Wine Country Goes “Back in Time” with Huey Lewis Tribute Band
A version of this story was originally published on 8/19/2014. It has been updated to include information for May 1, 2015.
This Friday night in Temecula wine country, it’s hip to be square.
When songs like “Power of Love” conger up memories of Marty McFly on a hover board, you realize what a significant influence the music of Huey Lewis and News had on the cultural landscape of the 1980’s.
“Huey Lewis and the News were just huge and their videos were such a big part of MTV, when everybody was watching videos,” Roger Langdon, co-founder and front man for the Huey Lewis tribute band, Heart of Rock and Roll, said during a recent phone interview. “They’re pretty iconic and well-known and that image of him in the red suit and the sunglasses is burned into a lot of people’s memories.”
Langdon’s tribute band came out of a performance for his cover band, Fault Line, which already played some of the music of one of that infamous decade’s biggest rock stars. When a friend thought Langdon looked and sounded like Huey while playing “Heart of Rock and Roll,” he and his brother, Tony, came up with the concept for a tribute band of the same name and they set out to make it happen.
“I found a lot of local musicians who really liked the music but we didn’t even realize just how many hits Huey had,” Langdon said. “So, when we went into his catalogue, we saw he had at least twenty huge songs from the eighties and we knew those alone were enough for a concert.”
Although the upbeat, danceable sound of Huey Lewis and the News is frequently covered by bands all over the world, Langdon has only found two other tribute bands currently touring the country.
“Obviously everybody thinks their band is the best but I’ve been in a lot of bands and I’ve seen a lot of bands and, as far as the other tribute bands in the country, I think we’ve nailed it in a lot of ways that they haven’t,” he said. “We played the [Temecula Valley] Balloon and Wine Festival last year and we have a lot of cell phone video coverage of the crowd. You can actually hear people walking by saying ‘is that Huey Lewis? I didn’t know he was going to be here!’ So we’ve fooled more than a few people.”
Langdon and his band mates knew they had a good thing going, but when they encountered a Huey super fan after a show in El Paso, any lingering insecurities or questions about their authenticity were quickly erased.
“There was a lady there who had seen the real Huey Lewis over 100 times since the early eighties. She had a Huey Lewis tattoo,” Langdon said. “She was surprised there was a Huey Lewis tribute band she didn’t know about. That’s how locked in she was, because she clearly knew about the other two. She came out and saw us and she said ‘I feel like I saw a Huey Lewis show.’ So, from somebody who has seen him that many times, I think that’s pretty impressive. She was blown away.”
With Roger Langdon as lead vocalist and Tony Langdon on guitar, Heart of Rock and Roll also includes Kelly Cowan (lead guitar,) Geoff Ryle (keyboard,) Raymond Ortega (drums,) Joe Schiavone (bass,) and Jason Webber (saxophone.) Cowan, Ryle and Ortega are currently in another cover band, Lifetime Rocker, who will be opening for Heart of Rock and Roll at the Friday performance.
Although they are all Temecula residents, the Huey Lewis tribute band, Heart of Rock and Roll, has become so popular that most of their shows are in other parts of the country; making Friday’s show at Thornton Winery a rare treat, destined to be a very full house.
“The show is going to be freaking packed,” Langdon said. “Thornton Winery called us and said that so many people are calling about the show. This is turning into a huge thing. Come check out these Temecula guys who are blowing up huge nationwide. You need to see us now because it’s going to be tough to see us in the future.”