While most kids growing up in the 70’s were busy watching The Brady Bunch and playing Twister, 13-year-old Eliot Lewis was jamming in his friend’s basement with Peter Frampton.
And Frampton wasn’t the only one.
Because his friend’s father worked as a promotion manager in the music business, Lewis found himself rubbing elbows some of music’s most renowned performers before ever hitting puberty.
“He would take us into the city and see music; Alice Cooper, The Who, and Elton John,” he said. “I was meeting all these people and hanging out with them.”
As a burgeoning young musician, the experience was transformative. “I was a kid in a candy store, and I realized that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life; I was going to play music.”
Eliot Lewis With Joe Walsh (Photo: Mark Maglio)
Now, years later, Lewis has done just that and during his impressive career he’s performed shows all over the world at legendary venues like Madison Square Garden, Tokyo’s Budokan and the Hollywood Bowl.
In April of 2014 he performed live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and he can currently be seen performing regularly on music television channels Palladia and VH1.
If you’re scratching your head because the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s alright. Lewis said that despite not being a household name like some of his more recognizable colleagues, he’s right where he wants to be.
“There are millions of musicians who would die to be in this position, so I go through my life being grateful for the position I’m in.”
As the longtime keyboardist for best-selling duo of all time, Hall & Oates, Lewis has toured with the band for the last 20 years and is also a staple on the television series, “Live from Daryl’s House,” a live music collaboration show with Daryl Hall.
Growing up in Norwalk, Connecticut, Lewis recalls being influenced by his older brothers and his mother, a classical pianist. “That was my first exposure to music. I listened to classical music being played six to eight hours a day.”
However, when he began playing an instrument, Lewis chose sticks instead of a keyboard. “I started playing drums at 10, but at 16, I switched to the guitar.” Eventually he taught himself to play the bass before returning to his roots and playing keys. “In the 1980s, technology exploded and you could compose with various instruments on the keyboard, so I really delved headfirst into it.”
Inspired, Lewis began writing songs. Before long, he had compiled a catalog of material and was offered a publishing deal with Sony Records where he connected with singer and record producer, Dan Hartman, known for hits “Free Ride,” and “I Can Dream about You.”
They began collaborating and soon Lewis was performing on albums for Joe Cocker, The Pointer Sisters, and Tina Turner. The partnership unfortunately ended when Hartman became ill and passed away in the late 1980s.
While seeking another songwriting partner, Lewis was put in contact with Alan Gorrie, founding member of the Average White Band and the two hit it off. “The next thing you know, he’s inviting me to make a record with them and before I knew it, we were booking shows and by default I was part of the Average White Band.”
Lewis and Patrick Monahan of Train (Photo: Mark Maglio)
He played and toured with the band for more than two years and though he enjoyed it, there was something missing. “It was very exciting. I was playing in front of thousands of people, but it was also going off track for me a little bit because what I really wanted to do was be a songwriter.”
So, in 2001, Lewis left to pursue his own music. “I immediately started a local band. The main thing was to start writing for myself again.”
It was going well when a phone call from a fellow musician would change his life.
“I got a call saying, ‘Hey, Daryl [Hall] is going out on tour and we need someone who can play some percussion, bass, and keys.’”
More than 15 years later he is still performing with Hall not only as part of Hall & Oates, but also on Hall’s successful web and television series, “Live from Daryl’s House.”
Lewis recalls Hall discussing the idea for the web show with him while on a flight together in 2007. “Daryl said, ‘I really want to do this show on the internet because I don’t want to have to rely on making music and going out on tour. I want to invite people to my house and collaborate.’”
A few weeks later the first episode was launched and almost instantly garnered a following. In the past seven years the series has grown exponentially in popularity and drawn praise from numerous critics including Rolling Stone magazine, CNN, BBC, and Yahoo! Music. It was also picked up by VH-1 and Palladia, where episodes continue to air regularly.
Lewis performs with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (Photo Courtesy of Eliot Lewis)
The exposure has made Lewis a familiar face to fans and musicians alike and he’s often recognized from the show. “I was in a crosswalk recently and someone shouts out from a car, ‘Hey, Live from Daryl’s House!’”
And while Lewis doesn’t mind the recognition, he explained that fame isn’t his motivation but rather reaching people through music. “Connecting with people through music is the number one thing.”
Fortunately his work with Hall & Oates and the success of the show have provided him with the opportunity to do just that. He’s been able to return to writing and performing his own music, releasing several albums including his latest effort, “Adventure,” released through SRG records. Lewis also performs his solo show nationally when he’s not on tour with Hall & Oates.
“Being the keyboard player for Hall & Oates and being on Live from Daryl’s House has helped focus my career more than ever. I spend every free moment working on it. And that is the coolest part; being able to reach people with my own music, which was my goal from day one.”
It’s also provided him the opportunity to play with some of his music idols including ZZ Top’s legendary guitarist, Billy Gibbons, Todd Rungren, Smoky Robinson, legendary Doors members, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, and Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh, which he said was an incredible highlight.
Lewis with musician Grace Potter (Photo: Mark Maglio)
Lewis credits both Hall and Oates for recognizing and supporting his solo career. “Daryl has always been supportive; he knows I’m an artist, writer and performer.”
And according to Hall, Lewis has soul.
“[He’s] a great singer, keyboardist, guitar player, bass player and writer. Eliot is a musician who can do it all.”
John Oates also has nothing but praise for the duo’s longtime keyboard player.
“Elliot is a multi-instrumentalist equally competent on guitar, drums, bass and keyboards as well as having an amazing voice.
“On his solo projects he is able to showcase these talents clearly. As a member of the Hall and Oates band his talent is a huge asset to the other great players and singers,” he said.
He sums it up by saying that Lewis is a “true professional,” and on a personal note, “a cool guy.”
As for Lewis, he’s just happy to be living out his childhood dream. “I’m so lucky to be doing what I wanted to do when I was 10. I saw myself touring, traveling as a musician and playing in front of thousands of people.
“I’m doing exactly that; I’m doing what I love.”
For show dates and more information on Eliot Lewis, visit www.eliotlewis.com.