Internationally acclaimed drummer and composer Victor Lewis was born on May 20, 1950 in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, Richard Lewis, who played saxophone and mother, Camille, a pianist-vocalist were both classically trained musicians who performed with many of the "territory bands" that toured the midwest in the forties. Victor grew up hearing jazz along with popular and European classical music at home, and would go to the local theater with his father to hear the big bands when they passed through Omaha. The first people he remembers seeing were Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman.
Victor started studying music when he was ten and a half years old. He began on the cello because he was too small for the acoustic bass, but switched to the drums a year and a half later after watching the local drum corps marching on the Fourth of July and other holidays. He also studied classical piano which is when he learned how to read music.
Lewis began playing drums professionally on the local scene at the age of 15. Because few of the older drummers in Omaha could read music, the young percussionist was called up for a variety of commercial jobs, including jingles, the Bob Hope Show, even the circus. At first Victor's style reflected his attraction to the big band drummers he had seen with his father and heard on records, but after hearing a record of Miles Davis' Quintet with Tony Williams things changed. He began exploring Williams' sound and the styles of other great small group drummers like Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. Soon afterwards he started his own small group to play around town. His first job with a nationally known jazz musician was accompanying Hank Crawford in Omaha.
On Victor's first gig in Manhattan, a night at Boomer's with bassist Buster Williams' group, he met trumpeter Woody Shaw. Lewis joined the trumpeter's band and a few months later, he made his recording debut on Shaw's classic, The Moontrane. The drummer also began making his mark on the burgeoning fusion and pop jazz scenes, providing the beat on records by Joe Farrell, Earl Klugh, Hubert Laws, Carla Bley and David Sanborn. It was on Sanborn's lps that Victor's compositional skills were first exposed to the public. They recorded Victor's "Seventh Avenue" and "Sophisticated Squaw" (a/k/a "Agaya") on their first outing together and Sanborn would call on Lewis' writing talents again in the future when he recorded "The Legend of the Cheops."