Up until now, it’s been a 20-year secret that Gary Lewis lives in Rochester.
But this Sunday, Lewis will be inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.
The word’s out so News 8’s Maureen McGuire went to his home, to talk with one of the stars of 1960’s rock ‘n roll.
From 1965 to 1968, Gary Lewis and the Playboys stormed the charts with a string of top 40 hits. The band’s namesake looked like the boy next door. Nearly 50 years later, Gary Lewis IS the boy next door. For the past two decades, he’s lived just outside Rochester, first in Pittsford, and now on 11 lush acres in the town of Rush.
“It’s my wife’s fault!” Gary laughs. Donna Lewis is from Rochester and the two met in 1997, when Gary was performing at the Eastman Theatre. “I’m thrilled to be here, are you kidding?” he says. “This has opposed to Los Angeles? This is heaven here!”
His home is full of priceless instruments, photos and memorabilia dating back to his first big break: The number one hit single, “This Diamond Ring.” That was in 1965. Over the next year, the band turned out 6 more top ten songs, their star status sealed by repeat appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and even cameos in movies starring Gary Lewis’ father, comedian Jerry Lewis. “Everything just clicked,” Gary says. “It was perfect! It was perfect.”
But then, everything hit a brick wall. In 1967, Gary was drafted and served during the Vietnam War. The music scene was already changing, and not long after he returned home, he left the business and bought a music store in Los Angeles. But his calling came back in the 1980’s, thanks to a renewed interest in oldies music. These days, Gary is on the road half the year.
“I love it, I absolutely love it,” he says. “I love to see the audience with their big smiles, singing the words right along with me. And I’m going, ‘Wow. What an impact, huh?’”
The other half of the year, Gary’s at home with Donna and their two dogs, Molly and Mickey. At the age of 71, he’s still having the time of his life: a good life for a pop music legend who Rochester gets to claim as their own.
Gary Lewis and the Playboys will perform at the Rochester Music Hall of Fame Awards on Sunday, April 30th at the Eastman Theatre. For Ticket Information, click here.