Lewis was raised in Cumberland and worked in the Lynch coal mines for 10 years. He had been writing music nearly all of his life before his song "BJ the DJ" became a worldwide hit.
He was appointed as Nashville's Country Music Goodwill Ambassador to the world over 30 years ago by then-Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley. He was placed in the "Walk of Stars" at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and has recently been nominated for the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in Renfro Valley, where he currently has a display. Of all his honors, he is most proud to be associated with Renfro Valley and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
"Renfro Valley is very dear to me, and they are the last stronghold of traditional country music. It just feels wonderful to be a part of Renfro Valley," said Lewis.
His songs have been recorded by Bob Willis' Texas Playboys and Grand Ole Opry stars such as Charley Pride, Del Reeves, Little Jimmy Dickens, Stonewall Jackson, Jim Ed Brown, Carl Smith, Kitty Wells, Lynn Anderson, Bobby Goldsboro, Mac Wiseman, Freddie Hart, George Morgan and more.
Lewis has hosted his own nationally syndicated television show and had feature parts in four movies. Three of his movies were country comedies with Del Reeves. His newest film is a release sold mainly by Lifeway called "Summer of Courage," in which he plays an old colonel whose granddaughter is kidnapped.
Up until 1998, Lewis, along with wife, Ann, had the largest framable greeting card company in the country. The cards featured his original 12-line poetry. Many of his poems are about unsung heroes, and he has an estimated 250 poems in his repertoire.
Some of Lewis's framed poems, a lengthy poem in the geographic shape of Kentucky and one titled, "A Christian Home," are being given away for the last 10 days of July at Gambrel Chevrolet-Cadillac-Toyota in Corbin. Customers can choose the poems, hand-woven Panama hats by Colonel Lewis or five different CDs or cassettes.
Lewis's newest album is called "Kentucky in Song" and features eight of Lewis's original songs about Kentucky and two songs written by his friends, Bill Monroe and Merle Travis. His current single from the album is called "Watch Out for the Wildcats."
Lewis is very fond of his Harlan County heritage, as is apparent in his new album. Three of his songs mention the county, and one is entitled "Harlan County Memories."
"Everywhere I've played, somebody would come up and say hello from Harlan County. It's amazing how many people are out there in the world from Harlan County, and everybody's just as proud of it as I am," Lewis said.