It was the seventeenth edition of In the Studio back on October 17th, 1988 three decades ago. There’s good “news” and bad “news” as we hit the thirty-fifth anniversary of Sports, the estimated 10,000,000 seller from Huey Lewis and the News released at the end of Summer 1983. First, the bad news: the band had to cancel all of their remaining 2018 concerts to mark the major milestone when Huey Lewis was stricken with an inner ear malady, Meniere’s disease.
“I can’t hear music well enough to sing,” Huey told Rolling Stone magazine last April. “Just before a show in Dallas, I lost most of my hearing…making it impossible to find pitch.” Like migraine or epilepsy, Meniere’s disease sufferers outwardly appear normal, but it is a chronic condition, which means that you don’t treat it for a week or two and it goes away. It is constant and can last months, years, or possibly the rest of your life.
The good news? 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. After returning to America and forming Huey Lewis and the News, their third album Sports in September would eventually sell over seven million copies certified stateside, but not before Huey Lewis 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, all before Huey Lewis spread the News.
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”.- Redbeard