(click to enlarge photos)
Bill Lewis was my first guitar teacher and a good friend. I met him when he returned to the Mediterranean Shop after taking master classes with Andres Segovia in California in 1964. Bill was then working as a guitar teacher in the shop owned by George Bowden. He also did repairs and adjustment to guitars in the workshop located in the back of the store on tenth avenue. As I mentioned back in Chapter 13, I came to the Mediterranean shop quite by accident and decided to take lessons in classical guitar. Bill was to be my teacher.
Renovated first shop exterior (click to enlarge)
He was a fairly tall man with an appearance and demeanor that was quite disarming.
He spoke in a frank, self assured and friendly manner that gave confidence to beginning students while impressing them with his knowledge.
He was kind, helpful and always inspiring, quick to laugh and soft-voiced when serious.
Renovated first shop interior
After I had been taking lessons for some months, George Bowden sent Bill to his Spanish guitar factory, Los Guitarreros de Mallorca, in Palma de Mallorca, where Bill was to learn more about guitar construction from the factory's expert, known as el maestro, José Ortí. Some months later, after Bill had returned to Vancouver, George sent Michael Dunn to Spain to replace him in the factory and to learn construction methods. By this time I was also teaching guitar to beginners and intermediate students.
Fast forwarding into time, George Bowden returned to the Mallorca factory and left the Mediterranean Shop in the hands of his son. Bill Lewis decided to start up his own shop 'Bill Lewis Music' on Broadway near Dunbar St. (Vancouver). Many of his friends and teachers from the Mediterranean shop, including myself, followed him and took part in setting up his business. I remember helping to paint the walls of the new shop. Bill, in mock seriousness, sent me up a tall ladder to paint part of the ceiling, handing me a large brush and paint can.
As I was gullible, I headed up the ladder determined to get to the top until halfway there, when my knees started to shake, I glanced down to see Bill laughing and motioning for me to come back down. He had a sense of humour and knew that I was easy prey for a joke.
Later, after I had moved to Spain and was teaching in Palma de Mallorca, I received a letter from Bill with photos of his renovated shop, a new exterior and an interior full of merchandise, as well as pictures of his workshop. By then Bill was a recognized figure in the Vancouver guitar scene.
Together with his brother Jack he was building electric guitars that were unique in their construction. Lewis Guitars were played by known performers and were treasured by those lucky enough to own one.
Bill's note re above photo
Bill later moved his business to new premises on the corner of Dunbar and Broadway St. My photos here are of the first location, after it was renovated.
More history of Bill Lewis and photos of his guitars can be seen on the web at these links:
After some time Bill turned over the shop to his brother Jack, and formed Lewis Luthiers' Supply, providing woods and materials for guitar builders. During Bill's time working for George Bowden, he had been responsible for shipping western red cedar logs to the Mallorca factory in Spain for use as guitar tops. So together with his brother, he had paved the way for supplying wood for his own business.
Bill put together a cataloque of his materials which included information and tips on guitar building. He was later to sell out Lewis Luthiers' Supplies to Luthiers' Mercantile, a company in California.
Bill passed away in 1996 at an early age, leaving wonderful memories in the hearts of people who knew him. Those of us who were a part of the scene at both The Mediterranean Shop and Bill Lewis Music will never forget the warmth and camaraderie we shared.
Bill's note re above
There isn't much to see on the web about Bill Lewis, nor do I find any photos of him, all of which surprises me since he made such impressive contributions to Canadian guitar construction and innovation. I give my heartfelt thanks to Bill's daughter, Lyra Lewis, who was kind enough to send me copies of these beautiful photos of her father. Thanks Lyra, I'm so happy to be able to include them here.
And I must further point out the moving comment left here below by Ship, a former student, who was so influenced by the music and ambiance at both the Mediterranean Shop and Bill Lewis' Music. Thanks Ship for such a sincere and lovely postscript to my tribute to Bill Lewis. It's very rare that we hear from former students who come back many years later and say thank you.
Continue on to Chapter 18......Off to Mallorca
Go back to Chapter 16 - Vancouver Flashback IV - Robert C. Jordan & Barry Hall