Gary Lewis & The Playboys

Gary Lewis & The PlayboysFrom: Los Angeles, CA, America

The group auditioned for a job at Disneyland, without telling Disneyland employees about Lewis’ celebrity father. They were able to do this because they were known then as Gary & the Playboys. They were hired on the spot, audiences at Disneyland quickly accepted them, and the Playboys were soon playing to a full house every night.

Band leader Les Brown had known Jerry Lewis for years, and he told record producer Snuff Garrett that the younger Lewis was playing at Disneyland. After listening to the band, Garrett thought using Gary’s famous name might sell records. Garrett took them into a recording studio with the song “This Diamond Ring” in a session financed by Jerry Lewis’ wife Patti. However, according to Lewis, the Playboys were not allowed to play their instruments except on the backing tracks. Garrett wanted to maximize the chances for a hit, so he insisted on using experienced session musicians for the overdubs, which included guitar and keyboard solos, additional bass and drum overdubs, and timpani. These musicians included Tommy Allsup on guitar, Leon Russell on keyboards, Joe Osborn on bass, and Hal Blaine on drums. Session singer Ron Hicklin did the basic vocal track. Garrett then added Lewis’s voice twice, added some of the Playboys and more of Hicklin. “When I got through, he sounded like Mario Lanza,” Garrett commented.

Garrett got airplay in New York City for “This Diamond Ring” by making a deal with WINS disc jockey “Murray the K” Kaufman, who ran a series of all-star concerts at theaters around the New York area, promising that if he played Lewis’ record, the Playboys would do his shows. Garrett then had Jerry Lewis use his contacts to get his son onto The Ed Sullivan Show. However, Sullivan had a general policy that all acts appearing on his show were to perform live. Since so many studio tricks had been used on the record, the Playboys could not re-create its sound. In compromise, Lewis sang along with pre-recorded tracks as the Playboys pretended to play their instruments.[1] The January 1965 broadcast made Gary Lewis and the Playboys instant stars. “This Diamond Ring” went to #1, sold over one million copies by April 1965, and became a gold disc.[2] However, by the end of 1965 only West and Lewis remained in the band. Other later band members included Tommy Tripplehorn (father of actress Jeanne Tripplehorn), Carl Radle (died 1980), Jimmy Karstein, Randy Ruff and Dave Gonzalez.

In 1965, Gary Lewis was Cash Box magazine’s “Male Vocalist of the Year,” winning against nominees Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. The group was one of only two acts during the 1960s whose first seven Hot 100 releases reached that chart’s top 10 (The Lovin’ Spoonful was the other): “This Diamond Ring” (#1), “Count Me In” (the only non-British Commonwealth record in the Hot 100’s Top 10 on 8 May 1965, 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). Lewis was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1967 and discharged in 1968. He immediately returned to recording but was unable to regain his group’s earlier momentum. Lewis continued touring, eventually marketing the band as a nostalgia act. He also appeared and performed on many of his father’s Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Lewis had eight gold singles, seventeen Top 40 hits, and four gold albums. In addition to The Ed Sullivan Show, he appeared on American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullabaloo, The Sally Jessy Raphaël show, Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, Nashville Now and Wolfman Jack. Despite the group’s US success, it made no progress at all in the UK.

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1998 album The Original
Gary Lewis -  The Original

  • The Loser (With a Broken Heart)
  • Way Way Out

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