Not only was the recently deceased Jerry Lewis a legendary entertainer and considered “the King of Comedy,” he was a family man and had seven children (also rumored to have one love child). His first son was named Gary Harold Lee Levitch a.k.a. “Gary Lewis” leader of the famed 1960’s pop music group-Gary Lewis and The Playboys.
Jerry Lewis was married twice. He married his first wife Patti Palmer in 1944 and she was the mother of his six sons, with Gary being the oldest.
As a teenager, Gary had decided that he didn’t want to try to follow his Dad’s footsteps, he wanted to create his own career path. After receiving a set of drums on his 14th birthday from Jerry, and listening to The Beatles rock music: he decided he wanted to start his own pop/rock band. With assistance from his mother, the famous drummer Buddy Rich, Snuff Garrett, a record producer; and some vocal overdubbing tricks in the studio he was on his way. In 1964, he became the front man of the group “Gary Lewis & The Playboys.”
Originally, it was Jerry Lewis’s wife Patti, that funded the band and help get them started. Patti told Gary to keep his rehearsing quiet just in case the band idea failed and funds were wasted-Dad might not be pleased about the loss.
Their first break came while playing at Disneyland in California during the mid-1960s. Jerry finally learned of the band and stated, “Oh man, that’s great. I don’t care what you do as far as a career, as long as you love it with all your heart and give it 100%. I only ask one thing: Don’t grow your hair like those damn Beatles!” Gary honored his Dad’s request, and never did-but they did wear those cool Beatles-style boots, and swanky matching suits.
In 1965, the group recorded the the song, This Diamond Ring. This particular song had originally been offered to Bobby Vee, but he rejected it (Ouch!). The song -which was recorded on a 45 rpm record- climbed into the #1 spot on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart. During that same year, Gary Lewis was voted “Male Vocalist of the Year” by Cashbox magazine. His competition included some of the greats: Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Gary had become a celebrity musician!
This was just the beginning. Several other of the groups songs became hits. Some of their most noted hit songs earned them: eight Gold Singles; four-Gold Albums, 17-Top 40 Hits, with the group selling over 45 million records sold nationwide.
Some of Gary Lewis & The Playboys other hit records included-Count Me In, Sure Gonna Miss Her, She’s Just My Style, Everybody Loves A Clown (Which he composed as a Birthday gift for his father, but instead it sounded so good he decided to record it.)
Not too long after his final 1967 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Gary received his draft notice.
With a little advice from Elvis Presley, he entered the military and was stationed to Korea. As the son of a famous Hollywood celebrity, he may have been able to delay his Vietnam orders, but instead, he chose to serve his country. While on leave, Gary did record one more top 10 song- “Sealed withe a Kiss.”
Serving in the war left its notable scars on Gary and he went through some hard times, but he survived and has been entertaining crowds for several years now.
For over 53 years, Gary Lewis & The Playboys have played for revues nationwide, and made several routine appearances for the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon-which was founded by Gary’s father.
Jerry Lewis’s various talents will never be forgotten-they”ll be passed down through his children.
In closing I found this awe-inspiring quote by Jerry Lewis:
“I shall pass through this world but once.
Any good , therefore, that I can do, or any
kindness that I can share to any human being,
let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again”-Jerry Lewis