Gary Lewis was born in 1946. His mother Patti thought that Cary Grant was a terrific actor, and wanted to name her oldest son Cary. The hospital where Gary Lewis was born made a mistake when they recorded his name as "Gary" instead of "Cary". And thus, to this day his name has always been Gary Harold Lee Lewis. Gary's family members, however, still poke fun at what was supposed to be his original name.
For his fourteenth birthday in the summer of 1960 Gary was given a set of drums. Four years later he formed a group in the Los Angeles area with guitarists David Walker and Al Ramsay, lead guitarist David Costell, keyboard player John West, and Gary himself on drums and vocals. They called themselves Gary Lewis and the Playboys and eventually began playing at Disneyland. West Coast record producer Snuff Garrett signed them to a contract with Liberty Records.
Garrett suggested to Gary Lewis that he have his famous father, comedian Jerry Lewis, use his connections to get the group a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The arrangements were made and after their performance on nationwide television in January, 1965, the group became literally an overnight sensation. Their song This Diamond Ring shot up to #1 and the pressing plants ran 24 hours a day but could not keep up with the demand for the record.
The arranger on most of their recordings was Leon Russell, who would sit on the beach in Venice writing rock-and-roll songs with Gary Lewis that the group turned into smashing successes. By the end of 1965 most of the original personnel had left the group and been replaced. Keyboard player John West remained, and he played along with Tom Tripplehorn, Carl Radle, and Jimmy Karstein. The latter three were all recruited by Leon Russell from his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1965 and 1966, Gary Lewis and the Playboys released seven songs that made the top ten:
In late 1966, the Selective Service derailed the huge success of the group by sending Gary Lewis his draft notification. He was inducted into the Army on the first day of 1967. Lewis resumed his career on his discharge in 1968. Tastes in music had changed and the group never regained the success it had achieved in the mid-sixties, but it had placed a total of 15 songs in the top 100 by the end of the decade.
Gary Lewis fared better than the offspring of other stars who had taken a run at rock-and-roll. He is a talented singer, songwriter and musician. His party songs sold well in the mid-60's at the height of Beatlemania, but the psychedelic mood that prevailed in the following years made his style of music out of vogue.
Tom Tripplehorn, who performed with the group during its most successful period, returned to Tulsa when Lewis was drafted and still makes a living playing rock-and-roll and blues guitar there. He is the father of actress Jeanne Tripplehorn.
Gary Lewis now lives in New York and tours with a group known as Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The present lineup of Gary Lewis and the Playboys includes Gary Lewis on guitar, Rich Spina on keyboards, Billy Sullivan on guitar, Paul Sidoti on bass, and Michael Hudak on drums. All but the drummer help with vocals. Gary still plays the drums and sings and he gives a somewhat frenetic, inspired performance. He really enjoys his music.
Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.
Return to Home Page.
Send email to the author, Tom Simon firstname.lastname@example.org.