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LEROY LEWIS - Panama

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Published on Feb 23, 2009

LEROY LEWIS at The Mighty Wurlitzer.

From the LP(33 1/3 rpm vinyl) : "PANAMA". EARSA Records 1001 S.

Leroy Lewis version of the conga Panamá, at the Mighty Wurlitzer. This conga was written in 1930 by cuban born composer Ernesto Lecuona.

Leroy Norman Lewis:
American organist born in Reading, PA ., in 1935. He is an important part in the history of this wonderful 3/27 Wurlitzer Opus 2043(a.k.a. "El Bombarde") in Panama City,Panama.

At 14 years old, he was playing professionally and was also a teenager when he played a pipe organ for the first time. Lewis was playing at the Promenade in Newark N.J. when he was heard by George Bowles, owner of the Surf City Hotel on Long Beach Island. Engaged by Bowles to play at the Surf City Hotel in 1957, Leroy Lewis assisted by Ted Campbell, an organ technician, installed the first visual (pipes behind glass, allowing all the pipes to be seen) Wurlitzer Theatre Organ in the United States. At that time Leroy Lewis was only 21 years old. From The Surf City Hotel, Lewis opened at the newly-built Lighthouse Inn on Long Beach Island. In the early 60s, Lewis met John Doyle, at that time manager of the Panama Hilton Hotel in Panama City , Panama. Doyle was anxious to present Lewis at the El Panama and give him the freedom to choose any Wulitzer organ he desired. Lewis selected the three-manual, 27-rank Wurlitzer originally installed in the Stanley-Warner Theatre, Atlantic City, N.J. in 1929. One of the two largest three-manual WurliTzer ever built ! Lewis with Ted Campbell, disassembled the organ and moved it an installed it to the Panama Hilton Hotel's El Bombarde Room.(July 1962). Leroy Lewis had a near-five years tenure as resident organist at the El Panama Hilton Hotel. He also recorded several LPs and returned to the United States. After Lewis another american organists were hired by the El Panama Hotel . Among them we can mention : Lyn Larsen, Bill Coffman and Jon Fisher. The latter recorded a LP .
About 1974-1975,according with the Wurlitzer Opus List, the organ was acquired by Jose A. Riba, a panamanian businessman, organist and composer. The organ was sold afterward, to El Hotel Continental , located just in front El Hotel Panama (no longer owned by the Hilton Hotel Chain). In 1979, Leroy Lewis with Ted Campbell, his technical assistant , came back to Panama , as consultants on erecting the organ in its new home : The Continental Hotel's El Sótano lounge. The organ is currently located in the hotel's lobby bar. On that ocassion, the organ was scheduled to be opened by organist Andy Kasparian hired to be the house organist. He was recommended for the job by Leroy Lewis who was at that time appearing at Conley´s, a Pittsburgh night spot. Lewis retired and moved to Winter Park (Central Florida) in 1989 and remained playing the organ in nearby venues and at the Panama Canal Society Annual Reunions. He lost his battle against cancer and died October 28, 2000 at age 65. One of the Best !
Fotos Zinho cortesía de photospanama.com

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