Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gary Lewis And The Playboys

All kinds of interesting this group,Gary Lewis And The Playboys...say what you will, they left a hefty chunk o' pop-rock history in their wake. A 60s-era American pop band fronted by Gary Lewis, son of famed actor/comedian Jerry Lewis, much has been said, implied and tabloid-ized about the father's relationship with the son, and the elder Lewis' feelings about Gary's musical accomplishments. Being unable to solidly verify any of this talk, I shall endeavor to concentrate on the band and it's music.
The original members of the group were Lewis on vocals and drums, guitarist David Walker (no relation to the ex-Savoy Brown front man), David Costell also on guitar, bassist Allen Ramsey,and keyboardist John West. It should be noted that this was one of the earliest groups to feature a drummer as front person. ( I feel an A.D.D. Moment coming on, but I'll walk it off)

They auditioned for a gig at Disneyland without revealing the singer's lineage, calling themselves simply Gary and The Playboys at the time. They were hired on the spot,gained quick acceptance, and were soon playing every night. Band leader Les Brown,a long time friend of Gary's father saw the group and told producer Snuff Garret about them. After hearing the band,Garret thought it a good idea to use Gary's famous last name to sell records. Taking them into a studio session financed by Jerry Lewis' wife Patti, they recorded "This Diamond Ring". Garret,trying to maximize the act's chances for a hit, only allowed the band to play on the backing tracks, bringing in experienced session players, among them Leon Russell, Joe Osborne, and Hal Blaine for all overdubs. Session singer Ron Hincklin did the basic vocal track, with Lewis overdubbed twice,and one more track with Hincklin. All in all, drums, tympani.keyboards, and guitar were overdubbed.

Released in early 1965, "This Diamond Ring" got to #1 (one should hope so!). Garret got Jerry Lewis to use his contacts to get the band on The Ed Sullivan Show. The sticking point,however was that Sullivan had a general policy that the acts appearing on the show play live. The amount of studio embellishment on "This Diamond Ring" made that impossible, so as a compromise Sullivan allowed lewis to sing to a backing track while the band pretended to play. The January,1965 appearance made instant stars of the group. Hitting the #1 spot by April,1965, the song sold a million copies and was certified gold. By the end of 1965,however only Lewis and West remained of the original line-up. Later band members included Tommy Tripplehorn (son of actress Jeanne Tripplehorn), Carl Radle,and
Jimmy Karstein. Lewis also played guitar at the group's appearances from time to time. In 1965 Lewis was Cashbox's Male Vocalist of the year,beating out Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra (!).
The group was only one of two of the era's  groups to have seven consecutive top 10 singles (the other being The Lovin' Spoonful). Lewis was drafted into The Army in 1967 and was discharged in 1968. He returned to the business at that point but could not make up for his career's lost momentum, eventually marketing his band as a nostalgia act. All told, Gary Lewis And The Playboys racked up eight gold singles, seventeen top 40 hits, and four gold albums.They appeared on Hullabaloo, American Bandstand, Shindig, The Tonight Show and others. Despite their major U.S. success, They made virtually no progress in The U.K.

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