The serendipitous final romance of Statler Brothers tenor Lew DeWitt

Image for post
Image for post
Sweatband-sporting, acoustic guitar-wielding Lew DeWitt and wife Judy Wells survey their scenic 50-acre farm in Waynesboro, Virginia, in an outtake from the 1984 cover shoot for the earthy singer-songwriter’s debut solo album “Here to Stay.” Named after Barney Fife’s steady girl, a friend gave Thelma Lou the part-Doberman dog to the couple when she was a couple of months old. Thelma Lou survived the founding Statler Brother’s 1990 death from Crohn’s disease by four years. Photo courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt

The Judy Wells DeWitt Interview

Image for post
Image for post
Circa March 1968, 22-year-old Judy Wells and aunt JoAnn Wells Ellinger are serenaded by an acoustic guitar-clad Lew DeWitt. Ellinger later had the shot professionally framed and presented it as a 1980 wedding gift. Photography by Bill Alwood / Courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
In the middle of a thrilling badminton game in the backyard of Lew and Judy DeWitt’s 50-acre farm in Waynesboro, Virginia, circa 1985–1986. Photography by Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Lew DeWitt and Judy Wells are officially husband and wife in these tender February 16, 1980, wedding portraits at the home of friend Ray Robertson in Staunton, Virginia. DeWitt was somehow acquainted with the minister, whose last name was Tatum. Notice the bag of dead roses in Wells’ hand that she dried and saved from the “Thank You World” co-writer’s Christmas 1978 gift. Photos courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
Lew DeWitt reclines on a beach chair in Jamaica, 1985. Twenty or so fans of Lew’s went and were able to spend a week with him on a cruise ship. He performed one evening, too. Photo courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
A stateroom full of multi-colored balloons welcomes Lew DeWitt on the last evening of a week-long fan club cruise to Jamaica in 1985. Photo courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
Photo courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
“Life on the farm was good for Lew,” confirms widow Judy Wells DeWitt. “Enjoying reasonably good health, and for the first time in years, Lew liked being outdoors. He loved being what he called a ‘gentleman farmer.’ He would ride that International Harvester Cub 184 Lo-Boy orange tractor, which came with the property when we bought it, five miles to a gas station to have it fueled. One day a man was working along the road and stopped Lew. He asked if he could hire Lew to do some work. Lew told him he had enough to keep him busy at his place. The man never knew who he had offered a job to.” This shot was taken in 1984 when DeWitt was searching for a cover for his debut solo album, “Here to Stay.” Photography by Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
In spite of ill health, Lew DeWitt manages to face his Crohn’s affliction with a smile in this superb November 1989 candid. Photography by Deane Dozier / Courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
Drummer W.S. Holland, electric guitarist Bob Wooton [who had recently replaced the deceased Luther Perkins], bass singer Harold Reid, nearly obscured younger brother Don Reid, Johnny Cash, baritone Phil Balsley, and tenor Lew DeWitt perform onstage at the notorious San Quentin prison in California on February 24, 1969. The Man in Black’s comeback was definitely in full swing as the accompanying live album shot to number one on both the pop and country charts and yielded a No. 2 POP, No. 1 C&W single — Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue.” Photography by Jim Marshall / Morrison Hotel Gallery
Image for post
Image for post
In his final photo, Lew DeWitt waves to the crowd while attending the Waynesboro Generals baseball game in Waynesboro, Virginia, on July 15, 1990, exactly one month before his death. Photography by Barbara Flowers / Courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
“Groundhog hunting became a favorite pastime, and as you can see in his hand, a successful adventure. He often said the move to the farm was the best he ever made“ — Judy Wells’ favorite picture of her late husband Lew DeWitt. Photo courtesy of Judy Wells DeWitt
Image for post
Image for post
“Lew was a good horseman but didn’t get to ride a lot.” Lew DeWitt’s sole excursion to a dude ranch in Wyoming is heaven on earth circa 1985. Photography by Judy Wells DeWitt

Written by

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store