On July 31, 1946, the great comedian Jerry Lewis and his wife gave birth to their first son, whom they named Gary. When Gary was fourteen years old, his father gave him a set of drums which he quickly learned to play. When he was eighteen, he decided to start a band and soon got together with four of his friends from high school and formed Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Gary called the band, the Playboys, because they were always out late rehearsing or playing and he thought that made them Playboys.
On one of their first auditions, they went to Disneyland and were hired to play there. They did this without telling them who Gary’s famous father was, so no influence was exerted. They were soon playing nightly at Disneyland to a full house. Snuff Garrett, a producer for Liberty saw the boys play and asked them if they would like to have a record deal. He figured with a father like Jerry Lewis, he could not go wrong, no matter how good they were. They, of course, said yes, and were on their way. Now, it didn’t happen quite that easily; there are at least two stories as to how Garrett and Gary Lewis met, but the one I believe is this one:
Bandleader Les Brown happened to be a Disneyland one night and saw them play. He was a friend of Jerry Lewis and recognized Gary immediately. He went to Snuff Garrett and told him to stop by and listen to the boys, Garrett did just that and the rest is as I described it. Garrett, however, wasn’t sure they could become big stars. He didn’t think Gary was that good a singer, so when they recorded “This Diamond Ring,” which was their first single, Garrett mixed other singers in to make Gary sound better.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Playboys didn’t really play on the record. Garrett didn’t think they were good enough for a record, so they used studio musicians when the record was recorded. However, whenever Gary Lewis and the Playboys played live, it was the Playboys that you see. They had so little faith in the record that Patty Lewis, Jerry Lewis’ wife and Gary’s mother had to pay for the recording session.The record was released and Garrett sent a demo to Murray the K, a famous New York disc jockey during the Sixties.
Murray played the song and it caught on. People called in requesting it and started buying the record and soon, it was the number one single in the United States. The Playboys worked and recorded together until the end of 1966 when Gary was called up to serve in the Army. This was during the Vietnam War. Gary left to serve for two years and when he got back, music tastes had changed and nobody wanted to listen to Gary Lewis and the Playboys anymore, so the band died.
“This Diamond Ring” was written by the team of Al Kooper, Bob Brass and Irwin Levine. It entered the pop charts on January 23, 1965 and spent two weeks at number one. This was, however, the only number one single that Gary Lewis and the Playboys ever had. They did hit the Top 40 eleven more times, but then faded away.
Here is a video of the boys playing live, except it’s obvious that they are lip syncing the words. I hope you enjoy it anyway.