LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

Back in May 2014, Light In The Attic Records rereleased an album that mystery and conjecture continues to surrounds. Thirty-one years after Lewis released L’Amour, nobody was any the wiser who Lewis was. It remained one of the great musical mysteries. To coincide with the release of L’Amour, I’d been researching the mystery surrounding Lewis and his hidden gem of an album, L’Amour. Finally, I thought that maybe, just maybe the mystery was over. This mystery started back in 1983.

This was when Lewis released L’Amour.Very little was known about Lewis. Even his real name. Back then, Lewis was calling himself  Randall Wulff. Nobody knew if this was his real name. No-one thought to ask. All that was known is Randall arrived in Los Angeles in 1983.

When he swept in to town, Randall was sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks. The man who called himself Lewis, lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes and booked into the Beverley Hilton. Randall dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. He lived the playboy lifestyle. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

Randall had arrived in Los Angeles with L’Amour already recorded. Not that anyone knew where L’Amour had been recorded. The sessions took place in the Fiasco Brothers Recording Studios in Vancouver. Randall had recorded there before. After that, Randall headed to Los Angeles. That’s where he readied himself for release  Lewis’ debut album, L’Amour. Rather than using his own name, Randall used the alias Lewis. This added to the air of mystery. So did the album cover.

For the album cover, Randall called one of the most famous photographers in music, Ed Colver. He’d made his name photographing punk bands. That was the past. By 1983, Ed was expanding his musical portfolio. So when Randall called, Ed agreed to meet him in the Beverley Hilton. 

When the two met, Ed wasn’t suspicious of Randall. Why should he be? After all, Randall was living in the Beverley Hilton, driving a Mercedes convertible and had a beautiful, model girlfriend. He’d also just recorded his debut album and was looking for someone to shoot some photographs for the cover of L’Amour. That would be Ed. Randall agreed to pay Ed $250 for the photo shoot and wrote a cheque for $250.

Ed shot thirty different versions of the photo that agreed on the cover of L’Amour. It was a head and shoulders photo of Randall. That photo epitomises eighties fashion and attitudes. Looking like the atypical eighties playboy, Randall looks mysteriously into the distance. However, just like everything else about Randall, this was all a facade.

When Ed went to cash the cheque for $250 it bounced. The cheque had been drawn on an account in Malibu. This was no help to Ed. So he headed to where Ed had met Randall, the Beverley Hilton. Staff at the Beverley Hilton told Ed that Randall had left. Randall, they told him, had headed to Las Vegas and then Hawaii. They didn’t have a forwarding address. For Ed this was a disaster. $250 was lot of money. So much, it took him four months to repay his bank. As security, Ed held on to the negatives to the photos for L’Amour, which was released in 1983. Two years later, came Lewis’ recently discovered sophomore album Romantic Times.

Romantic Times was released by an artist calling himself Lewis Baloue. It was recorded in the same studio as L’Amour and released on R.A.W. Records. The contact details given as  R.A.W. Corp. in Beverley Hills. Anyone buying Romantic Times must have thought  R.A.W. Corp was a multinational company. It wasn’t. Instead, it was merely a P.O. Box, where people picked up their mail. This had to be the work of Lewis?  Especially given the name of the record company and its parent company.

R.A.W. just so happens to be an acronym of Lewis’ real name. On its release in 1985, Romantic Times flopped. After that, most people forgot about Lewis.

Even Ed Colver. Despite being burned, Ed managed to recover from what was a crushing blow. The $250 he lost was $250 he could ill afford. Thirty-one years later, the story about Lewis was just a distant memory. That’s until people tried to solve the mystery of Lewis.

Ed was contacted in connection with the Lewis mystery. So were the engineers at the recording studio in Vancouver. Then someone claiming to be Randall Wulff’s nephew threw a spanner in the works. He claimed that he was able to throw some light on who Randall Wuiff was.

He claimed that Randall was the nephew of heiress of Doris Duke. She was heir to the Duke Power fortune and a legendary philanthropist. Growing up, Ralph’s nephew claimed, Randall lived with his Aunt Doris in Hawaii. However, the nom de plume Lewis, was a reference to his grandmother. At last, thirty-one years after the mystery began, Lewis had been unmasked. Or so we thought. Wrong. 

Not long after I posted my review of L’Amour, I was contacted by Lewis’ ex-girlfrind, Donna. The story she told me was very different.

“I  met Randall Aldon Wulff in the summer of 1975 or 1976 on the Oregon coast.  He was on a motorcycle trip and I was on a beach camping trip with my sister.  He was a Canadian,  the son of Gladys and Earl Wulff of Calgary, Alberta.  In the winter of 1976, Randy and I lived with Gladys and Earl in their home while we did painting jobs around Calgary trying to get enough money to get to Hawaii.  His mother, Gladys Wulff was a clerk in the Hudson Bay Dept store in Calgary, and his father, Earl, was a building contractor, who had recently been disabled by a stroke. I believe Randy was about 23, at the time and I was about 30 yrs old.  We went to Maui, Hawaii for about a month, ran out of money, and my father paid for our transport back to Calgary.  We soon left Calgary and moved to Victoria, BC Canada,  where we lived on St Ann Street i,n a rented house in Oak Bay. Then after 6 months to a year, we moved to a rental house on Hollywood Crescent in the Fairfield neighbourhood of Victoria.

We were constantly broke. Randy was collecting unemployment and I was unable to work legally because I was an American without a Canadian SI number.  What kept us together was our mutual quest for sex, drugs and rock and roll…  Randy was an attractive, sweet, artistic soul but uninterested in persuing an income through  the construction trades and unable to make any money softly singing his original songs and playing his guitar.  He was a good person but he was not well educated or very bright.  Unable to tolerate  our precarious financial situation any longer, I split up with him in 1977 or 1978 and he left Victoria.  I saw him again around 1980 when he returned to Victoria and called me. We met for dinner.  He was with his older brother, Larry Wulff, who had been living “up island” on Vancouver Island and they were travelling in a limousine and seemed to have lots of money.  When I questioned him about the source of his new found wealth, he gave me vague answers about “silver futures”…the stock market, etc.  I did not believe him and think there was an illegal source of new wealth…. Later in the 80s he sent me a vinyl copy of his LP L’Amour which I have since lost and I never saw him again.”

Later, Donna says “I came across the 2010 obituary of his mother, Gladys, who had remarried someone named Camden after Earl died… the Calgary newspaper obituary… listed “his surviving brothers, Gary and Larry and his sister, Maureen and significantly, Randall is not mentioned… which leads me to believe he is dead.” 

Is that the case? Are we any closer to discovering what happened to Randall Wulff? He’s the man who in 1983,  sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks, swept into Los Angeles and took the town by storm. He lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes, lived in the Beverley Hilton and dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

After the cheque Randall wrote Ed Colver bounced, nothing was heard of the man who called himself Lewis.  Since 1983, the mystery and conjecture surrounding Lewis has grown. Everyone has their own opinion into who Lewis was and what happened to him. Earlier this year, it looked like the mystery had been solved. Sadly, that proved to be the case. At the time I wrote my review, I wondered if there wasn’t a twist in the tale. That proved to be the case, when Donna contacted me.

She knew Randall before he adopted his Lewis persona. Donna was able to confirm that Randall and Lewis were one and the same. Sadly, she was unable to shine any light on what happened to Lewis following the release of L’Amour. Maybe Donna is right, and Randall, the man who became Lewis is dead? However, we may never know what became of Lewis?  Maybe, mystery and conjecture will continue to surrounds Lewis and his hidden gem of an album, L’Amour? Especially given the latest twist in the tale.

Mystery surrounds what actually happened next. Two versions of the story have been told to me. The first is that a Canadian record collector found a copy of Romantic Times, an album released by Lewis Baloue in 1985 and sold it to Light In The Attic Records. That sounds the most likeliest outcome. After all, dedicated crate diggers who look long and hard enough, will always have the opportunity to discover that elusive rare albums. After all, surely it’s not as easy as finding a copy of Romantic Times on Ebay?

That’s the second version of the story behind  Romantic Times. Allegedly, a copy of Romantic Times was offered for sale on eBay. To say a bidding frenzy followed is to put it mildly. The price reached $1,725. This is similar to what happened when copies of L’Amour were discovered. 

Within a space of a few months, several copies of L’Amour materialised in Alberta, Canada. This surely, was too big a coincidence?  A number of people thought that. They suggested to me to try and trace where these copies of L’Amour came from? Maybe then, we’d be nearer solving the mystery of the man who calls himself Lewis.

Many people would like to finally solve the mystery of Randall Wulff. Especially Donna. She once loved, lived with and eventually left Randall. Donna would like to know what became of Lewis. She hopes that at last, finally, we “can learn about the life and perhaps, death, of” who Donna refers to as “Randall Aldon Wulff a.k.a. Randy a.k.a. Lewis.” So would I. For Donna’s sake. I’d also like to belatedly, solve one of music’s longest running mysteries, and discover what became of Randall?

Donna it appears, was wrong. She’ll be pleased. Lewis isn’t dead. He’s just been living quietly in Hawaii under the name Randy Duke. Randall’s mother’s obituary was a curveball. He’d disappeared deliberately and was living in Hawaii with his girlfriend. That solves one part of the mystery. However, did he record L’Amour? 

It had been a remarkable transformation. In the mid to late seventies, Randall was broke and struggling to make ends. By 1983, he was a a bon vivuer, playboy and seducer-in-chief who called himself Lewis, had lived the playboy lifestyle. He drove a white convertible Mercedes and called the Beverley Hilton home. Lewis dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. They fell for his charms and charisma. Little did they know that a few years earlier, Lewis was painting houses to make a living. That was far from the playboy lifestyle he would later live.

Back in the seventies, Lewis was just a dreamer. Nobody thought he’d ever amount to much. He was charming and charismatic, but he could also frustrate people. That’s still the case. The reason for that is L’Amour, the album Lewis released in 1983. 

Mystery, conjecture and speculation surrounds L’Amour. It started when Lewis the playboy and seducer-in-chief swept into Los Angeles. In a city populated by beautiful people, Lewis, the man with the movie star looks fitted in perfectly. Every night a beautiful woman accompanied him to the smartest parties. All this was a front. 

Things came to a head when Lewis’ cheque to photographer Ed Colver bounced. Lewis shot through. Nothing was heard of Lewis after for a couple of years. 

Then in 1985 Romantic Times was released by a Lewis Baloue. This was the latest alias adopted Randall Aldon Wulff had adopted. Lewis adopted a much lower profile. Still he sported movie star looks and enjoyed his love of the finer things in life. Romantic Times features Lewis standing nonchalantly beside a sport’s car and private jet. This was the lifestyle  Lewis always wanted.

Rumours surrounding Lewis’ newly found wealth started doing the rounds. Was it really silver futures and the stock market? My sources have their doubts. Nothing can be proved though. That’s the case with so much about Lewis. 

Later, rumour has it that Lewis became addicted to Quaaludes. After that, Lewis found religion. It’s even been suggested to me that he recorded an album of religious music. Lewis’ supposed involvement with religion adds to the mystery surrounding Lewis. He would certainly have made a charismatic preacher. Charisma is something Lewis certainly didn’t lack. Lewis would’ve enjoyed the mystery that surrounds his whereabouts.

Finally, it seems, the mystery surrounding Lewis is over. It appears the man born Randall Aldon Wulf is alive, well and living in Hawaii under the name Randy Duke. He’s living happily with his girlfriend and two kittens. However, did he record L’Amour and Romantic Times? That’s said to be the case, but who knows? Hype, hyperbole and suspicion surrounds the Lewis story. I wonder if Lewis was ever missing? Maybe it suited certain people’s pockets that he’s disappeared briefly? After all, plenty private pressings were released in the eighties, Many like L’Amour hardly sold any copies. However, throw in some smoke and mirrors and copies will fly of the shelves. Maybe I’m being cynical? 

Maybe now that the mystery surrounding Lewis’ whereabouts has been solved, people will remember him for his music. His debut album L’Amour is a variously beautiful, ethereal, haunting, minimalist, poignant and powerful album. Lewis sings about heartbreak, hope and hurt. He delivers lyrics like he’s lived, loved and survived them. His vocal ranges from emotive, hopeful, needy and seductive. Other times his vocal is rueful, as he sings about love lost and the woman who broke or stole his heart. L’Amour and Romantic Times are reminder of a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician who could’ve and should’ve been huge star.

 LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

R-5712477-1400659880-2057

14 Comments

  1. Jay

    While I still think this whole story will one day be exposed as a genius guerrilla marketing tactic, I thought I should add to the speculation with a comment.

    Assuming that the above story about his name, family and Calgary upbringing is true, it is highly unlikely that his mother’s obituary would neglect to mention his existence. In other words, obituaries typically state all surviving immediate family members as well as those who predeceased the deceased.

    Accordingly, if Randall Wulff existed and this was actually the obituary of his mother, the obituary would lead me to conclude that he was completely estranged from his family to the point that they have no idea whether he is dead or alive.

    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks for your comments. You make some good points.

      The guerrilla marketing campaign had crossed my mind. This has happened before and will happen again. So, I checked all that out. There was no way I was going to go out on a limb in case this was the case. That’s why I spent a couple of months looking into the story. If it was a guerrilla marketing campaign why this artist I asked? It’s not as if they were going to shift tens of thousands of albums? That’s not the case. The album was released back in 1984 and sunk without trace. Even rereleasing the album now, it won’t make anyone rich.

      I wondered if the whole “lost album” and “enigmatic artist” was smoke and mirrors. So, I checked this out thoroughly. As for as I can see, that’s not the case. I’ve done a lot of research into this and spoken to many people. L’Amour was nothing more than a private pressing. There was no hype upon its release. if anything, it was under promoted. It’s only now all the publicly surrounds it. As you say, we’re all speculating. That’s ironic, as many people don’t mention the music. Did you like L’Amour. It’s gotten the hype overshadowed the music. That to me is sad.

      The Calgary connection is true. It’s been checked out thoroughly, several times.

      As for the obituary, I wondered if Lewis was estranged from his family? That was my first thought. I wondered why he hadn’t been mentioned in the obituary and constantly challenged this? However, I was told several times that Lewis wasn’t estranged from his mother. The sad truth is that he died before his mother. That’s not to say that he wasn’t estranged from another member of his family.

      The whole story is a real mystery, hence the title. Part of my reason for writing the article was to try and finally solve the mystery. Since I wrote the article, I’m even more convinced that Randall/Lewis is dead. If I is, I would like to know where, when and why?

      Jay, I think like me, you’ve a lot of questions you want answered. Every question you posed I posed. Before I wrote the article, I had to convince myself about everything. Only then, did I write the article.

      Let’s hope the truth comes out someday soon. If you happen to know anything you can contact me through my email address. Thanks for getting in touch.

      Regards,
      Derek.

      • Jay
      • Hi Jay,

        Thanks for sending me a copy of the article. It’s an interesting article and I can understand the author’s cynicism. However, having spoken to the record company, they’ve no idea about the whereabouts of Randall. They’re just as keen to solve the riddle of Randall. The speculation will grow the nearer the release of Romantic Times gets. It would be good to solve the riddle, and get back to concentrating on Lewis’ music.

        Are you based in Calgary? If so, is there much speculation about the disappearance of Randall? If you hear anything further, please get in touch.

        Best Wishes,
        Derek.

  2. Joe

    Great article, Derek. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and your take on things. I was only exposed to both albums three days ago and think both are absolutely brilliant. L’amour is so hauntingly beautiful and has such a restrained delicateness. Romantic Times reflections a corruption of the earnest romanticism, and, intended or not, the title plays to that so brilliantly. The closing track As The Boats Go By seems so sad, a musical return to L’amour’s softness and a reflection of what used to be as the ships, and Randy’s dreams, sail away. I really hope he’s not dead. There’s such clear conviction in his music. I really want him to know his music finally touched people and found an audience, even if it was 30 years later.

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. I agree entirely with what you say. The two albums are very different. We hear a very different side to Lewis on Romantic Times. It’s as if he’s lost his innocence. At least As The Boats Go By sees a return to the old Lewis. Maybe his dreams hadn’t sailed away?

      When I began researching the story, I hoped that Lewis wasn’t dead. However, the more I looked, the more likely it was that he is.

      At least, Lewis’ music belatedly found the wider audience it deserved. It’s just a pity his music wasn’t successful thirty years ago. Who knows what Lewis might have achieved?

      Thanks for your comments.

      Regards,
      Derek.

  3. Peter Wullen

    Part of ‘L’Amour’ must have been recorderd and made in France. Hence the reference to France and the French title. As far as I know, Philip Lees in any case is a French music producer for films and for ads, tied closely to Gallerie, a subsidiary of Universal Music..

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your email and comments. As far as I’m aware, L’Amour was recorded in Canada. The engineer, Bob Kinsey remembers the sessions.

      Your comments about Philip Lees are interesting and worth considering. His synth playing is crucial to L’Amour’s sound and success.

      Thanks,
      Derek,

  4. Joe
    • Hi Joe,

      I heard that Lewis is alive. He’s living in Hawaii under the name Randy Duke. Mystery solved. I wonder if the whole thing has been hype Joe?

      Regards,
      Derek.

Trackbacks

  1. Lewis, Shirtless Mysterious Genius of the ’80s, Made a Second Album, Romantic Times | The FADER
  2. Vol. 1 Brooklyn | Afternoon Bites: Brian McGreevy on Angela Carter, Scott McClanahan Interviewed, Lewis’s History, Melissa Broder, and More

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