It is with much regret that I have to report the loss of Margaret Lewis, aka Maggie Warwick, a great champion of Louisiana music, who died on March 29.
I first met Margaret as an Ace Records consultant in 1993 in her adopted hometown of Shreveport when I was travelling with Ray Topping, who was busy excavating the RAM Records tape archives. The tiny label, a delicious repository of rockabilly, blues and swamp pop, was originally run by Mira Smith but was now owned by Margaret and her husband Alton Warwick, Mira’s cousin. Ray and I were royally entertained by the Warwicks as we were introduced to local personalities such as record man Stan Lewis, country music legend Tillman Franks, Joe Osborn who was Ricky Nelson’s bass player, and former Stax engineer Ronnie Capone.
In 1995, Ray proceeded to compile “Lonesome Bluebird” by Margaret (CDCHD 572) which featured ‘Grace Tennessee and her Guitar’, in other words Mira Smith. Margaret displayed her southern soulfulness throughout, highlighted by her version of the hit song ‘Reconsider Me’ that she composed with Mira. The CD remains in catalogue to this day and is one of my favourite Ace releases. It still gets a regular airing on my player.
Margaret, a bubbly character, had seen her career kick-started in 1957 when she was discovered in her native Texas by top country star Johnny Horton. Following an appearance on the fabled Louisiana Hayride, she sang backup for Dale Hawkins on the classic ‘La-Do-Dada’ and was signed to RAM but never had a significant hit. After a spell with Capitol, Margaret relocated with Mira in the 1960s to Nashville, where they wrote songs for Shelby Singleton’s fast-expanding SSS International organisation, including ‘Reconsider Me’ for Johnny Adams (and later Narvel Felts), ‘There Never Was A Time’ for Jeannie C. Riley, and ‘Soulshake’ for Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson.
Upon returning to Shreveport, Margaret revived RAM Records with husband Alton, was elected into the Louisiana Hall of Fame, became chair of the Louisiana Music Commission, and campaigned to restore the Municipal Auditorium building along with the resurrection of the Louisiana Hayride show. She also found time to make personal appearances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Ponderosa Stomp, in London for the Tales From The Woods organisation and at the Hayride.
I heard from Margaret only a month before she died when she excitedly confirmed that RAM Records had no less than six songs in the Oscar-winning best-picture movie, ‘Green Book’. She concluded her e-mail note by saying, ‘So good to hear from you. We think of you and Ray quite often with great memories!’ What great memories she has left all of us.
John Broven (with thanks to Richard Tapp)
The new updated edition of John Broven’s book, ‘South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous’ includes a section on RAM Records and Margaret Lewis.