Huey Lewis and the News at Ardent Studios
Superstar, R&B aficionado, and all-around nice guy Huey Lewis came to Ardent this month to start work on a new record. And yes – he brought the News. Together they were working on a Stax tribute record – yet to be titled – and felt that Memphis and Ardent were the way to go for just such a project. Says Lewis of the record: “…we’re trying to do it right, and I think if you’re down here you’re a little bit more careful.”
Ardent engineer John Hampton shared engineering duties with Jim Gaines, with Curry Weber as assistant and Lydia Gilman as 2nd. Here’s what Hampton had to say about the experience:
“It’s hard to go wrong borrowing from “The Memphis Songbook,” as I call it, when you’re crafting a record. One thing about Memphis’ music is how the listener can wrap him/herself up in the pain of the writer, or in the joy of being rescued from that pain. Whether it’s discovering a new love or letting go of an old one, the trials and triumphs of life are the intangible places where that lyric gets born. So who better to relate to these trials and triumphs than veteran songster Huey Lewis, Hughie Louis, or even Hugh Anthony Cregg III (all the same person), who has written a truckload of hits himself!
“When Jim Gaines, who has made records from Journey to Santana, Steve Miller to Tower of Power, Stevie Ray Vaughan to George Thorogood, … asked my involvement with his upcoming Huey Lewis record, I immediately started hearing “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “I Want a New Drug,” “If This is It,” and even having visions of Marty McFly and Doc Brown in Back to the Future, a movie forever interlocked to Huey and vice versa in 1985, when “The Power of Love” became HLN’s first #1 single, and “Sports,” their third album, started it’s slow burn to the #1 Billboard spot. It eventually ruled there for a bit, and Huey and the News had made it to the top of the pile. Before it was over, and it still ain’t, the record had sold over 10 million copies in the US alone and spawned nine top 30 hits, 4 bound for the top ten, and some of those for the #1 spot.
“In their career, Huey Lewis and the News has sold 19 million records worldwide… and counting. Wow.
“So how do you follow an act like that? You kick back and do whatever you want, that’s how! And Huey wants to take a dip in the river of the Memphis Songbook. But you better watch it, because that magic book has been known to launch new careers! And re-invent to established careers. Just ask The Black Crows about “Hard to Handle;” Toots and the Maytalls about one of their big ones, “Take me to the River,” or any other on his Toots in Memphis record. Or ask ZZ Top if “I Thank You” helped them along. And how many danced to Amii Stewart’s version of “Knock on Wood” … the list goes on. These timeless pieces, just like the American Songbook, refuse to be “bagged.” They fight category. And the Memphis Songbook feels like it has always been and always will be.
“Just exactly like Huey Lewis and the News. Oh! And I hear Huey is a mean harmonica player.”
That last line is in reference to Huey’s impromptu guest harmonica appearance on Devon Allman’s new record. While Huey and the News were in studio A, Allman was in studio C tracking his new record (feature story coming soon). They met at the coffee machine, and the rest is history. In the words of studio owner John Fry, “Good things happen here.”
In the picture, L to R: Ralph Arista, drummer Bill Gibson, guitarist/saxophonist Johnny Colla, engineer Jim Gaines, 2nd assistant Lydia Gilman (seated), Huey Lewis, assistant Curry Weber, and keyboardist Sean Hopper.
Mark Jordan’s article on Huey and Devon Allman in the Go Memphis section of the Commercial Appeal can be found here.
Huey Lewis and the News’ back catalogue can be found on Amazon.com.