BY: JIM DAIL / CONTRIBUTING WRITER
“This Diamond Ring” band plays the Happy Together tour at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella on Saturday, March 26.
Years ago, Gary Lewis was enrolled at a theater arts college in Pasadena, wondering what he should do for a career when he heard The Beatles.
“The first time I heard about them was early 1963 and my first thoughts were, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great,” he said in a recent interview.
A year later, Lewis and his band the Playboys had their own hit at the top of the charts, “This Diamond Ring.”
The group will perform Saturday, March 26, at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella as part of the Happy Together tour, which also includes The Turtles, The Buckinghams and The Grass Roots. Lewis was part of the first Happy Together tour in 1985, which featured the same lineup as this year’s event.
Lewis, the son of comedian and actor Jerry Lewis, started to play the drums when he was 5 years old. He formed The Playboys from classmates at school. Fortunately, his mother helped fund the band because he did not want his dad to know.
“Even though I was into show business, it was at the other end of it, so it was cool because no one could say by getting into the business was just nepotism,” he said. “My dad actually didn’t know I had a band until ‘This Diamond Ring.’ Mom financed everything for us but she said we couldn’t tell my dad because if it fails then we’d have to come up with an excuse. She financed it for a year, and she was like our manager and she did it out of love. Mom was great.”
Once “This Diamond Ring,” was a smash, he was free to tell his father.
“He was shooting a movie on the Paramount lot, and I walked in with my first gold record of it and he was cool that way,” he said. “Any time any of his sons came to see him on the set he would shut down everything and devote his time to us. And I brought it to him and gave it to him. He was surprised. He asked, ‘When did this happen?’ so I told him the story.”
The younger Lewis was riding high but he was given a little bit of caution by his producer, Snuff Garrett.
“He didn’t want us to get too excited because there were so many one-hit artists,” he said. “He said we have to concentrate on number two, and if we get that one then we are good to go. As it turned out, our first seven singles all went Top 10.”
Among those top hits were “Count Me In,” “She’s Just My Style” and “Save Your Heart for Me.”
“I was so blessed to be listening to and making music in the ‘60s,” he said. “It was just such a terrific time. It wasn’t just years but it was an event.”
And that’s what he looks for when he gets on stage.
“It’s still just a good time to be out there,” he said.