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Profile of Huey Lewis & the News, '80s Mainstream Superstars


Profile of Huey Lewis & the News, '80s Mainstream Superstars
Album Cover Photo Courtesy of Chrysalis Records


1980 in San Francisco

Original Members:

  • Huey Lewis (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III on July 5, 1950 in New York City) - Lead vocals, harmonica
  • Sean Hopper (born Sean Thomas Hopper on March 31, 1953 in San Francisco, California) - Keyboards, vocals
  • Bill Gibson (born William Scott Gibson on November 13, 1951 in Sacramento, California) - Drums, vocals
  • Johnny Colla (born John Victor Colla on July 2, 1952 in Sacramento, California) - Saxophone, guitar, vocals
  • Mario Cipollina (born November 10, 1954 in San Rafael, California) - Bass
  • Chris Hayes (born Christopher John Hayes on November 24, 1957 in Sacramento, California) - Guitar, vocals

Huey Lewis & the News Backstory:

Believe it or not, Huey Lewis & the News is one of the '80s bands most blessed with rock pedigree. After all, Lewis and Hopper first played together in Clover, a Bay Area band that eventually took a pub rock direction in England, so much so that the band eventually evolved into Elvis Costello's backing band for his debut album. But when that band returned to the West Coast, it fused with competing jazz-funk outfit Soundhole, which had previously backed up Van Morrison. Members of each group then formed American Express, which would become Huey Lewis & the News in 1980 after legal objections over the original name.

Pub Rock, American Style:

With its membership set, the band released its debut on Chrysalis on 1980 even as it continued to hone a developing mainstream pop/rock bar band sound. By 1982's Picture This, the group's appeal began to gain attention on the pop music scene, on the strength of the classic pop single "Do You Believe in Love?", which hit No. 7. While Lewis & Co. completely ignored punk and new wave trends of the period, there was clearly an audience hungry for the band's throwback, oldies-inspired, non-threatening brand of rock and roll. Still, no one could have predicted the heights to which this blue-collar outfit would rise.

Regular-Guy Superstardom:

At the advent of the video age, Lewis and the boys didn't have much glamor to draw from, so they depended entirely on the no-nonsense nature of Lewis' vocals and the melodies and harmonies supplied by his bandmates. This approach paid off immensely against the odds with 1983's massive hit album Sports, which shot to No. 1 in 1984 aided not only by four Top 10 pop singles but also by a surprising MTV acceptance of the nondescript sextet. The only thing glossy about the band was its sense of pop songcraft, but American audiences just couldn't get enough Huey in the mid-'80s.

Too Much Square, Not Enough Hip:

Three years passed before the band released its next album, and the repetitive nature of its title, Fore!, may have signaled some staleness that seeped into the music. The record still managed to net four Top 10 singles, and Lewis and the boys were as ubiquitous as ever, but songs like "Hip to Be Square" and "Stuck with You" may have alienated rock listeners with their distinct lack of coolness. Nonetheless, the band eked out a few more hits and one more album before the decade closed out and ushered in a truly noticeable decline.

A Wholesome Legacy Continues:

Even though the name Huey Lewis became significantly more scarce throughout the '90s, the singer and frontman persevered with changing lineups of the original band and also did a little acting on the side. Through it all, aging fans of the band's early days as well as all audiences attracted to melodic if middle-of-the-road pop/rock have continued to reward Lewis with attendance for occasional concert tours into the new millennium. Having recently celebrated the band's 25th anniversary, Lewis and his current backing band have toured during the summers with Chicago and other oldies acts.

Interesting Facts About Huey Lewis & the News:

  • After refusing an offer to provide the theme for 1984's hit film Ghostbusters, the band became embroiled in a legal battle over Lewis' claim that Ray Parker's "Ghostbusters" too closely resembled "I Want a New Drug." That battle is ongoing today.
  • "Hip to Be Square" received the ironic cinematic treatment in 2000's American Psycho, providing the soundtrack for one of Patrick Bateman's graphic murders.
  • Lewis' penis, or perhaps a prosthetic facsimile, makes an appearance in Robert Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts, an adaptation of several stories and poems by contemporary American writer Raymond Carver. Go figure that one.
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