New Documentary, ‘The Ballad of Don Lewis’

The Ballad of Don Lewis is a documentary about the pioneering multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and electronic engineer Don Lewis.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Lewis gained iconic status throughout the San Francisco music scene, performing with his Live Electronic Orchestra (LEO), a bleeding-edge synth rig. But the Musicians Union protested his performances – claiming that Don Lewis was a threat to musicians because of his use of technology to be a one-man band.

In order to support his family, Lewis used his skills as a concert artist and voicing programmer for Yamaha and Roland: eventually contributing to the success of products like the Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer and the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

Twenty years after Lewis left the limelight and placed LEO in storage, the two would be reunited and recognized for their historical contributions by The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA, which is now home to LEO.

Here’s Lewis in 2013, demonstrating LEO at the NAMM Show:

Some of the hardware that Lewis incorporated into LEO:

Hammond Concord
Oberheim Expander Module (SEM)
ARP Pro-soloist
ARP 2600
Roland Jupiter 4
Roland Promars
Roland Space Echo
Roland Digital Chorus
Roland VP-550 Vocoder
Roland TR-808
Hammond 66 pedestal
Pascetta Polyphonic Keyboard
Roland 8 channel mixer


The Ballad of Don Lewis is currently in production. You can follow updates at the film site.

One thought on “New Documentary, ‘The Ballad of Don Lewis’

  1. HA!

    I played with Don Lewis in the Roland demo band at a NAMM show back in the 70s where some Japanese guys from Roland thought he was Herbie Hancock. He was a true virtuoso and a lot of fun to be around.

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