60s Oldies Music

Gary Lewis and the Playboys – One of the Most Successful 1960s US Pop Bands

Gary Lewis and the Playboys

 

Their career in a summary

Gary Lewis and the Playboys were a US rock and pop group in the 60s music era. Fronted by vocalist/drummer Gary Lewis (son of comedian Jerry Lewis), the group began playing at elite Hollywood parties until they were offered a spot at the Disneyland Park without everybody knowing about Lewis’ famous father. Soon the group was signed to Liberty Records by producer Leon Russell. The Playboys cut a record titled “This Diamond Ring” which eventually shot to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1965. They subsequently had other Top 10 hits such as “Count Me In,” “Save Your Heart for Me,” “She’s Just My Style,” “Everybody Loves a Clown,” etc. Despite not having a UK hit, the Playboys weathered the British Invasion in their hometown with robust record sales and hit songs which are now timeless oldies music favorites. After Lewis was discharged from the US Army in 1968, the group’s chart­ making power began to decline. Their last known hit was their cover of Brian Hyland’s “Sealed with a Kiss.” When the original Playboys split for good in 1970, Lewis took in new members and billed themselves as a nostalgia act.

 

Astounding chart success despite the 1960s British Invasion

Gary Lewis (born Gary Levitch in 1946, in Los Angeles, California) is the son of comedian/actor Jerry Lewis, who was already a celebrity and still at the peak of his career. Nevertheless, the younger Lewis chose not to use his last name when he and his band auditioned for a regular spot in California’s Disneyland. Prior to their audition, Gary Lewis and his band had played at exclusive Hollywood parties.

Lewis (who played drums) and his group were soon signed to Liberty Records. Their debut single was to be “This Diamond Ring,” which was written by Al Kooper, Bob Brass and Irwin Levine and originally intended for Bobby Vee. Producer Snuff Garrett used additional seasoned musicians to perform the overdubs. He also persuaded New York radio stations to play the first single of the upstart group; then he urged Gary’s father Jerry to use his influence in getting his son onto The Ed Sullivan Show. All for his goal of making “This Diamond Ring” a sure­fire hit.

All of the efforts would eventually pay off. When Gary Lewis and the Playboys made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show early in 1965, they became an overnight sensation. “This Diamond Ring” zoomed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart later that year. The group’s debut album, also titled This Diamond Ring, peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200. That same year Lewis was named by Cash Box magazine as Male Vocalist of the Year, even edging out veterans such as Presley and Sinatra.

The success of “This Diamond Ring” was the start of the group’s unbroken string of seven Top 10 pop hits, an impressive feat for any band.

These successive Top 10 hits are as follows: “Count Me In” (#2 pop), “Save Your Heart For Me” (#2 pop, #1 adult contemporary), “Everybody Loves A Clown” (#4 pop), “She’s Just My Style” (#3 pop), “Sure Gonna Miss Her” (#9 pop), and “Green Grass” (#9 pop).

 

Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ second LP A Session with Gary Lewis and the Playboys (that featured the singles “Count Me In” and “Save Your Heart for Me”), became their highest­-charting album on the Billboard 200 at #18.

Although the American band was immensely successful in their homeland and overseas as well, they never had a UK hit single (despite “Green Grass” having been composed by Englishmen Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway aka David and Jonathan). Nevertheless, Gary Lewis and the Playboys were certainly enjoying an astonishing success in the middle of the early 1960s British Invasion that dominated America.

Other decently successful hits at that time included “My Heart’s Symphony” (#13 pop), ” (You Don’t Have To) Paint Me A Picture” (#15 pop) and “Where Will The Words Come From?” (#21 pop).

1967 marked Gary Lewis and the Playboy’s beginning of their commercial decline. Not really because of the changing musical climate along with the preference of music fans, but it had probably more to do with Lewis being drafted in the US Army.

When Lewis was discharged from the service in 1968 a new lineup of the Playboys was introduced. But this reunion proved to be less successful. Later that year the group scored their final Top 20 hit with their cover of Brian Hyland’s “Sealed with a Kiss” (#19 pop). The band formally parted ways in 1970, but in later years Gary Lewis re­-formed his Playboys with an altogether newer lineup. They have continued to be active in the revivalist circuit, performing mostly in cabarets and Gary’s father Jerry Lewis’ benefit concerts for the muscular dystrophy­ afflicted survivors.

 

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