Hugh Anthony Cregg III (born July 5, 1950), known professionally as Huey Lewis, is an American singer, songwriter, and actor.
Lewis sings lead and plays harmonica for his band, Huey Lewis and the News, in addition to writing or co-writing many of the band’s songs. The band is known for their third, and best-selling, album Sports, and their contribution to the soundtrack of the 1985 feature film Back to the Future. Lewis previously played with the band Clover from 1972 to 1979.
Lewis at O’Hare Airport, circa early 1990s
In 1971 Lewis joined the Bay Area band Clover. Around this time he took the stage name “Hughie Louis”, the spelling of which he would tinker with for some years after. Other members of the band (at various points) included John McFee and Alex Call. Lewis played harmonica and sang lead vocals on a few tunes.
In 1976, after playing in the Bay Area with limited success, Clover went to Los Angeles. They had their “big break” in a club there when their act was caught by Nick Lowe who convinced Clover to travel to Great Britain with him. However, Clover arrived in Britain just as their folk-rock sound, known as pub rock in Britain, was being replaced by punk rock.
The two Clover albums produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange under the British Phonogram label were not successful. By this point the spelling of Cregg’s stage name had changed to “Huey Louis”; it is under this spelling that he is billed on both of Clover’s albums for Phonogram, although for songwriting credits he is billed as “H. Cregg”. In 1978 the band returned to California, McFee joined the Doobie Brothers, and Clover disbanded.
Under the name “Bluesy Huey Lewis”, Lewis played harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s 1978 landmark album Live and Dangerous. That same year, he was playing at Uncle Charlie’s, a club in Corte Madera, California, doing the “Monday Night Live” spot along with future members of the News. At this point he had adopted the “Huey Lewis” spelling, and the band was billed as Huey Lewis and the American Express. After recording the song “Exodisco” (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus) simply as American Express, Huey landed a singles contract from Phonogram Records and Bob Brown became his manager.
The band played a few gigs (including an opening for Van Morrison), before adding new guitarist Chris Hayes to the line-up. On Brown’s advice they changed their name again to Huey Lewis and The News. After a failed self-titled debut in 1980 the band finally broke through to Top 40 success with the gold album Picture This (1982). It rose to No. 13 on the Albums chart thanks to the Mutt Lange-penned “Do You Believe in Love” (No. 7), the band’s first hit.
The band’s third LP, Sports (1983), is one of the best-selling pop releases of all time. It became a number-one hit in 1984 and multi-platinum success in 1985. Four singles from the album reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100: “Heart and Soul” reached No. 8, while “I Want a New Drug”, “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, and “If This Is It” all reached No. 6.