Huey Lewis & The News were ubiquitous in the ‘80s.
A band that, at its core, revered blues, doo-wop and soul, but somehow found itself plastered on MTV in heavy rotation.
The Bay Area-based crew, fronted by the handsomely weathered Lewis, has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and it’s the rare music listener who isn’t familiar with one of their 38 radio singles, including a dozen that hit the Top 10.
Just try walking into any random bar with a jukebox and not finding “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “The Power of Love” or “I Want a New Drug” on it.
But in recent years, the band, which tours consistently, has returned to its less-polished roots, stripping off the pop gloss for 2001’s “Plan B” and romping through a tribute to Stax Records artists with 2010’s “Soulsville.”
This summer, Lewis and the gang are teaming with Joe Cocker for a tour that hits Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Wednesday.
Onstage, the low-key Lewis, 62, will be joined by original Newsmen Johnny Colla (saxophone), Bill Gibson (drums) and Sean Hopper (keyboards), as well as longtime members John Pierce (bass) and Stef Burns (guitar) and the brass section of Marvin McFadden, Rob Sudduth and Johnnie Bamont.
Lewis – who lives in Montana (“More cheese, less rat,” is his reason why) – checked in recently from a tour stop in Lewistown, N.Y., to discuss the tour, his acting gigs and why he is no fan of social media.
Q. You toured Germany with Joe Cocker at the same time once, but that was a long time ago. How did this tour come about?
A. We had a famous end-of-tour party on that tour and that’s where we met him and jammed. He’s a lovely guy. And you know, nowadays bundling is the thing. They want to fill these big venues and very few people can do it on their own. And we’re hard to bundle, to be honest. Everybody is kind of keen on this tour and we hope it will be synergistic. If you want to see two young, good-looking guys…[laughs].
Q. You’ve been looking just fine on your “Hot in Cleveland” appearances [Lewis has a recurring role as Johnny Revere, a rock star and old flame of Wendie Malick’s Victoria]. Is acting something you seek out or do you just do things if you’re approached and they sound like fun?
A. I once did a ‘Just Shoot Me’ with Wendi, so I think she said, ‘Let’s do this with Huey,’ so they offered it to me. Acting is hard for me so it’s easy for me to make choices. If it’s creative, I do it. They’ve kept my character alive, so I guess they want me. I also did stage acting for six months [he starred on Broadway as Billy Flynn in ‘Chicago’ in 2005], so for me it’s the challenge of different things.
Q. Back to the band…will you do anything together with Joe on stage?
A. I think we will, but that’s up to Joe. We’re going to do whatever Joe want to. It will be his band and I’ll be a guest in it.
Q. What can fans expect to hear in your set?
A. We’ve reinvented songs, but we’re still playing the hits. They’re going to hear most of them. We don’t do 19 hits in the show, though. We mix and match. We have a section called ‘greatest misses’ – that’s when we play our favorite songs that no one has ever heard of, like ‘Perfect for You’ and ‘Rockin’ with the Kid.’
Q. Most of the guys in the band are originals and the others have been with you a long time. But do you ever talk to Chris Hayes [guitarist who left in 2001] or Mario Cipollina [bassist who left in 1995]?
A. I just talked to both of them, actually. Well, I texted Mario. And Chris is retired, but he has a little jazz band now and is starting to play again.
Q. I see you guys have a new website [www.hueylewisandthenews.com]. Are you into the social media thing and Twitter and Facebook?
A. No. I think we have a communication problem in American – we can’t stop. It’s like heroin or something. It’s a communication HABIT. To each his own on that, but it’s not my cup of tea. What I do isn’t even interesting to myself. Why would I tell other people?
Joe Cocker and Huey Lewis & The News
8 p.m. Wednesday. $25-$75. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.