Born March 6, 1893, in Greenwood, Mississippi, Lewis acquired the nickname Furry from childhood playmates. At the age of seven he and his family moved to Memphis, where young Lewis took up the guitar under the tutelage of a man whose name he recalled as Blind Joe. Blind Joe apparently was versed in nineteenth century song and taught his protégé Casey Jones and John Henry, songs based around the exploits of heroic figures. Lewis would later record these two songs for the Victor and Vocalion labels respectively. By 1908, he was playing solo for parties, in taverns, and on the street. He also was invited to play several dates with W.C. Handy’s Orchestra.