Born in Laurel County, Kentucky, Joe “Cannonball” Lewis grew up in Connersville and Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and eventually made his home in Hamilton. He worked the clubs in Cincinnati and secured a recording contract with MGM Records, where he attracted attention with “Train Whistle Nightmare,” in which he vocally imitated a train whistle. An excellent country singer with a strong and expressive voice, he made eight singles for MGM. Many of them had a strong bluegrass flavor, with instrumental leads taken by fiddle and mandolin and a five-string banjo in the background. He wrote and recorded “Before I Met You” on Gateway, which later became a bluegrass standard when Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs cut it. He also had singles on other local labels–Kentucky, Lucky, Lunar, and Sunrise–but these were much more country, using electric lead and steel guitar. He and his wife also recorded gospel music on Hamilton’s Melody label.

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