Ramsey Lewis | Ravinia | 15116
Ramsey Lewis tells KOSU about the day he found out his record of “The In Crowd” was a hit. It remains to this day his biggest selling recording.
When I got the phone call from Chess Records, we were in Detroit, Mich. And I didn’t quite understand it because you’ve got to understand, 1965, it was unheard of for jazz musicians to have hits. Like, it just wasn’t in our conversation. It wasn’t in our thought processes. And so a hit may be, oh, we’re going to sell an extra hundred or an extra thousand. No, you guys are going to really – this looks good. If it keeps up, this is going to be a big record. It wasn’t until it continued to just keep selling and keep selling, and they would call me and say, oh, well, now you’re up to 20,000. Now you’re up to 100,000. Now you’re up to 500,000. I – it just totally blew my mind.
He first heard the tune when it was suggested to him by a waitress at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington.
Between performances at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C., Lewis and his band mates were at a coffee shop trying to think up one last fun song to add to their set list. That’s when their waitress stopped by.
RAMSEY LEWIS: We were sitting there and just kind of talking about it and couldn’t come up with anything. So Nettie Gray came over to the table to serve us our coffee – and what are you guys doing? So we told her. And she says, well, have you heard this song by Dobie Gray? Well, she had a jukebox. Jukeboxes in coffee shops, people don’t know about that anymore. But she went over to the jukebox and played – you guys might like this. Listen to this.
One very, very good turn!
Mr Lewis is now 80. The single “The In Crowd” hit number five in the Billboard Top 100 and number two on the R&B charts. The full album hit number one, remarkable for 1965. Mr Lewis is still working – on a jazz opera.