician, solid friend and uplifting personality who always made them laugh and looked out for those close to him.

Journalist David Whiteis recalls: “He was an excellent blues and R&B pianist, obviously, but I’ll never forget hearing him in the green room before various shows, sitting at a piano playing Broadway show tunes, standards from the Great American Songbook and classical selections for his own satisfaction and for that of the people gathered around him.”

Contributions to help pay for funeral arrangements can be sent directly to Jackson Memorial Funeral Services, 922 Woodrow Wilson Avenue, Jackson, MS 39213. Call (601) 969-9457 for more information.

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