Gary Lewis and the Playboys!

By Gary:
Let’s take a look at one of the fastest rise & fall from fame.  This pretty well transpired over a three year period.  I will openly admit that I was not enthused with this artist’s singing voice, but will admit that I did purchase a two album set of vinyl LP’s.  So let’s look at Gary Harold Lee Levitch, July 31, 1945, who had a very famous father Jerome Levich.  Of course Jerome changed his name to Jerry and their last name to Lewis.  So we end up with Gary Lewis and the Playboys with his famous father comedian Jerry Lewis.  Gary was always a pretty good musician (I may be the only one who was not sold on his voice) and the Playboys, musically, where a great group.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Original members
  • Gary Lewis – Drums and vocals
  • David Walker – Guitar
  • Allan Ramsay (died in 1985) – Bass (he was killed in an Airplane crash.  He was a pilot for Northeast Airlines and was killed with his co-pilot)
  • David Costell – Guitar
  • John West – “Cordovox” (electronic accordion)

Videos:

1965 / Rare Mike Douglas Show songs and interview /
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1965 / Count me In /
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1965 / Intro by Father and Son / Everybody loves a Clown /

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1966 / WGN  An Evening With Gary Lewis and the Playboys /
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PBS / This Diamond Ring /
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1993 / She’s Just my Style / Jerry Lewis Telethon /

 

Their Hits

1.   This Diamond Ring/ Liberty55756/ January 1965/ #1 (2)

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2.   Count me In/ Liberty 55778/ April 1965/ #2

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3.   Save your Heart for Me/ Liberty 55809/ July 1965/ #2

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4.   Everybody loves a Clown/ Liberty 55818/ October 1965/ #4

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5.   She’s Just My Style/ Liberty 55846/ December 1965/ #3

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6.   Sure Gonna Miss Her/ Liberty 55865/ March 1966/ #9

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7.   Green Grass/ Liberty 55880/ May 1966/ #8

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8.   My Heart’s Symphony/ Liberty 55895/ August 1966/ #13

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9.   (You Don’t have to) Paint me a Picture/ Liberty 55914/ October 1966/ #15

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10. Where will the words Come From/ Liberty 55933/ January 1967/ #21

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11. Girls in Love/ Liberty 55971/ June 1967/ #39

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12. Sealed with a Kiss/ Liberty 56037/ July 1968/ #19

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The group auditioned for a job at Disneyland, supposedly without telling Disneyland employees about Lewis’ celebrity father. 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 weren’t 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 studio 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 Gary’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 theatres 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 (although one of his frequent guests,
The Dave Clark Five, had lip-synched from their second appearance on, in early 1964). 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. The January 1965 broadcast made Gary Lewis and the Playboys instant stars, “This Diamond Ring” went to #1, and pressing plants reportedly could not keep up with initial demand for the record. However, by the end of 1965 only West and Lewis remained in the band. Other members later included Tommy Tripplehorn (father of actress Jeanne Tripplehorn), Carl Radle, Jimmy Karstein, Dave Gonzalez, and Myke.

 


In 1965 Gary Lewis was Cash Box magazine’s “Male Vocalist of the Year,” winning against nominees
Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and was the only artist during the 1960s to have his first seven single releases reach Billboard magazine’s Top 10 on the Hot 100 chart, with “Count Me In” (#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) all hitting the upper reaches of the chart. 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 Labour Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Gary Lewis had eight Gold Singles, 17 Top 40 hits and four gold albums. In addition to The Ed Sullivan Show, he appeared on American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullabaloo, The Sally Jessie Raphaël show, Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, Nashville Now and Wolfman Jack. (lastfm)
–o–

 

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