Gary Lewis (musician)

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Gary Lewis
Birth name Gary Harold Lee Levitch
Born (1946-07-31) July 31, 1946 (age 70)
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Instruments Vocal, drums, guitar
Years active 1960s–present
Labels Liberty
Associated acts Gary Lewis & the Playboys

Gary Lewis (born Gary Harold Lee Levitch, July 31, 1946[1][2]) is an American musician who was the leader of Gary Lewis & the Playboys.[1]

Early life[edit]

Gary Lewis is the son of comedian and actor Jerry Lewis.[3] His mother, Patti Palmer Lewis (née Esther Calonico),[4] a singer at the time with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra,[5] intended to name him after her favorite actor, Cary Grant, but a clerical error led to his naming as "Gary".[2][3]

He received a set of drums as a gift for his 14th birthday in 1960.[2] When he was 18, Lewis formed what would become Gary Lewis & the Playboys (then known as "Gary and the Playboys") with four other friends.[2] Joking at the lateness of bandmates to practice, Lewis referred to them as "playboys", and the name stuck.[6] Lewis was the drummer, but at that time singing duties were held by guitarist Dave Walker.[2] As the band started, Gary's mother was quietly funding the purchases of equipment, as they believed Gary's father would not have supported the band.[6] This could explain why, even though he lived down the street from the Lewis family, producer Snuff Garrett wasn't aware of Gary's band until a mutual friend, conductor Lou Brown, informed him that the band was playing at Disneyland and that Garrett should give them a listen.[2]

Gary Lewis & the Playboys[edit]

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the Lewis name,[2] Garrett put Lewis' band into the studio to develop,[1] still with the finances of Lewis' mother.[2] Garrett pushed Lewis to improve his drumming skill, even getting Buddy Rich to tutor him,[1] and, more importantly, made Lewis the singer, and therefore the focal point of the group.[2] By Lewis' own admission, his natural singing voice was not one of his strengths,[6] and this led Garrett to employ vocal overdubbing tricks in the studio, to enhance it.

"This Diamond Ring", hitting number one on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart on February 20, 1965,[7] made Lewis an instant star. Lewis was Cash Box magazine's 1965 "Male Vocalist of the Year".[2] Besides The Lovin' Spoonful, the group was the only artist during the 1960s to have its first seven Hot 100 releases each reach that chart's Top 10.[2] In addition to "This Diamond Ring", his hits include "Count Me In" (the only non-British Commonwealth record in the Hot 100's Top 10 on May 8, 1965[8] at #2), "Save Your Heart for Me" (#2), "Everybody Loves a Clown" (#4), "She's Just My Style" (#3), "Sure Gonna Miss Her" (#9), and "Green Grass" (#8). Of "Everybody Loves a Clown", Lewis says he composed the song as a gift for his father's birthday. He believed the song was too good, so instead of giving it as a gift, he recorded it.[9]

By 1966, Lewis had stopped drumming altogether and was exclusively singing, replaced at drums by, among others, Jim Keltner.[1] His career was put on hold when he entered the U.S. Army as a draftee in January 1967, and he served during the Vietnam War Era and was stationed overseas with the Eighth Army in Seoul, South Korea to 1968.[2] Lewis has expressed that he was reluctant to go to Vietnam, but he credits the Army with being the time when he "grew up."[10]

He returned to performing and recording but did not recapture his earlier success and five releases by the band that year peaked from 13th to 39th. His musical career was later marketed as a "nostalgia act" with appearances (continuing as of 2010) on his father's Labor Day Telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

In January 2012, Lewis released a new single, "You Can't Go Back".

Film appearances[edit]

He appeared uncredited in his father's film The Nutty Professor (1963).[11] He also appeared in a credited role singing "The Land of La-la-la" with his father in Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958), where he played Jerry Lewis as a boy.[12] He also was seen in the movie The Family Jewels.

Later life[edit]

Following his tour in South Korea, Lewis retired from music, operating a music shop in San Fernando Valley in 1971, and giving drumming lessons.[6] A brief attempt at starting a new band called "Medecine", with Billy Cowsill of The Cowsills in 1974 did not go anywhere.[2] It was not until the 1980s when Lewis began touring again, with various incarnations of the Playboys, generally featuring no original members.[6]

Lewis and his family reside in Rush, New York.[13]

In the summer of 2013 Lewis, along with a group of 1960s musicians including Gary Puckett (Gary Puckett & The Union Gap), Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night), Mark Lindsay (former lead singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders), and The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie toured 47 cities in Paradise Artist's "Happy Together" tour.

As of 2016, Gary Lewis and The Playboys are still touring the world on their own and occasionally with other popular '50s, '60s, and '70s acts. The group performs on cruise ships, at casinos, festivals, fairs, and corporate events.


  1. ^ a b c d e Eder, Bruce. "Biography". Gary Lewis. AllMusic. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Gary Lewis and the Playboys". Classic Bands. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Vogel, Michelle (2005). Children of Hollywood. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786420469. 
  4. ^ Lewis, Jerry; Gluck, Herb (1982). Jerry Lewis In Person. New York: Athenum. ISBN 0-689-11290-4. 
  5. ^ Kamm, Herbert (January 9, 1957). "It's Quits For Martin And Lewis - Article 3" (PDF). Schenectady Gazette. United Feature Syndicate. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e James, Gary. "Interview With Gary Lewis". Classic Bands. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Week of February 20, 1965". Hot 100. Billboard. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Week of May 08, 1965". Hot 100. Billboard. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Gary Lewis admits to identity crisis because of his famous father". Retrieved 2016-08-25. 
  10. ^ "Gary Lewis admits to identity crisis because of his famous father". Retrieved 2016-08-25. 
  11. ^ - Full cast and crew
  12. ^ - Full cast and crew
  13. ^ "Good News: Gary Lewis gives back to his adopted home". 8 January 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 

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