For nearly three decades Shreveport was known as “The Record Center of the South.” The man who was single-handedly responsible for Shreveport earning that designation was Stan Lewis. Stanley J. Lewis, born on July 5, 1927, in Shreveport, Louisiana, passed away on July 14 at age 91.
Lewis was raised in a close-knit Italian family that ran a grocery store. At the age of 19 he bought five 78 jukeboxes and discovered that it was difficult to procure new records for the machines. This sparked his interest in the retail and wholesale end of the record business.
In 1948, Stan and his wife Pauline founded Stan’s Record Shop at 728 Texas Street. The store grew into an empire with six retail stores and a nationwide mail-order business. In addition to selling records, the shop sold tickets to live performances like the Louisiana Hayride. Lewis developed a friendship with Leonard Chess (Lewis named his son after Chess) which resulted in Chess releasing records by Shreveport musicians, including “Suzie Q” by Dale Hawkins.
Lewis formed his own record label in 1963, launching Jewel and signing Abbeville’s Bobby Charles. The first single was numbered 728, the same as the shop’s address on Texas Avenue. Jewel was soon followed by Paula and Ronn (named after Lewis’ younger brother). Lewis’ labels thrived thanks to hits by Toussaint McCall, the Uniques, Nat Stuckey, Bobby Powell, the Carter Brothers and John Fred and His Playboy Band, the latter responsible for the number one hit, “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses).”
By the early 1970s, Lewis’ labels had taken over from where Chess, Excello, Imperial and Duke left off. With over 200 employees, Lewis handled distribution for more than 600 record labels and during 1972 sold over 2.5 million singles and 470,000 albums. But in the late 1970s, when America’s tastes veered from roots music to funk and disco, Lewis hit a bump. In the end he was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Retirement never appealed to Lewis and he was quick to form a new label, Suzie Q, which was operated with his son Lenny and his daughter Suzie.
OffBeat Magazine honored Stanley Lewis in 2003 with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Music Business.
In July, Stanley J. Lewis was buried at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport, Louisiana.