Teenage Head founder Gord Lewis found murdered in Hamilton


Published August 8, 2022 at 1:23 pm

Gord Lewis, front left, in the heyday of Teenage Head. The Canadian band will play at Kerrfest to honour its "fallen brother." FACEBOOK PHOTO

Gord Lewis, the ginger-haired guitarist who founded the Hamilton band Teenage Head, is reportedly the man whose decomposed body was found inside a Corktown apartment yesterday. Police have not confirmed that, but confirm the suspect is someone who knew the person who resided there.

The body of a man in his 60s that responding officers found inside an apartment at 175 Catharine St. was too decomposed for an immediate identification. Jonathan Lewis, 41 has been charged with second-degree murder by Hamilton Police (HPS) and no other suspects are currently being sought by investigators.

The Hamilton Spectator reported Monday that Gord Lewis is the city’s third homicide of the year. The state of the body found at 175 Catharine S. means HPS could not comment on that or a familial tie in the case. But CBC Hamilton reported that the accused is the son of Lewis.

“The occupant of the apartment and the suspect are known to each other,” Const. Krista-Lee Ernst, media relations officer for Hamilton Police, said on Monday. “The occupant and the deceased are what is being verified through forensic pathology. Investigative steps are being taken to confirm a positive identity, and we are working with the family of the occupant.”

The HPS related that it learned Sunday that Hamilton media outlets had been contacted with information regarding a dead person. Residents and passersby should expected “a continued police presence” around 175 Catharine S. for the next couple of days while investigators work.

“The male had injuries consistent with foul play and the case was deemed a homicide,” HPS stated on Monday afternoon.

The Hamilton Police are continuing to seek out witnesses and review video in the area.

Anyone who has information of that nature to provide regarding the investigation may contact Det. Frank De Vuono (905-546-3827). Information may also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Hamilton (1-800-222-8477; crimestoppershamilton.com).

Gord Lewis was the founder and a guitarist for Teenage Head, which made a Canadian contribution to the punk rock wave of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Touring extensively and having high energy while on stage helped them earn a significant following. Lewis played on nine of the band’s studio albums.

Founded a hometown band

Like The Tragically Hip, the band comprised teenage rockers who met while attending a downtown high school in a lakeside city. (The Hip met while attending Kingston Collegiate, although frontman Gord Downie also attended Ernestown, a rural public high school west of the city.)

Lewis and the future Venom were inspired after attending local gigs by the New York Dolls and the Ramones in Hamilton in 1976. They linked up with Westdale Secondary School classmates Steve Mahon, who played bass, and Nick Stipanitz, who became the drummer. After two years of practising, they released their first single, “Picture My Face.” A year later, they released their eponymous 1979 debut album.

Not unlike The Hip, a breakthrough in the United States was not to be, due to a personal misfortune suffered by Lewis. Attic Records set up series of showcase bigs for Teenage Head in the late summer of 1980, but it was cancelled after Lewis sustained broken bones in his back in a car crash.

Two years later, though, he returned to contribute to the band’s highest-charting album, “Some Kinda Fun.” It reached No. 23 in Canada in 1982.

While Venom died in 2008, the band continued to perform. Lewis and Mahon brought in former high school classmate Dave (Rave) Desroches for vocals and Gene Champagne (of The Killjoys) fame) to play drums, and they continued playing gig.

The band remains part of Hamilton’s cultural identity. Venom is immortalized through a mural painted on the side of a building on Rebecca St. in the Beasley neighbourhood. The mural faces west, in the general direction of their old high school.

In 2020, filmmaker Douglas Arrowsmith made a 86-minute documentary film, “Picture My Face: The Story of Teenage Head,” for TV Ontario.

Pending the positive identification of the victim, Lewis would be the second prominent Hamilton musician to die suddenly this year.

On April 5, Boris Brott, who was a renowned Hamilton-based orchestra conductor, was killed in a hit-and-run collision near his home.

City council in Hamilton has since voted to rename a concert hall in honour of Brott, who had input into its design when it was built in the ’80s.

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