Now 62, he spends as much time as he can on his ranch in Montana. “In the early ’80s when we finally had a little bit of success and I had a couple nickels to rub together, the first thing I wanted to do was to buy a place up here. And that’s what we did.”
Part of his 500 acres is a working ranch with crops and cattle. Part of it is kept as wild land.
“Let’s talk about Huey Lewis as a country gentleman — is that how I should describe you on this land?” Blackstone asked.
“You can describe me however you want, John!” he laughed. “No, I love it out here. It’s a chance to decompress, as they say.” Just then, his phone rang. “Sorry.”
Early in his career the phone didn’t ring nearly enough. He spent most of the 1970s playing harmonica in a band called Clover. By 1980, in spite of his boyish good looks, he was getting on.
“Thirty years old is old in this business, for starters,” he said.
“You said you turned 30 with $300,” said Blackstone. “You’d been a professional musician for, what, more than a decade? Things weren’t going too well.”
“No. But, you know, in retrospect they weren’t going too well, but I was fine. I was convinced, first of all, that we were about to make it, next week. And I was improving. And I loved what I do.”
He formed his own group: Huey Lewis and the American Express. But when they signed to make a record, the name had to go.
“They were afraid that American Express would sue us for the name,” Lewis said. “And so we had 24 hours to come up with a new name. Came up with ‘The News.’ “
And by 1983, with the release of “Sports,” they’d become BIG news.
“We had a little discussion: We said, ‘Look, guys, enjoy this, because you only go from obscurity to number one once. This is gonna be a great thing, let’s enjoy it.’ And I can honestly say we did.”
WEB EXTRA VIDEO: Huey Lewis shows John Blackstone some of his stage wardrobe from the earliest days of MTV.
“But for a lot of people, you hit it big, it’s ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll,’” said Blackstone.
“Yeah, well, we experimented!” he laughed. “We’re no saints. But at a certain point the thrill is being able to play music and have people show up. It’s a career that you wanna do. You wanna play music for a living.”
In 1985 Lewis was among the biggest names in music, literally — one of the galaxy of stars who recorded “We Are the World” to fight famine in Africa. That’s where he met Bob Dylan.
“Yeah, meeting Dylan was great. He sent me a little handwritten note and a song, which I never recorded. Note to self! When Bob Dylan gives you a song, record it.”
Most of his songs he has written himself or with members of his band.