Bobby Lewis, whose no-cover Blue Monday jams at his Third Ward juke joint Miss Ann's Playpen welcomed professionals and amateurs alike and became legendary among the Houston blues community, passed away over the weekend from a number of health problems. His age was unknown.
Reg Burns, Director of Finance and Operations of the Miller Outdoor Theatre Advisory Board, confirmed the news Sunday night via Steve Sucher of the Musicians' Benevolent Society of Houston; Sucher had spoken with Lewis' widow, Beverly, Burns said.
Local blues scholar Dr. Roger Wood, author of Down In Houston: Bayou City Blues, said Lewis had been in poor health and "getting worse for some time." Burns added that besides diabetes, Lewis had recently been diagnosed with Alzeheimer's Disease.
According to Dr. Wood, Lewis and his wife Beverly opened Miss Ann's in the mid-'90s at the corner of Alabama and Dowling streets. They named the place after their young daughter, he adds -- she had the run of the place when the couple was renovating the club while preparing to open. As part of the Blue Monday scene, the Lewises also provided a free soul-food spread to go along with the music.
"I mean complete, excellent soul-food dinners, tasty and absolutely free of charge," Dr. Wood remembers.
He says Miss Ann's was a "home base" for him in the late '90s while working on Down In Houston, which was published in 2003. The blues jams could be packed with a who's who of local players, "and many more, sometimes all on the same night": Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Sherman Robertson, Trudy Lynn, Wilber McFarland, I.J. Gosey, Carolyn Blanchard, Eugene Moody and Little Joe Washington, as well as neighborhood figures known as "The Candyman" and "Lil Buck."