In spite of his all-American boyish good looks and refreshingly matter-of-fact charm, upon closer inspection you will find in Huey Lewis‘ life ( born Hugh Cregg III ) a series of contradictions. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Huey claims in our classic rock interview to have “grown up as a lower middle class kid”, yet his father was a doctor who sent Huey to private prep school in New Jersey. His mother was a free-spirited artist at the nexus of the Hippie movement, yet Huey was a clean cut “A” student athlete good enough to earn a baseball scholarship. You may read that Huey’s first pro band, Clover, was Elvis Costello‘s studio backing band on the introductory My Aim is True album, but most omit the fact that Huey did not play on it (see interesting sidebar on these very days below ). After returning to America and forming Huey Lewis and the News, their third album Sports thirty years ago would eventually sell over seven million copies, but not before Huey paid the rent as a street corner singer in Europe, a truck driver, a carpenter, a short order cook, a partner in a landscaping business (“We pretty much just pulled weeds”, Huey laughs), and the first recycling business in California.
By the early Eighties, the music business had long established a formula where, by the third album, a recording artist was expected to go big or go home. With Sports, Huey Lewis and the News went big. Really, really big. #1 sales big, 71 weeks on the Billboard chart, four Top Ten hit singles big, including “Heart and Soul”, “If This is It”,”The Heart of Rock ‘n’Roll”, and “I Want a New Drug”. And you won’t find them at home, either, as Huey is taking a thirtieth anniversary victory lap around the U.S. right now. – Redbeard
Well it was 1978 or 79. I was a law student at Manchester University in England. Manchester is notorious for its wet weather. It could be a bit grim then;after all, this is the city that later produced The Smiths and New Order! I was playing bass in a number of local bands at the time, including filling in for a reggae band’s bass player until he got out of jail.
At that time English universities employed a student or former student as the “Social Secretary”. This was a paid job with a good size budget to pay and promote bands. Punk rock was still pretty big at the time, but a good social secretary got in some great bands. That year I saw Talking Heads and Dire Straits in our student union hall, on the same bill, for the grand total of 40 pence (about 75c). Despite punk’s advent, there was still an interest in American bands, particularly West Coast style. We just went to see everyone we could.
There was an advert one day in our student paper telling us that a California band ( that’s how they promoted them) called Clover were coming to the Union on Saturday night. Their new album was just out, and we were told to lookout for singer Alex Call “…who was going to be a big star soon. With some excitement, my girlfriend, myself, and four of my friends set out for the student union that Saturday.
It was pretty quiet when we got there: actually we were the crowd. All 6 of us.
Clover came out and when they hit the stage they had a quick look at each other, a few eyebrows were raised, then they got on with it. They knew they were getting paid anyway. They proceeded to play an absolutely brilliant set, and the 6 of us in the “crowd” went wild ( well, as wild as 6 people can ). They played for an hour and a half, and we were struck particularly by the other vocalist and the guitarist/steel guitarist. This band could rock out yet had superb harmonies. They gave it a really good shot. At the end they played an encore for the 6 of us.
Then they invited us for a drink.
Manchester in those days was not known for its nightlife, so we went up to the dressing room and everyone introduced themselves. Alex Call introduced the band, including the steel guitarist who was John McFee, later of the Doobie Brothers. He was very nice but painfully quiet and shy. The other singer, with the warm baritone voice, introduced himself as Huey Lewis, then proceeded to entertain us almost as well as he did on stage, telling stories, joking, being a great conversationalist and all ’round great company. The beer eventually ran out, and we explained that in 1970s Manchester at 1am the only refreshment was to be found in the Somalian curry house, which was not a particularly safe place.
So Clover went on their way. One of the nicest evenings I had spent with some good people. Imagine my surprise and pleasure as I saw Huey’s career take off like a rocket a bit later. I was also happy to see John McFee with the Doobies later, but you didn’t walk’ round the back of the Manchester Apollo to have a beer with that band!- Patrick Moore, In the Studio London correspondent