Q&A with Lavon Stevens

Master Musician
May 26, 2023

If you’ve seen Lavon Stevens under the lights at The Jazz Corner, you’ve witnessed an expression of musicality that few can match. We talked to him about music, guilty pleasures, and the island’s “good old days.”

Q: What was the island’s music scene like when you got here?
A:  It was a great place for music back in the old days (40 years ago!) much like it is now except, it was a smaller community. There was a great community of local musicians, jazz and pop music alike, and everybody knew everybody. There was also a mixture of traveling band

Q: You play a bunch of instruments, but which one was the hardest to pick up?
A:  The violin, which I started playing in the fifth grade. Eventually I moved over to the viola, which is like an alto violin. I was part of the first Savannah Youth Orchestra started by George Hofer back in 1968.

Q: And the easiest?
A:  The easiest instrument for me to pick up was the human voice. I’ve always been a singer, and it is the oldest instrument in the world. The easiest instrument other than my voice was the piano. I’ve always been blessed by God with a natural gift and a good ear for music. I used to listen to my brother practice his lessons, and then I would go behind him and play his lessons by ear! Later in life I could play the guitar and bass guitar.

Q: What draws you to a song – and what are some of your guilty pleasure tunes?
A:  There are a couple of pieces of music that grabbed me the first time I heard them: “Mr. Big Stuff” and “Symphony No. 94.” As far as guilty pleasure songs, I guess it would be something like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce and “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye. These songs to me represented a time when the boldness of music gave permission to using profanity in songs and singing about implied sexual freedom!

Q: If you could share the stage with any musicians living or past, who would it be?
A:  Probably Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau and Ramsey Lewis. I have to say that Earl Williams (saxophonist and bluesman) would be someone I would love to share the stage with just one more time. We lost Earl in 2022. Earl and Nettie Williams were like godparents to my two sons, Josh (27) and Nicho (25).