Gary Lewis (musician)

Gary Lewis (born Gary Harold Lee Levitch; July 31, 1945[2][3]) is an American musician who was the leader of Gary Lewis & the Playboys.[2]

Gary Lewis
Gary Lewis (2nd from left) with The Playboys in 1996
Background information
Birth nameGary Harold Lee Levitch
Born (1946-07-31) July 31, 1946[1]
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresPop rock
  • Vocals
  • drums
  • guitar
Years active1960s–present
Associated actsGary Lewis & the Playboys

Early life

Gary Lewis is the son of Jerry Lewis[4] and singer Patti Palmer.[5] His mother, who was a singer at the time with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra,[6] intended to name him after her favorite actor, Cary Grant, but a clerical error led to his naming as "Gary".[3][4] He received a set of drums as a gift for his 14th birthday in 1960.[3] When he was 18, Lewis formed what would become Gary Lewis & the Playboys (then known as "Gary and the Playboys") with four other friends.[3] Joking at the lateness of bandmates to practice, Lewis referred to them as "playboys", and the name stuck.[7]

Lewis was the drummer, but at that time singing duties were held by guitarist Dave Walker.[3] As the band started, Gary's mother was quietly funding the purchases of equipment, as they believed Gary's father would not have supported the band.[7] This could explain why, even though he lived down the street from the Lewis family, producer Snuff Garrett was not aware of Gary's band until a mutual friend, conductor Lou Brown, informed him that the band was playing at Disneyland and that Garrett should give them a listen.[3]

Lewis was drafted into the United States army. During his two years of service, he spent two months at the Saigon Airport during the Vietnam War, and the remainder of the time in South Korea.[8]

Gary Lewis & the Playboys

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the Lewis name,[3] Garrett put Lewis' band into the studio to develop,[2] still with the finances of Lewis' mother.[3] Garrett pushed Lewis to improve his drumming skill, even getting Buddy Rich to tutor him,[2] and, more importantly, made Lewis the singer, and therefore the focal point of the group.[3] By Lewis' own admission, his natural singing voice was not one of his strengths,[7] and this led Garrett to employ vocal overdubbing tricks in the studio, to enhance it. "This Diamond Ring" hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 20, 1965,[9] making Lewis an instant star. Lewis was Cash Box magazine's 1965 "Male Vocalist of the Year".[3] Besides The Lovin' Spoonful, the group was the only artist during the 1960s to have its first seven Hot 100 releases each reach that chart's top 10.[3]

In addition to "This Diamond Ring", his hits include "Count Me In" (the only non-British Commonwealth record in the Hot 100's top 10 on May 8, 1965,[10] at number two), "Save Your Heart for Me" (number two), "Everybody Loves a Clown" (number four), "She's Just My Style" (number three), "Sure Gonna Miss Her" (number nine), and "Green Grass" (number eight). Of "Everybody Loves a Clown", Lewis says he composed the song as a gift for his father's birthday. He believed the song was too good, so instead of giving it as a gift, he recorded it.[11] By 1966, Lewis had stopped drumming altogether and was exclusively singing, replaced at drums by, among others, Jim Keltner.[2] His career was put on hold when he entered the U.S. Army as a draftee in January 1967, and he served during the Vietnam War era and was stationed overseas with the Eighth Army in Seoul, South Korea, to 1968.[3]

Lewis has expressed that he was reluctant to go to Vietnam, but he credits the Army with being the time when he "grew up".[11] He returned to performing and recording, but did not recapture his earlier success and five releases by the band that year peaked from 13th to 39th. His musical career was later marketed as a "nostalgia act" with appearances on his father's Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, including the 2010 telethon which was his dad's final as host. In January 2012, Lewis released a new single, "You Can't Go Back".

Film appearances

He appeared uncredited in his father's movie The Nutty Professor (1963).[12] He also appeared in a credited role singing "The Land of La-la-la" with his dad in Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958), where he played Jerry Lewis as a boy.[13] He also was seen in the movie The Family Jewels (1965).

Later life

In 1971, Lewis took a break from performing, operating a music shop in the San Fernando Valley and giving drumming lessons.[7] A brief attempt at starting a new band called Medecine, with Billy Cowsill of the Cowsills in 1974 did not go anywhere.[3] Lewis began touring again in the 1980s, with various incarnations of the Playboys, generally featuring no original members.[7] On the nationally syndicated program Inside Edition, Gary got to meet his half-sister Suzan Klienman, who had learned from DNA testing results that they are related siblings, the children of comedy star Jerry Lewis. [14] Lewis and his family reside in Rush, New York.[15]

In the summer of 2013, Lewis, along with a group of 1960s musicians including Gary Puckett (Gary Puckett & The Union Gap), Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night), Mark Lindsay (former lead singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders), and The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie toured 47 cities in Paradise Artist's "Happy Together" tour. As of 2016, Gary Lewis and the Playboys are still touring the world on their own and occasionally with other popular 1950s, 60s, and 70s acts. The group performs on cruise ships, at casinos, festivals, fairs, and corporate events.


  1. Kehr, Dave (August 20, 2017). "Jerry Lewis, Mercurial Comedian and Filmmaker, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2017. Three months later they were married, and on July 31, 1945, while Patti was living with Jerry’s parents in Newark and he was performing at a Baltimore nightclub, she gave birth to the first of the couple’s six sons, Gary, who in the 1960s had a series of hit records with his band Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
  2. Eder, Bruce. "Gary Lewis Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  3. "Gary Lewis and the Playboys". Classic Bands. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  4. Vogel, Michelle (2005). Children of Hollywood. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786420469.
  5. Lewis, Jerry; Gluck, Herb (1982). Jerry Lewis In Person. New York: Athenum. ISBN 0-689-11290-4.
  6. Kamm, Herbert (January 9, 1957). "It's Quits For Martin And Lewis - Article 3" (PDF). Schenectady Gazette. United Feature Syndicate. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  7. James, Gary. "Interview With Gary Lewis". Classic Bands. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  8. Cromelin, Richard. "Lewis: He's Not in the Army Now", Los Angeles Times, 14 June 1985. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  9. "Week of February 20, 1965". Hot 100. Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  10. "Week of May 08, 1965". Hot 100. Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  11. "Gary Lewis admits to identity crisis because of his famous father". Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  12. The Nutty Professor (1963 film) on IMDb
  13. Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958 film) on IMDb
  14. "Inside Edition... Jerry Lewis' Daughter?". March 8, 2009.
  15. "Good News: Gary Lewis gives back to his adopted home". January 8, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
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