Smiley Lewis

By Gary:

I made an attempt at this artist 4 years ago.  I just reviewed it and decided that Smiley deserves a complete revision.

I will take you back with this posting.  Here is an old R&B and Blues musician who never really made the Billboard top 40, but was significant in the Rock and Roll Revolution as a songwriter. 

He was a  New Orleans rhythm and blues musician who was involved with Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino.  He had the original version of “I hear you knocking” which was so much better than the Gale Storm version that would make #2 in 1955.  So here is a little look at …






Smiley Lewis
 (Overton Amos Lemons : July 5, 1913 – October 7, 1966)


There are no videos of Smiley, the best I can do is this one.

Blue Monday / before Fats Domino’s version!



1947 / First known recorded song / Here Comes Smiley

1949 / Now on Imperial Records/ Tee Nah Nah


1952 / The Bells are Ringing


1954 / Blue Monday


1955 / I Hear you Knockin’ 


1955 / I Hear you Knockin’ / Gale Storm / believe it or not, her version sold over 1 million and was # 2 SAD. White cover version.


1955 / Real Gone Lover


1956 / One Night (of sin)


1956 / Shame Shame Shame


1956 / Shame Shame Shame (movie soundtrack) and it still was not really successful



Smiley never sold more than 100,000 copies of any song, yet he was instrumental along with Dave Bartholomew and Fats in creating that New Orleans Sound.


Great Artist, Great Music, but just never successful.

“Smiley Lewis”  was born in DeQuincy, Louisiana, U.S., with the given name of Overton Amos Lemons.

He began to play music in New Orleans, in his mid-teens.

Lewis had hit songs in 1952 with “The Bells Are Ringing”, and in 1955 with the original recorded version of “I Hear You Knocking” (written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King).

Lewis’ own song “Blue Monday” was covered by Fats Domino.

Elvis Presley’s cover of the Lewis song “One Night” (altering one risqué lyric) was #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #1 on UK Singles Chart. 

Dave Edmunds’ cover of “I Hear You Knocking” also reached number one in the UK. His version of the song lyric actually names  Lewis (alongside Chuck Berry and Huey Smith).

Smiley Lewis’ recording of  “Shame, Shame, Shame” appeared on the soundtrack of the film, Baby Doll in 1956, but failed to find entry to the R&B chart.

Lewis died in the autumn of 1966 from stomach cancer. He was all but forgotten outside of his New Orleans home base.



4 responses to “Smiley Lewis

  1. Smiley Lewis was incredibly important and very underrated so I wouldn’t want to take anything away from him but he didn’t write One Night. The number was written by Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King and Anita Steiman

    • Tony: I am aware that Dave wrote One Night, but it was never stated that Smiley wrote the song only that Elvis covered a song he recorded. Dave and Pearl King wrote a lot of the music of that time and place. Smiley just recorded.

  2. Pingback: Smiley Lewis | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  3. Pingback: Cover Records | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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