LEAD VOCALS, HARMONICA – Huey was born a long time ago in New York City. He moved to Marin County, California when he was 4 years old (better sandboxes!). At the tender age of 13, he went east to boarding school at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where he began to play the harmonica … After graduating, he hitch-hiked throughout western Europe playing his harmonica for a year, and then attended Cornell University for a year and a half, where he played in bands, and went to some classes. After dropping out of Cornell, Huey moved back to California where he soon joined the country-rock band Clover. Clover played 3 or 4 sets a night, five or more nights a week for six years before being signed by Phonogram Records in London. They lived in London, recorded two records in Wales, disbanded and moved back to San Francisco where in 1977 Huey began to assemble what would be ‘The News’ with Johnny, Bill, Sean, Chris, and Mario. Their first record was released in January of 1980.
Huey is in show business, and so will do almost anything for attention or money, (usually in that order), and to that end he has played ‘Billy Flynn’ in the musical ‘Chicago’ on Broadway, filmed the movie Duets with Gwyneth Paltrow, and guest starred on the sit-com ‘Hot in Cleveland’ several times. He has never appeared on Dancing with Stars or Celebrity Apprentice. He has won many awards and accolades, and he’d love to tell you about them sometime.
GUITAR, SAXOPHONE, VOCALS – John Victor Colla was born July 2, 1952 in Sacramento, California and raised in Suisun City, California. He’s an old friend of Huey Lewis’ who played in Clover’s rival group, Soundhole, in the early part of the 1970’s. Johnny has been a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for over 30 years. Having also played for Sly and the Family Stone and Van Morrison, it wasn’t until the late 70’s that he teamed up with Huey Lewis to play sax and guitar for the Monday Night Live Band. A few years later they took it all the way to the top when they evolved into Huey Lewis and the News.
During the 60’s the Summer of Love captured Johnny’s attention and drew him to San Francisco from the Sacramento Valley. Like so many others, he patronized the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium, eventually pursuing his idols and musical dreams over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. “I moved to Marin because that’s where all the musicians moved after the San Francisco scene blew up. For a start-up musician in the seventies, it was a hot-bed of musical activity; a great place to be and be heard.” He says. “Then I beat the odds. We not only started a great band, but actually became successful at it!”
The guys have survived several changes in the popular music scene over the last twenty-eight years, and maintain a diehard group of fans that allow them to do what they do so well. “Sure, we’re the Tony Bennetts of our generation,” He adds, “but it’s not such a bad way to go. I can think of worse jobs.” Colla secured his position in rock lore by penning such classics as “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “The Power of Love,” and “If This Is It.”
Although still an integral part of The News (Huey and Johnny co-produced the band’s release, Plan B), Johnny embarked upon a solo career to expand his personal musical horizons. “Deep inside, every songwriter wants to sing the songs that they write,” he said. “Once a person writes something they really believe in, it’s strong medicine. It’s like a drug; you want to do it again and again. It’s a bit self-indulgent, but songwriting is my creative outlet. It is a scratch I have to itch. I’m not looking for fame or fortune in my solo endeavor. I’m simply exploring my own beliefs and musical tastes. If I can put into words what someone else can’t say themselves, I’ve done what I set out to do. Besides all that, it’s still great fun to jump up on stage and bash it all out!”
DRUMS, PERCUSSION, VOCALS – Bill Gibson was born in Sacramento, California and began playing music last century at the ripe old age of 7. Wanting to be a Saxophone player, his elementary school band teacher gave him a clarinet to become familiar with the mouthpiece. Bill played the clarinet but never graduated to the Sax. At age 12, Bill’s dad, an architect by trade but also an amateur drummer, gave him his first pair of drumsticks and took him to see all the great big band jazz artists of the day. The Count Basie and Duke Ellington big bands were favorites to go see, along with Buddy Rich’s band. Bill became obsessed with the drums, and at the age of 14, got his first set of drums.
Bill began to hone his craft by playing for hours on end and started his first high school band at age 15. He was influenced by players such as Mitch Mitchell from Jimi Hendrix’ Experience, Bill Bowen from the local group Sons of Champlin, Lenny White from Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, and Billy Cobham from The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
By age 18, Bill had formed the band Sound Hole, which included hometown friend Mario Cipollina and a young Sax player/ singer from Suisun City named Johnny Colla. Sound Hole was a favorite Marin County bar band that later backed Van Morrison on a short tour in 1974. Sound Hole disbanded in 1976 and Bill started to play with legendary San Francisco bassist Jack Casady, Nick Buck, and Brian Marnell in a punk band called SVT.
In 1977, Huey Lewis and Sean Hopper’s band, Clover, had disbanded and Huey put together a lively jam session/variety show called “Monday Night Live” at a local Marin County club called Uncle Charlie’s. The band featured the core of what was to become The News. The Monday Night Live band began to record demo tapes in hopes of getting a record deal and in 1979, Huey Lewis and the News was formed with Bill as a founding member. The rest, as they say, is history.
Besides performing on every HLN release to date, Bill has also performed on albums by Alex Call and Chris Isaac.
KEYS, VOCALS – Sean Thomas Hopper was born March 31, 1953 in San Francisco, California. Sean has played in bands longer than any other member of the News, his first band being the ‘Round the Bend Blues Band’ while in 8th grade. When Huey joined the Bay Area group Clover in 1972, Sean joined with him, and he traveled to England with Huey and the group in 1976.
Sean was in the studio for Clover’s greatest musical success – backing Elvis Costello on his first album My Aim is True. Returning to California in the late 70’s, Sean joined Huey and other future members of the News on the ‘Monday Night Live’ spot at Uncle Charlie’s, following that with becoming a member of HLN’s precursor, American Express. Six-thousand or so gigs later, he still loves his job.
Sean has given up motorcycling and returned to bicycling, now that he has remarried and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He reports that there are 129 miles of on-street bikeways and 97 miles of off-street bikeways in the city alone.
BASS – John Pierce has been the bass player for Huey Lewis and the News since 1994. John did appear with the News for a brief stint in 1986, in support of the album ‘Fore’. John enjoyed that month with the band while the hit “Stuck With You” was number one on all the US charts. Eight years later his dream of being a permanent member became a reality.
John met the News back in the late 70’s when he was a member of another Marin County band, Pablo Cruise. He grew up in Los Angeles and made his career decision at the age of five, playing a variety of instruments before settling on the bass guitar. After two years at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, John became one of LA’s busiest studio musicians, playing with the likes of Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Bruce Hornsby, Paul Westerberg and Boz Scaggs.
It was during this time, while working with Boz on the album ‘Middle Man’ record producer/ engineer Bill Schnee introduced John to the band Pablo Cruise. After joining the band John lived in the Bay Area for four years.
John now resides back in Los Angeles and works on sessions when not holding down the low end for the News.
GUITAR, VOCALS – Born in Oakland, California, Stef Burns grew up in neighboring Walnut Creek. He started playing his dad’s guitar around age six and got his first electric guitar at age seven. The young Stef started to play in bands when he was still in elementary school.
In 1979, his first real club band was Omega, a large funk band with horns.
Since 1982, Stef boosted his career by playing with a diverse selection of international artists such as Huey Lewis & The News, Italy’s great Vasco Rossi, Alice Cooper (with a part in the hit film “Wayne’s World”), Y&T, Berlin, Sheila E, Prince, Michael Bolton, Pablo Cruise and more.
Stef has worked a session guitarist recording for TV and radio commercials, film score work and live shows for various artists and producers; he played on a VH-1 TV special with Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Chaka Kahn, and George Michael.
Stef has released three solo albums, Swamp Tea (1999), Bayshore Road (2005) with acoustic guitarist, Peppino D’Agostino, and World, Universe, Infinity (2008) which features great musicians including Huey Lewis and Sean Hopper. In 2012 Stef Burns Group (also known as SBG) released the DVD video, “In Concert! World, Universe, Infinity… Live!” featuring a live concert of the band, backstage footage and music videos for the singles, “Begin” and “Space Time.”
In addition to playing with Huey Lewis & The News in 2012/13 he will release his new CD and take to the road again with SBG.
BARITONE AND TENOR SAXOPHONE – A San Francisco native, musician and surfer, who grew up in the musically diverse environment that the Bay Area offers, Johnnie Bamont has had the opportunity to perform with numerous jazz, classical, latin, R&B and funk groups. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music at San Francisco State University, and plays soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxes and flute.
Al Schmitt, multi Grammy award winning sound engineer, has singled out Johnnie as “having one of the best baritone sax tones I’ve ever recorded.”
Johnnie has performed and toured with numerous artists including Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Frankie Valli, Larry Carlton, Donna Summers, Third World, Oscar De Leon, The Four Tops, Sly & the Family Stone 2007 European tour, Howard Tate, and Bay Area groups Elvin Bishop, Tower of Power, and Bill Champlin’s the Sons of Champlin.
Some of his recording credits include: Celine Dion, Sheryl Crow, Chris Isaak, Todd Rundgren, Toni Tony Tone, Dianne Schurr, Greg Adams, Elvin Bishop, and the motion picture soundtrack for “Duets” starring Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis.
Johnnie is also an original member of the Greg Adams’ band East Bay Soul (Greg is former arranger and trumpet player with The Tower of Power), as well as Greg’s studio horn section (Chuck Finley, Lee Thornburg, Nick Lane, Eric Marienthal & Tom Scott). Johnnie spends time both in LA and San Francisco performing and recording.
TRUMPET – Marvin McFadden was born on January 31 and raised in Vallejo, CA. Marvin has been playing music since elementary school. Marvin’s musical capabilities have enabled him to be a successful free-lance musician in the greatly varied genres of today’s music industry.
Marvin’s many credits include working with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, George Shearing, Rosemary Clooney, Santana, The Doobie Brothers, Wayne Newton, Hammer, Natalie Cole, Maureen McGovern, Barry Manilow, Diana Krall, Bob Hope, Vic Damone, Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, David Benoit, Cab Calloway, San Francisco Symphony, Tony Toni Tone, The Temptations, and Doc Kupka’s Strokeland Superband. Marvin continues to record and tour with Huey Lewis and the News.
TENOR SAX – Rob Sudduth grew up in Sonoma County, California, just north of Marin, listening to the all the great sounds coming out of the Bay Area and sneaking into clubs while still in high school to hear bands like the Sons of Champlin — not to mention up-and-comers like Clover and Soundhole. He graduated to playing saxophone around the Bay, eventually touring and recording with many rock, blues and jazz bands.
In 1994 Rob was tapped to join the horn section of Huey Lewis and the News in support of the release Four Chords and Several Years Ago, and ever since has logged countless miles criss-crossing the US and Europe with the band. Over the years he has contributed horn arrangements to a number of the band’s recordings, as well as a bit of songwriting (“So Little Kindness” with Huey and former News guitarist Chris Hayes).
Since 2002, Rob has resided in New York City, though he maintains strong ties to Northern California. When not on the road, Rob might be found in Broadway orchestras (Grease, Hairspray), recording studios (Norah Jones) or in one of NYC’s many jazz clubs. He also travels frequently to Italy, where he fronts his own jazz group and sometimes plays with Stef Burns.
GUITAR, VOCALS – Christopher John Hayes was born November 24, 1957 in Sacramento, California. He got his first guitar when he was nine years old, and he took whatever lessons he could, from folk to jazz; (he is now a self confessed jazz freak.) He quickly became so proficient with the guitar that he started teaching it. He was pursuing his first love, jazz guitar, on a full-time basis, with several different bands (his first band was called The Rubber Band,) and when he was 20 he went to Europe to back-up the world famous blues singer Esther Phillips. When he returned to San Francisco, he looked around for a new band to play with, and he heard that Huey Lewis was on the look-out for a guitarist. He tried out for the position, and although he had much to learn about rock and roll, (he used to hate it as a kid), he became a member of the band.
Chris comes from a musical family, but as Huey says, “…he’s the pick of the litter!” His sister, Bonnie Hayes, is a celebrated Bay Area singer-songwriter and band leader and brother Kevin Hayes, who sometimes jams with Bonnie too, plays drums with the Robert Cray Band. Among many other accomplishments, Kevin and Bonnie are credited as co-writing “Best of Me” off the Hard at Play album. These aren’t the only Hayes siblings, Chris is the oldest male of seven children! The youngest, Jonathan, plays guitar for the LA based band, Walking Giant.
As well as playing guitar and singing backing-vocals, he became an established rock songwriter, and would often put Huey’s lyrics to music. Chris left the band in the year 2000, to spend more time with his family; although has occasionally filled in for the News’ current lead guitarist, Stef Burns.
BASS – Mario Cipollina was born November 10, 1954 in San Rafael, California. He has the nickname of ‘Bad Boy’ and formed half of a distinguished Bay Area rock and roll brother act, with John Cipollina, (who passed away in 1989.) With Quicksilver Messenger Service, John was one of the great guitarists of the psychedelic era. When Quicksilver broke up, Mario, who was 15 at the time, joined his brother in a band called ‘Copperhead’ – but just before the band signed a record deal, his parents forced him to quit. Mario was not deterred though, playing with Soundhole, along with future Newsmen Johnny Colla and Bill Gibson, and Tony Williams Lifetime before signing up with Huey and the News.
Mario was also a member of The Novato Frank Band (whom he recorded with) as well as a member of Terry and the Pirates.
Mario has co-written a couple of the band’s songs, (including “You Crack Me Up” from Sports) and has played the string bass and electric bass for over forty years. His distinctive playing accompanied Huey since the inception of the band until 1994, when Mario left the News to join the rock group Fence. He hadn’t played with the News until August 21, 2007 when he made a surprise guest appearance during the encore of a concert in Sacramento, California.
TENOR SAXOPHONE – The “Reverend” Ron Stallings was born December 2 in Oakland, California. He started playing the clarinet and saxophone at age 13. After living in Houston, Texas until age 8, Ron’s family then settled in San Francisco, California. Ron attended school in the San Francisco Bay Area and played in his junior high and high school bands. He was the oldest of two sons, his brother living in Los Angeles. Ron indicated that while growing up, he attended a Baptist church, and although he did not sing in the choir or play an instrument, it “most definitely” had an influence on his musical career as did teachers and older friends.
Ron played with different bands around the Bay Area and also taught some lucky music students privately.
Sadly, Ron passed out of this life on April 13, 2009, after battling hard against the disease Multiple Myeloma for three years. All the while during treatment he continued to tour with Huey and The News whenever his condition would allow. He never lost hope or the incredible sweetness of his personality. His absence is felt very much, yet the hope he left behind lives on.