Huey Lewis came of age in San Francisco in the late ’60s, that fantastical time and place for heady music, where the figureheads of classic rock all seemed to just sprout up from the ground. He liked that stuff OK, but it didn’t floor him.
“Johnny, Sean and Billy, we were all from the Bay Area, but listening to soul music, oddly enough,” he says about his bandmates Johnny Colla, Sean Hopper and Billy Gibson, who for more than 30 years have been known to the world as the News. “Our brothers, and my mother, for example, was a big Dead Head.”
But Lewis and his pals weren’t so “Grateful” for acid rock. They’d rather hear a brass section.
“The horn thing for me was like guitar relief,” says Lewis. “I’d had enough freakin’ guitar!”
And with “Soulsville,” the latest Huey Lewis and the News album, the band went back to their record collection and found themselves in a series of somewhat obscure soul classics.
“We were trying to capture it correctly, and it’s nothing like Huey Lewis and the News,” he says. “And then we listened to the playback, and all of a sudden it sounds like Huey Lewis and the News. And the realization for me is how much I was influenced by this stuff. And I didn’t even realize it.”
No place that he’d rather be
It’s been eight years since Huey Lewis has played in New York City. We told him we thought it was a moral obligation to play every city he mentions in his 1983 song, “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” where he sings, “New York, New York, is everything they say/ And no place that I’d rather be/ Where else can you do a half a million things/ All at a quarter to three.” Lewis laughed and explained that when he plays the area these days, he’s usually playing Westbury, N.Y.
“We were a beer-and-hot-dog band,” he says. “Now we’re part of the wine and cheese set.”