- - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There is a rule in show business: Talent skips a generation. Gary Lewis defied the odds and beat that rule into the floor.

The son of international comedy and film star Jerry Lewis, he magically escaped his dad’s large shadow and went on to become a huge star in 1960s music. As lead singer of The Playboys, he sold millions of albums and had a run of number-one singles including “This Diamond Ring.” Mr. Lewis continues to play over 100 live shows a year on cruise ships, casinos and county fairs.

Mr. Lewis took time out to reflect on growing up with a famous dad, odd autograph requests and his almost-52 years in music as the leader of The Playboys.

Question: When you started out in show business, did people try to discourage you because your dad was so famous?

Answer: No. I knew that I didn’t want to do the same kind of work as my dad, because I just didn’t feel like being compared — having people say, “Let’s see if he’s as good or as funny.” I just didn’t want to even take that chance.

But I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until The Beatles came out. It was great. They made up my mind for me. I formed a band with some classmates from school, started rehearsing. We thought it would be really great to get chicks and drink beer. And it worked out really good for a while until I said, “We better start treating this as a business.”

That’s what we did from our second single on. Worked great. I was learning an awful lot as we went. I was a complete novice when we started recording. And it’s the greatest job in the world!

Q: You have been making music for over 40 years now.

A: It will be 52 years in January of 2016.

Q: Did you ever imagine when you started it would last?

A: Oh, God, no. Absolutely not. I’m grateful for having all these years of doing something I love to do. Even the bad things: the tiredness, the travel, whatever the down parts are. They are all part of what I love to do.

Q: When was the moment you knew you were a successful musician?

A: It was after our third single, “Save Your Heart for Me.” When that went into the top 10, it made three top 10 singles in a row. I started thinking, “Well, OK, we are on our way.”

After “This Diamond Ring” we were too cocky. It was such a big record. Our producer had to bring us back to Earth. He said, “There have been an awful lot of one-hit artists in the world.” I didn’t wanna be that. So I listened to him and let him have all control. Because what did I know? I was 18.

Q: The band was Gary Lewis and The Playboys. Was there ever any jealousy among The Playboys because you got top billing?

A: No, it was always fine. It was spelled out way in advance. When I first started the band, before we were recording we were just Gary & The Playboys. When we started making records, my mom said, “You gotta put your last name in there now.” I fought it at first. But then I did it and it was a good thing I did. The Playboys never had any problems whatsoever.

Q: What is the most common thing fans say when they meet you?

A: The most common thing they say is, “I just love your music. My mom and dad play it all the time!” That’s the most common. This little 10-year-old girl came up to me at a gig one time and said, “I just love your songs. My grandmother sings them when she puts me to sleep.” I’ll take it.

Q: What was the strangest thing you’ve been asked to autograph?

A: Well, I’ve heard everything from “sign my butt” [to] “sign my boobs.” One time in Las Vegas when we were playing there, a guy asked me to come out to the parking lot and sign his car. It was pretty weird. One guy gave me a hundred-dollar bill to sign. I asked, “You’re not gonna spend this?”

Q: What are you up to these days musically?

A: Last summer we did the “Happy Together” summer tour with The Turtles. We did 62 dates in 90 days. It was just great! Sold out every single gig. Hope to do it again.

I am thrilled to death when I’m on the road being able to get up there on stage every night. I don’t care if we are tired for two days in between. Get a little cranky [but] we’re still playing. It’s great.

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