Huey Lewis and the News to kick off Riverbend

Huey Lewis and the News to kick off Riverbend

June 10th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Riverbend2011

Huey Lewis and the News are known for such hits as "Hip To Be Square," "I Want a New Drug" and "The Power of Love." Contributed photo

Photo by

As a mobile disc jockey in Dalton, Ga., in 1986, current 107.9 Big FM program director Rick Zeisig said he snapped up the Huey Lewis and The News album "Fore!" just after its release and played the single "Hip To Be Square" for a high-school dance audience.

"They went totally wild," he said. "They asked what it was, and I think I ended up playing it twice."

The pop/rock/blues band, which has largely stayed together and continued to tour since its mid-1980s heyday, will be the opening Coca-Cola Stage act for the 2011 Riverbend Festival tonight.

The Grammy Award-winning group has sold 20 million albums worldwide, had back-to-back No. 1 albums ("Sports" in 1983 and "Fore!" in 1986) and had 12 of 13 singles in Billboard's Hot 100 to hit the Top 10.

The San Francisco Bay area band's still got it, according to at least one reviewer of the band's performance at the Summer Camp Music Festival at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

"'Soulsville,'" said Jason Walsh in the Pacific Sun News, "finds the band at its blue-eyed-soul best - firing on all cylinders with a caged intensity not heard since 'Walking on a Thin Line' and 'Jacob's Ladder.' "

The new album, according to the band's website, was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis and features 14 classic songs from the vault of Stax Records. That record company was home to artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T & The MGs and Isaac Hayes.

Zeisig said he saw Huey Lewis and The News in concert in the mid- to late-1980s and thought the show was topnotch.

"It was everything it was hyped to be," he said. "It was everything you expected it to be and more so. [Lewis] is a great entertainer."

The band's hits, according to Zeisig, are in regular rotation of songs played on the station, which bills itself as playing "the biggest hit music of all time." The morning-show host said he also gets regular requests for numbers such as "Workin' for a Livin'" on Fridays. That song, according Zeisig, has had additional staying power because it also was recorded by Phil Vassar with Lewis in 2003 and Garth Brooks with Lewis in 2007.

"We still play those [versions] at parties," he said.

Huey Lewis and The News was formed in 1979 from two rival Bay Area bands, the remnants of Clover, on which Lewis played, and Soundhole.

The band, according to its website, got a recording contract before it had a name. Its first official name was Huey Lewis and the American Express, but that eventually was changed to its current moniker.

Tonight's concert, according to Zeisig, is likely to be driven by Top 10 hits such as "Heart of Rock & Roll," "Stuck With You," "I Want a New Drug" and "If This Is It," cuts from "Soulsville" and "a couple of soul tunes old and new."

The group is also likely to play "The Power of Love," one of two hits it performed for the hit 1985 film "Back to the Future." That single, one of the News' No. 1 hits, was nominated for an Academy Award.

Zeisig said the movie and the band's early music videos "skyrocketed their career."

"They are more talented musicians than most folks gave them credit for," he said. "That's why people will come see them [tonight]."

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.