Despite Zooey Deschanel’s public disdain for the band, I have always been a fan of Gary Lewis and the Playboys, though in terms of what we laughingly call “authenticity,” in terms of playing on one’s own records, they fall somewhere in the general vicinity of Monkeeville, despite the fact that like the Monkees, the Playboys could actually play reasonably competently, and had been doing a live gig at Disneyland (with Lewis’ surname left off) at the time they were picked up by the Liberty label.
Producer Snuff Garrett was having none of that. He brought in members of the Wrecking Crew, top-rank L. A. session players, and singer Ron Hicklin, and anywhere the Playboys were deemed inadequate, the pros were employed. Which explains the tympani, for instance, on “This Diamond Ring.” (And maybe on the answer record, Wendy Hill’s “(Gary, Please Don’t Sell) My Diamond Ring,” which, said Dawn Eden, had “the loudest, scariest tympani I ever heard.”)
I did know that Leon Russell played on several of those Playboys sessions, especially “She’s Just My Style,” which he cowrote. (Complete credits: Al Capps, who sang the bass part; Russell; Lewis; and “Thomas Leslie,” which is almost Snuff Garrett’s real name.) I did not know, though Roger did, that this was drummer Jim Keltner’s first session. (Keltner would go on to play with three of the Beatles, albeit not simultaneously.)
Knowing that Ron Hicklin was spelling Lewis on vocals explained neatly why Lewis sounded so much like his dad on the last half of “Time Stands Still” (B-side of “Everybody Loves a Clown”) and nowhere else. What I never did quite figure out was how it was that neither of my LP copies of “Sure Gonna Miss Her” sounded anything like the 45. Steve Kolanjian, who wrote the heavily-detailed liner notes for the Legendary Masters compilation in 2000, didn’t find out why either.
After “Where Will the Words Come From”, Lewis was drafted and packed off to ‘Nam; his last big hit was a cover of “Sealed With a Kiss,” which barely scraped into the Top 20. After that, he opened a music store, and after a few years eventually settled comfortably into the nostalgia circuit.
Disclosure: One of these songs is uncomfortably close to my heart. No fair guessing which one.