Vaudeville star Flossie Turner Lewis records at Belfer Archive
Flossie Turner Lewis, 77, a star of the Vaudeville stage, visited the recording studio at Syracuse University Library’s Belfer Audio Archive recently to record voiceovers as a guest host for Sound Beat, the library’s radio show set to launch in early 2011. Sound Beat will feature 90-second modules highlighting Belfer’s most interesting and unique recordings.
Vaudeville audiences knew Lewis as “Little Hot Mama” when she performed with her family, the Turner Family Revue, beginning as a 2-year-old in 1935. The Turner Family traveled the minstrel show circuit and performed on “Little Broadway,” the entertainment district in historic Overtown, Miami.
In addition to the voiceovers, Lewis recorded her signature tune, “Happy as the Days Is Long,” written for her by a vaudeville star and family friend. This was Lewis’ first experience in a recording studio, and after rehearsing for an hour with the band—guitarist Mike DeLaney, drummer Liz Strodel and pianist Jerry Neely of the local band the Delinquents—she made the recording in a single take. The song will be available as a podcast on Sound Beat’s website following its launch next spring.
While on campus, Lewis spoke to Theo Cateforis’ “Music and Gender” class about her show business career and adult literacy. After being illiterate for most of her life, Lewis learned to read at age 65. A few years later, she received the National Award for Excellence as the Outstanding Student of 2002 at the Laubach Literacy/Literacy Volunteers of America National Literacy Conference in San Diego. There she met Paula Meseroll, director of marketing and communications at Syracuse University, who collaborated with Lewis to co-author “Little Hot Mama: The Flossie Turner Lewis Story.”
“Recording at the Belfer and singing with a band for the first time in decades was a dream come true for Flossie,” says Meseroll. “Speaking to the music and gender class was also a highlight of Flossie’s visit to Syracuse—we were thrilled to be able to share with the students the story of Flossie’s life in the entertainment business, her struggle for literacy, how we worked together to write her memoir, and our rather bumpy road to publication.”
The book was published by Stay Thirsty Publishing and is available at http://amazon.com, http://www.littlehotmamabook.com and http://Staythirsty.com. Fifty cents from every book sold is donated to ProLiteracy in Flossie’s name to support adult literacy.