Seeking information on late local musician Lew Orsoni

I recently opened up an old binder of burned CDs and came across a much loved recording I had forgotten about attributed to Lew Orsoni. It sounds like a live recording. Wonderful ballad about Lake Superior, among other great tunes. I believe I got it from Lew’s son, who used to bartend at the old Twin Ports Brewing Company (predecessor of Thirty Pagan) 20 years ago. I recall Lew had passed away recently at that time. Just looking for info on the CD, Lew Orsoni’s music, and if others have memories of his performances around here.


Paul Lundgren

about 2 years ago

The Lew Orsoni Quartet album Women Drinking Beer came out in 2000 and features a fantastic cover photo of gals chugging Northern Beer at a picnic in 1938.


about 2 years ago

John Craig, who was a good friend of Lew's and played with Lew Orsoni, has all (or most) of those recordings. 

John is some what of "elusive" person. He is not on FB, semi-retired. If you know him or know of him, you might find or see John at Bent Paddle Festiversary 2022.

I have many great memories of that band. One unbelievable story, when they played Tom's Burned Down Cafe. It was a crazy weekend; so much fun.

Oh! Women Drinking Beer is a GREAT CD.  

Now, I need to look for my copy and listen to it. Thanks for the reminder.


about 2 years ago

Thanks, Paul.

Thelod-thanks for the tip on JC.  I worked with his wife for quite a while and have tipped beers with him. I will definitely ask about Lew and his recorded catalog next time I see him. Love that album and Lew’s vocals, especially. That Lake Superior ballad gets me every time: “your fathers a glacier and your mothers a star.” Something like that...


about 2 years ago

I tried to find recordings of his music online and the closest I could get is a cover of one of his songs -- "Blackbirds Bunched Upon a High-wire" -- that was streamed on YouTube a couple of years ago. The song starts at 1:10:00 in the video.


about 2 years ago

There also appears to be an uncredited cover of "Lake Superior Waltz" online. There are several songs online with that title, but this one contains the line "your daddy's a glacier and your mama's a star," so it seems pretty certain that this is the same song that lager_man remembers so fondly. 


about 2 years ago

I don't remember when I first met Uncle Lew. It was probably when I was attending UWS, so late 1970s for sure. He became one of my best friends. During my college years there was a group of folks that would gather during holidays. We were either "homeless" or just tired of family. Lew was at those gatherings, usually there was a guitar around and Lew always played. Good times. 

Lew helped me when I was writing short stories and he encouraged me when I started writing songs. He was at my first gig ever and joined my band on stage to sing "Kansas City" (audience request). Lew recorded a number of songs at Inland Sea ("Blackbirds ...," "Lake Superior Waltz" and more). I'm not sure if he ever released those songs other than on handwritten cassettes. I have seen a few versions of "Lake Superior Waltz" over the years, and they never give writers credit.

Lew worked at the Anchor Bar for a stretch; it was always good times there when Lew was working. Lew played at Tony's Cabaret and I think he had a regular set at the Ground Round up on the hill. Lew played a concert at Cathedral one time, no drinks, no snacks, no TV over the bar, just Lew, his Martin guitar and a spotlight. I was mesmerized. At that very moment I wanted to be Lew Orsoni. I moved away from Duluth in '89, I never got back much, I never did see his band perform. When I perform "Blackbirds ..." I give Lew a shout out -- "If you see Uncle Lew out there, be sure and tell him I played his song." 

I miss him every day.

"... and it's so damn cold, it's so damn cold."

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