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Huey Lewis and The News

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Almost as much a reaction to the studied sloppiness of punk as punk had been to the more overblown sound that rock had become in the '70s, Huey Lewis and the News were seemingly nothing more than a bunch of adults out for a good time. With the kind of easygoing songs that sound familiar on first hearing - hits like The Heart of Rock & Roll, The Power of Love, Workin' for a Livin', Stuck with You and Doing It All for My Baby -- the band's philosophy might best be summed up by the philosophy of their 1988 classic, Hip To Be Square.

Based in San Francisco, the band had its roots in bar bands and the fleeting British pub-rock movement.

Hugh Anthony Cregg III was born in New York City, but by the early '70s was in San Francisco, where (as "Huey Lewis") he fronted the countryish bar band, Clover. That group moved to England where their sound fit in with pub-rock bands like The Rumour and Brinsley Schwartz. The recorded a couple of albums produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange; backed Elvis Costello on his My Aim is True debut; then moved back to San Francisco and disbanded, lead guitarist John McFee joining The Doobie Brothers.

Lewis and Clover keyboardist Sean Hopper continued together, eventually forming a band called American Express with saxophonist and guitarist John Colla; bassist Mario Cippolina (whose brother, John, was guitarist for the Quicksilver Messenger Service); and drummer Bill Gibson. After adding lead guitarist Chris Hayes, the band was signed to Chrysalis Records, who probably fearful of trademark infringement) insisted that American Express change its name. Which they did, to Huey Lewis and the News.

While their first album didn't create any waves, their second - Picture This - produced three hit singles: Do You Believe in Love, Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do and Workin' For a Livin'. Their third album, Sports, went multi-platinum with the success of Heart and Soul (not the standard); I Want a New Drug (don't worry: in keeping with the band's image, they're trying to avoid narcotics or other pharmaceuticals); The Heart of Rock and Roll and If This Is It. Nineteen eighty-five saw their first No. 1 single, The Power of Love, from the soundtrack of Back to the Future; two more would follow: Stick with You and Jacob's Ladder. Most of the songs were composed by various combinations of group members, but they weren't above going outside for the occasional number.

As the group's good-natured videos were deemed responsible for much of the band's appeal, Lewis himself could be occasionally seen on the screen, playing cameo roles in films including Back to the Future, Shadow of a Doubt, Sphere and Short Cuts, and as a voice actor in the animated Oliver and Company and The Real Story of Humpty Dumpty.

As their string of hits diminished, the band moved to EMI, then to the Elektra label. While their sales never again reached their mid-'80s peak, the band continued to be a popular live attraction.

© 2004