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Gary Lewis and the Playboys

This group was formed in the early 1960s when Gary Lewis, who is the son of the comedian and actor Jerry Lewis, brought four of his friends together and began performing as a band.  These were the rhythm guitarist David Walker, the bass player Allan Ramsay, the lead guitarist David Costell and the organist and cordovox player John West.  He named them the playboys as they were guilty of being late for practice and that name is the one that was used for them for the rest of the band’s career.

Not revealing the name of Gary Lewis’s famous father they performed an audition for Disneyland as The Playboys and were hired there and then.  They proved to be very popular and quickly played every night to full houses.  This caught the attention of the bandleader Les Brown who passed on what they were doing to the producer Snuff Garrett who, in turn, went to listen to them himself.

Snuff Garrett decided to record them singing the song “This Diamond Ring” with financial backing by Patti Lewis, who was Jerry’s wife.   He also changed their name to Gary Lewis and the Playboys and added the session musicians Tommy Allsup, Hal Blaine, Mike Deasy, Joe Osborn and Leon Russell and the session singer Ron Hicklin.  The song was then played on WINS by the DJ Murray the K after being told the band would play in New York in an all-star concert series and then they were given a chance to perform live on the The Ed Sullivan Show.  That performance aired in January 1965 bringing them instant success and the song knocked The Beatles off the top of the chart when it reached No. 1,  becoming a gold disc by April 1965.  They went on to appear on the show another five times.

The band changed their lineup and by 1966 there were only two original members left which were Gary Lewis and John West.  The ones that had left were quickly replaced though and they went on to record many other Top 10 singles that included “Count Me In”,  “Everybody Loves a Clown”, “Save Your Heart for Me”, “She’s Just My Style” and “Green Grass”.  In fact, they and The Lovin’ Spoonful were the only band have their first seven releases reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Also in 1966 they had their own An Evening with Gary Lewis & The Playboys which was broadcast on WGN 9 as a television special.

When 1967 came around Gary Lewis had to leave to serve in the US Army in January but on his return the following year he recorded a remake of “Sealed with a Kiss” which had previously been a hit for Bryan Hyland.  Although the song reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 the group’s initial popularity had declined and so touring was later more appearances on the nostalgia circuit.

During the 1970s Gary Lewis owned a record store for a few years and in 1975 the band came to the attention of listeners again when “My Heart’s Symphony” was reissued it became the one and only time they had been noticed in the UK when it hit the singles chart at No. 36.

Although only have a minor success in the UK they did however have a much bigger success in the US and have managed to achieve 4 gold albums, 8 gold singles and 17 Top 40 hits.

During the 1980s the band joined with other successful ’60s band to perform in the Happy Together tour in 1985.  They have continued to tour into the 2020s.