n 1972, singer/harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover. Clover recorded several albums in the 1970s, and in the middle of the decade transplanted themselves to England to become part of the UK pub rock scene for a time. Without Lewis (but with Hopper), they eventually became the original backing band for Elvis Costello“s first album My Aim Is True. Lewis also worked with Irish band Thin Lizzy, contributing harmonica to the song “Baby Drives Me Crazy,” recorded onstage for the Live and Dangerous album. Lizzy bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott introduces Lewis by name during the song. The band returned to the Bay Area by the end of the 1970s.
Clover”s main competition in the Bay Area jazz-funk scene was a band called Soundhole, whose members included drummer Bill Gibson, saxophonist/guitarist Johnny Colla, and bassist Mario Cipollina (younger brother of John Cipollina). Like Clover, Soundhole had spent time backing a famous singer, Van Morrison. After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1978, Huey Lewis united his former bandmate and three of his former rivals to form a new group, Huey Lewis & The American Express. In 1979 they recorded and released a single, “Exo-Disco” (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus), that was largely ignored. The B-side of this record, “Kick Back”, was a song that had previously been performed live by Lewis and his former band, Clover. In 1979, the band wooed guitarist Chris Hayes and moved to Chrysalis Records. After the credit card organization American Express complained, in January 1980 they changed their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
Later in 1980, the band issued their first studio album, a self-titled LP, Huey Lewis and the News. It went largely unnoticed. In 1982, the band released their second studio album, the self-produced Picture This. The album turned gold, fueled by the breakout success of the hit single “Do You Believe in Love“, written by former Clover producer Mutt Lange. Largely because of the single, the album remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 35 weeks and peaked at No. 13. The follow-up singles from Picture This, “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” and “Workin” for a Livin”“, followed with limited success, though the video for “Workin” for a Livin”” received considerable airplay on MTV and HBO“s Video Jukebox.
Due to record label delays on the release of their third studio album, Sports, Huey Lewis and the News was back to square one in late 1983, touring small clubs in a bus to promote the record (eventually known as the “Workin” for a Livin”” tour). The new album initially hit No. 6 in the U.S. when first released. However, Sports slowly became a number-one hit in 1984 and multi-platinum success in 1985, thanks to the band”s frequent touring and a series of videos that received heavy MTV airplay. Four singles from the album reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100: “Heart and Soul” reached No. 8, while “,” “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” and “If This Is It” all reached No. 6. The album has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Their song “The Power of Love” was a number-one U.S. hit and featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future, for which they also recorded the song, “Back in Time“. Lewis has a cameo appearance in the film as a faculty member who rejects Marty McFly”s band”s audition for the school”s “Battle of the Bands” contest. As an inside joke, the piece the band plays is an instrumental heavy metal version of “The Power of Love” (Lewis”s response: “Sorry, fellas … I”m afraid you”re just too darn loud”). “The Power of Love” was nominated for an Academy Award.
Following the success of “The Power of Love” and Back to the Future, Huey Lewis and the News released their fourth studio album, Fore! in 1986. Fore! followed the success of Sports and reached number-one on the Billboard 200. The album spawned the number-one singles, “Stuck with You” and “Jacob”s Ladder” as well as the mainstream rock hit “Hip to Be Square“. In all, the album had five top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified triple platinum.
The band continued to tour throughout 1987, and released Small World in 1988. After two hit, multi-platinum albums, Small World was considered a commercial disappointment, peaking at No. 11 and only going platinum. The album, which was more jazz and less rock than their previous albums, had one top ten single, “Perfect World”, which reached No. 3 on the pop chart. The album was voted by Rolling Stone Magazine as the worst album of 1988.
At the end of the Small World tour in 1989, the band took a break from recording and heavy touring and parted ways with Chrysalis Records. In 1991, they released on the EMI label, which went back to the R&B/rock sound of their earlier albums, and released the hit singles, “Couple Days Off” (No. 11) and “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” (No. 21). The album was certified Gold (eventually hitting the one million sales mark) and the band headlined another world tour in support of the release, which would be their last album of new material for a decade.
The band once again changed labels, this time signing with Elektra Records, releasing a cover album in 1994 called Four Chords & Several Years Ago featuring doo-wop and rock songs from the 1950s and 1960s. This was the last album released with bassist Mario Cipollina, who left the band after the Four Chords & Several Years Ago world tour ended. The album charted on the Billboard 200 and had two hits on adult contemporary radio. In early 1997, the band released their first greatest hits album, Time Flies, which focused primarily on the releases from Picture This, Sports, and Fore!, and included four new tracks.