Q and A with Huey Lewis
- Portland Tribune - Features
For those who reveled in the sounds of Huey Lewis and the News in the 1980s, it's hard to believe their front man turned 60 in July. The blues rock band, which is playing a pair of dates at Chinook Winds in Lincoln City later this month, cranked out 19 top-10 singles, including 'Heart of Rock and Roll,' 'If This is it,' 'The Power of Love,' 'Working for a Livin',' 'I want a New Drug,' 'Stuck with You' and 'Doing It all for my Baby.'
The News also had a pair of No. 1 albums, including 'Sports' in 1983, one of the best-selling pop releases of all-time, with 10 million sales in the U.S. alone. They enjoyed four top-20 albums from 1982-88, have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and rank among the top 200-selling groups in music history.
In 2000, Lewis collaborated with actress Gwyneth Paltrow on a cover of Smokey Robinson's 'Cruisin',' which reached the top spot on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
The Tribune caught Huey Lewis on the phone at a tour date in Santa Barbara, Calif.:
Tribune: Where are you calling from? Are you touring?
Lewis: Santa Barbara. Yes, we're on the road. We do about 75 dates a year. A good portion of them come in the summertime.
Tribune: How many original members of the band are with you?
Lewis: Four of us since the very beginning. We formed in 1978, with our first record in 1980. Four out of the original six ain't bad.
Tribune: Your real name is Hugh Anthony Cregg III. How did you become Huey Lewis?
Lewis: I made it up. I was in England, playing with a band called 'Clover.' I didn't have a green card. I needed a stage name so I wouldn't get myself in trouble. I chose 'Hughie Louis,' but they misspelled my name on Twiggy's record, one of the first sessions I did. When my record came out with Clover, they took that spelling, and I just kept it.
Tribune: Did you really score a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT while in high school in Marin County?
Lewis: Yeah, but a lot of people do. Well, maybe not a lot of people, but it's not totally rare.
Tribune: You studied engineering at Cornell. For how long?
Lewis: Oh, about five minutes over a two-year period.
Tribune: Did you really learn to play harmonica while waiting for rides hitchhiking? How old were you?
Lewis: Between high school and college, I took a year off and bummed around Europe. I was 16 because I was a year younger than my class. I hitchhiked throughout Europe and played the harmonica until my lips bled. I actually started playing harmonica somewhat prior to that. My mother rented a room to a guy named Billy Roberts, who wrote the song 'Hey Joe.' He gave me a bunch of harmonicas. My mom - who was hanging out with the beat poets in San Francisco at the time - had me listen to a Bob Dylan record and said, 'Do this.'
Tribune: How was it to be on top of the music world in the '80s?
Lewis: It was amazing. We weren't spring chickens when it happened. We all enjoyed the rocketship ride to the top. At one point, we got together and talked about what was happening to us. We said, 'Let's enjoy this. You only go from nowhere to everywhere once in your career.'
Tribune: Your top-selling albums were 'Sports' and 'Fore!' - sports themes both. Are you a big sports fan?
Lewis: Yes I am. My joke is, we have a lot in common with athletes. We spend a lot of time in coliseums and take a lot of showers together.
Tribune: You're friends with Portland golfer Peter Jacobsen. How many times did you play in the Fred Meyer Challenge?
Lewis: Only twice. It was really fun. Jake is the greatest. He sang with our band. We played 'I Love to Play' (to 'I Love LA') and 'Get it to the Hole' (to 'Heart and Soul').
Tribune: How often have you played in Oregon during the years?
Lewis: This is our second time to Chinook Winds, but we have been playing Oregon for 30 years. We used to play a couple of clubs up there with Clover, but I can't remember the names. Portland's a great music town, it really is. That little blues scene you have there. … (the late) Paul deLay, Curtis Salgado … it's a good scene.
Tribune: You've acted in several films, including 'Duets,' in which you played Gwyneth Paltrow's father. Do you enjoy acting?
Lewis: It enlarges me. Since I don't have to have make my living at it, I find it wonderfully creative for short periods of time. If you get to work with good people and get a part with some real substance, it can be rewarding.
Tribune: You made your Broadway debut in 2006 in 'Chicago' as attorney Billy Flynn. How long was your run?
Lewis: I did two stints in each of two years, 12 weeks each. Over three months, we did 220 shows. I loved it. It's a great play. They've asked me to come back. I may do it again. It's fun living in New York. Once you have it in your blood, it's addictive.
Tribune: Where are you living now?
Lewis: I've been in Missoula, Mont., for six years. I love it up there. I run away in the wintertime a little bit, but eight months of the year it's wonderful.
Tribune: Your most recent album was recorded in 2001? Anything in the works?
Lewis: We have another one coming out in November. It's a rhythm-and-blues tribute. We really had a ball.