Huey Lewis and the News

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Huey Lewis and the News

Huey Lewis and the News, enormously popular band of the 1980s; formed. 1979. Membership: Huey Lewis, voc, har. (b. Hugh Cregg III, N.Y, July 5, 1950);Chris Hayes, gtr. (b. Sacramento, Calif., Nov. 24, 1957); Mario Cipollina, bs. (b. San Rafael, Calif., Nov. 10, 1954); Bill Gibson, drm. (b. Sacramento, Nov. 13, 1951); Sean Hopper, kybd. (b. San Francisco, March 31, 1953); Johnny Colla, sax., gtr. (b. Sacramento, July 2, 1952).

Hugh Cregg went to prep school in N.J., though his family had moved to the Bay Area years before. He hitchhiked around Europe for a year between graduation and going to Cornell. While in Europe, he became a proficient harmonica player, occasionally landing a paying gig. He attended Cornell, befriending many musicians, including future members of King Harvest (“Dancing in the Moonlight” was their one hit). Cregg joined a band and his studies fell by the wayside. He moved back to the Bay Area in 1969, aiming to make music, which he did while supporting himself as a landscaper and carpenter, among other jobs.

In 1971, Cregg hooked up with one of the Bay Area’s better-known bands, Clover. He took on the stage name, Huey Louie (after two of Donald Duck’s nephews), which eventually became Huey Lewis. He played harmonica for the band, occasionally singing. In 1976, Nick Lowe—then of pub-rock heroes Brinsley Schwartz—heard them playing in L.A., and told them they’d fit perfectly into the scene in England. The band went with Lowe, but almost as soon as they arrived in England, the Sex Pistols hit and the climate changed radically. They recorded two albums that stiffed. Lewis played harmonica on Lowe’s Labor of Lust album and fellow ex-Brinsley Dave Edmunds’s Repeat When Necessary.Edmunds recorded Lewis’s song “Bad Is Bad.” Several members of the band backed Elvis Costello on his debut album, then the group headed back home. On their return, guitarist John McFee joined the Doobie Brothers, effectively disbanding the group.

Lewis kept busy, putting together a new band, mostly consisting of Van Morrison’s old band, Sound-hole: Mario Cipollina, brother of Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina, on bass; Johnny Colla on sax and guitar; and Bill Gibson on drums. Lewis recruited guitarist Chris Hayes, brother of noted Bay Area vocalist Bonnie Hayes, and the band started playing regular gigs; they even recorded a dance version of the theme from the movie Exodus, called “Exo-disco.” In 1980, the group signed to Chrysalis. Their eponymous debut captured their bar-bandexuberance with studio slickness, a formula they would use throughout their career. The debut went nowhere, but their sophomore effort, 1982’s Picture This, brought the group to national prominence with the #7 single “Do You Believe in Love,” helped by a video that captured Lewis’s cleft-chinned, frat- boy good looks. The follow-up single, “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” went to #36. The album hit #13 and went gold. The band went on tour and was featured on several music television shows.

However, no one could have predicted the enormous success of their next album, 1983’s Sports.The album built slowly, starting with the #8 blue-eyed R&B tune “Heart and Soul.” The second single, “I Want a New Drug,” rose to #6 and went gold. With the third single, the anthemic “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” the album hit #1 and the single topped off at #6. “If This Is It,” a more mid-tempo tune, also peaked at #6.The group eked one more single out of the album, “Walking on a Thin Line,” which peaked at #18. By the time the dust had cleared, Sports had gonequintuple platinum, and has sold another million each subsequent year rising to septuple platinum. It became a major international hit, and the band spent the better part of the year on the road. At the same time they cut “The Power of Love,” the theme from the film Back to the Future. The song became the group’s first chart topper, went gold, and was nominated for an Oscar. Lewis also made a cameo appearance in the film as a teacher chaperoning a dance.

The group released Fore! during the summer of 1986. Following the massive hit “The Power of Love,” the first single from the new album “Stuck with You” topped both the pop and adult contemporary charts. Backed by members of the San Francisco 49ers football team, “Hip to Be Square,” neatly summarized the band’s musical philosophy and went to #3. Capitalizing on the success of Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s “The Way It Is,” The News’ version of Hornsby’s “Jacob’s Ladder” topped the charts. Another song with the 49ers, “I Know What I Like/’ rose to #9, and “Doing It All for My Baby” became the fifth Top Ten single from the album, rising to #6. Ironically, although the singles did better and the album topped the charts again, it sold about half as much as Sports, going triple platinum. Their 1988 opus, Small World, took a different tack, featuring overtones of jazz and reggae. The single “Perfect World” went to #3, but the title track only hit #25. The album topped out at #11 and went platinum.

The group changed record companies before releasing their next album, 1991’s Hard at Play.While the single “Couple Days Off” rose to #11, “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” only got to #21. The album got to #27 and went gold. Their 1994 release, an album of covers called Four Chords and Several Years Ago, didn’t even do that well, though it contained a sterling a cappella version of “But It’s Alright.” The “a cappella set” became an integral part of the band’s act as they continued to play the hits live.

Discography

Huey Lewis & The News (1980); Picture This (1982); Sports (1983); Fore! (1986); Small World (1988); Hard at Play (1991); Four Chords & Several Years Ago (1994); Time Flies: The Best of HueyLewis & The News (1996).

—Hank Bordowitz

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