There's something particularly American about the Bobby Lewis story, a sort of rags to riches saga that outlines the slippery slope of modern pop culture. Lewis spent his childhood in an orphanage, and when he was finally adopted by a family from Detroit when he was 12, it apparently wasn't a good fit, and Lewis ran away two-years later, finding work with a circus, of all places. Somewhere along the way Lewis met Ritchie Adams, lead singer for doo wop group the Fireflies, who was working as a staff writer for Joe Rene's New York-based Beltone Records. Adams had written something called "Tossin' and Turnin'" and Lewis was in the right place at the right time to record it. The song became the number one single of 1961, spending some 23 weeks on the charts and eventually selling over three million units, and it made Lewis a star. He followed it with another Top Ten hit, "One Track Mind," and then attempted to make lightning strike a second time in 1962 with "I'm Tossin' and Turnin' Again," which failed to generate any sparks. Beltone went bankrupt a year later, and Lewis' ride at the top was over. This set collects all of Lewis' Beltone sides (including a stereo remake of "Tossin' and Turnin'" with a slightly different intro), and has the same tracks (albeit with a different sequence) as V.I. Music's 2003 Collectors Gold Series release. The sound is a bit messy, since Beltone had a 'throw everything against the wall hard and heavy' approach to recording, and aside from the two big hits, melodies seem to pretty much blend into each other. That said, "Tossin' and Turnin'" deserves its status as a rock & roll classic, and Lewis' vocal has the exact right mix of gospel shout and wry amusement that keeps it fresh no matter how many times it gets played on oldies radio. Although he had no more hits after 1962, Lewis adapted readily to the nostalgia circuit, and seemingly grateful for his success rather than embittered at its brevity, he continued to deliver a solid stage show even into his seventies. This set has all you need, including two versions of his biggest hit.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett