Lew London is a Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist. He can be heard playing each Thursday at Formica Bros. Bakery in Atlantic City. Here are six questions we asked this local legend.
At the Shore: You have been playing a weekly gig at Formica Bros. in Atlantic City. Tell us a bit about what people can expect from these shows.
Lew London: I’m singing and playing violin, mandolin and guitar along with Bob Mower on guitar, vocals, banjo, lap steel and Ray Malach holding it all together on keyboard. Some world-class players and singers often sit in as well. Influenced by the crowd, we play everything from Latin jazz and ‘40s swing to rock, bluegrass and every eclectic request in between. Some originals too. The venue is intimate. It’s 7 to 9 on Thursdays. The pastries, coffee and tomato pies are delicious. The audience and performers have a blast.
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ATS: You have mastered a variety of styles in your playing. Everything from jazz to rock and blues. If you could only play one style for the rest of your life what would it be?
LL: Rough call, but probably swing music.
ATS: What is your favorite restaurant at the Jersey Shore?
LL: Another rough question, since I perform regularly at the LB1, Steve and Cookie’s and A Touch of Italy, so I must take all three of them out of the mix. My favorite would then be Smitty’s Clam Bar in Somers Point. They have amazing New England clam chowder and an awesome baked tuna dish marinated in a sauce with soy and wasabi.
ATS: What album in your collection influenced you the most?
LL: The album that changed my life as a teenager was Django Reinhardt with Stephane Grapelli. It was one of the Djangology series on the Pathe’label but I don’t remember the title.
ATS: Tell us about the best night you ever had on stage.
LL: I’ve had an eventful music career playing everywhere from Honky Tonks to Carnegie Hall. I’ve had the honor of meeting, hanging and playing with many of my music heroes. As a very young musician the highlight of the 1960s was the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival in August. I attended the festival for many years as a kid. I was asked to play there with my trio right after my album was released in 1977. That was a magical, unforgettable experience. I played on Saturday night . I looked up at the side of the hill in front of me. It was filled with people as far as you could see. They cheered us on and gave us a standing ovation. The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer tagged us as a highlight of the festival. I’ll never forget that one.
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ATS: Which is better, the present or the past?
LL: Presently, I am fortunate to gig five nights a week. I still love to play now as much as I did in the past. I don’t know about “better,” but live music seemed more valued, more accessible and more affordable in the past. Time has changed the way you play the game but not the passion of the players.