Pete Hewlett

World Class Singer rises from Mancini's to Wembley Stadium

Pete Hewlett is a world-class singer, song writer and guitarist who has toured with Billy Joel, Elton John, Carly Simon, Joe Jackson, Amy Grant, Eric Carmen, and more.  Highlights of his performing career include his appearance in Moscow with Billy Joel and singing with Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, and Steven Tyler during the final concert at New York’s Shea Stadium in 2008.  As a recording artist his discography includes over forty recordings.  Hewlett was a founding member of the CBS Recording act Novo Combo, the Euclid Beach Band of Cleveland International records, the RCA band Sweet Lightnin' and the Philips recording act Peter’s Pipers.  As a session vocalist and guitar player Hewlett also appeared on the recordings of the Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Joe Jackson, Julian Lennon, Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Psyhedelic Furs, Beeb Birtles of the Little River Band, country star Earl Thomas Conley, The Clarks, B.E. Taylor, Bob Corbin, Bill Deasey, Karen Mamon, Mike Stout and more.   Hewlett won an Emmy Award for his work as host of the WQED TV show “Live From Studio A”.  

Born in the Pittsburgh area Pete Hewlett grew up in McKees Rocks and Robinson Township.  He started his career performing at Mancini's Lounge in his hometown and the small smoky clubs of Pittsburgh.  With a great voice and buoyant enthusiasm his reputation grew among musicians.  He was recruited from the clubs of Pittsburgh into a series of bands that took him to the world's biggest venues.   

Peter's Pipers

Pete’s first success came at age 16 when he was the lead singer and guitarist of "Peter's Pipers".  The Pipers won a Pittsburgh Battle of the Bands contest at West View Park in 1966 qualifying them to compete in a national battle of the bands.  Finishing in 6th place nationally, the Pipers came to the attention of Phillips Mercury Records who signed them to a record contract.  The Pipers released three Brit Pop singles on the Philips label in 1968 that were produced by Dick Corby: Airplane / I Didn't Believe Her, Groovy Weekend / Helping You Out.  The Magic Book / I Don't Know What You're Waiting.  Two of the Pipers singles, along with cuts from the Swamp Rats the Fenways and Marshmallow Steam Shovel were reissued on the compilation CD “Burghers Vol. 1” "Classic Sixties Sounds from Steeltown" released by Big Wink Records.

Sweet Lightning

In 1969 Pete joined with guitarist Sid MGinnis (now with the David Letterman band), drummer Ron Foster (of Diamond Reo, the Silencers, and Roy Buchanan), bassist Harry Turner and keyboard wiz Fred Delu to form the band Sweet Lightnin'.  They recorded the album “Sweet Lightnin' ” at Fox Studios in East Liberty. It was released on RCA Records in 1972.  The music ranged from the jazz rock tune “Reo Deo” written by Harry Tuner, to the spirited rocker “Sometimes All Do”, to the Bryds/Buffalo Springfield influenced tunes “In the Morning” and “Remember Me” penned by Pete Hewlett.  Pete shines on vocals, McGinnis shows his skill in solos, and Fred Delu lays down cool Fender Rhodes and Hammon B3 jams.  Their cover of the classic tune “Dancing In the Streets”, arranged by Norman Nardini backed with the hot horns of the Rhythm Kings, became a regional radio hit single.  Sweet Lightning broke up in 1975.

Pete released a second album on RCA.  Going by the name “Sweet Pete” Hewlett released the solo album Sky High” on RCA in 1975. Pete wrote all of the songs and was backed by keyboard player Jon Bartol.   

Windfall

In 1973 Pete joined the band Windfall as lead singer.  The band included drummer Jim Bonfanti, a former member of Eric Carmen’s band the Raspberries, and keyboard player Kevin Raleigh.    DT Takos, who later became a member of the Silencers, replaced Raleigh on keyboard when he left to join the Michael Stanley Band.  In 1976 Phonograph Record Magazine report that the Raspberries' producer Jimmy Ienner was interested in producing Windfall, but the group broke up.  Windfall played regularly at the Staircase club in downtown Pittsburgh and at clubs in Cleveland.

Eric Carmen and the Euclid Beach Band

Working in Cleveland with Windfall Pete became friends with Richard Reisling, a member of Eric Carmen’s band.  Eric Carmen, who had been the leader of the Raspberries, had just scored a number 2 gold record hit with his solo single “All By Myself”.   In 1976 Reising recruited Hewlett to travel to the U.K. to record on Carmen’s second album Boats Against The Current” album.  After Carmen’s band arrived in London they were fired by producer Gus Dugeon.  Dugeon brought in a group of veteran session players that included Burton Cummings and Tom Scott.  

Eric Carmen’s former Cleveland based band members returned to Cleveland from London.  Reising rejoined Carmen’s touring band and Pete Hewlett went back to Pittsburgh.  Later in 1976 Reising and Cleveland Scene magazine writer Jim Girard wrote the novelty Beach Boys style song "There's No Surf In Cleveland."  Reising brought in Hewlett to sing lead on a demo recording.  "There's No Surf In Cleveland" performed by the Euclid Beach Band was released as a single October of 1976.  Eric Carmen, remixed the tune and they re-released it in 1978 as a Scene Records single.  The song received a burst of media coverage when the Euclid Beach Band announced that they would donate all proceeds from the song to Cleveland-area charities.  It quickly became the most played song on Cleveland radio in 1978 gaining national attention. All 10,000 copies of the initial pressing were sold.  Cleveland International Records, rich with cash from its success with Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, signed the Euclid Beach Band.  At that point the group was a duo of comprised of Pete Hewlett and Richard Reising.  

For the Euclid Beach Band recording sessions Steve Popovich, owner of Cleveland International, brought in Eric Carmen as the producer and hired top tier session players including sax player David Sanborne (Kiss, Sting), legendary bassist Bob Babbit (of The Funk Brothers) and others players who had recorded on major hits.  The album entitled “Euclid Beach Band” released in 1979 was a mix of pop, rock, disco and Motown R&B.  The song "You Make It Easy" written and sung by Hewlett was disco-tinged tuned featured Bob Babbit's super funky bass.  Pete sang lead vocals on the pop ballad "I Need You" written by Eric Carmen that reached number 81 in the Billboard in 1979 and became a popular standard in Asia.  The band broke up in 1980 but has reunited a few times for live appearances and recordings.   The album was re-released by Epic Records International in Japan in 2003.  

Carly Simon

Opportunity came Pete’s way again when his former "Sweet Lightning" band mate, Sid McGinnis recommended Pete to Carly Simon.  She hired Hewlett as her new singer/guitarist after she heard him on tape.  Pete moved to New York City in 1979 to join Carly Simon’s band.  Hewlett, McGinnis, and legendary bassist Tony Levin recorded with Simon on her 1980 Warner Brothers release "Come Upstairs.  The highlight of the album was the hit song "Jesse" that stayed on the Billboard singles charts for 6 months peaking at  #11.  Pete played acoustic guitar and along with James Taylor sang back up vocals on ‘Jesse’.  The single went gold with sales of more than 1,000,000 copies.  Pete performed lived with Carly on her 1980 national tour.   At her appearance in Pittsburgh at the Stanley Theater on October of 1980 Simon collapsed on stage during the first song paralyzed by stage freight.  Feeling heart palpitations she told the audience that she was having trouble and asked if some of them could come on stage to comfort her. Fifty people came up.  They massaged her arms and legs and told her 'We love you” She made it through the first show but collapse back stage before the second show.  Simon cancelled the second 10 PM show and the rest of the tour.  She did not perform live again for several years.

Novo Combo

In the market for another job after Carly Simon cancel her tour, another of Pete’s friends in New York told Pete that he should check out an ad in the Village Voice.  Former Santana Drummer Michael Shrieve was advertising for a guitar player/singer for his new band Novo Combo.  Shrieve and bassist Stephen Dees auditioned 200 musicians hiring Pete and guitarist Jack Griffith.  It was a band of veteran performers.  A founding member of Santana Michael Shrieve is member of the Rock Hall of Fame.  Stephen Dees played bass and sang with Hall & Oates,  Pat Travers, and Todd Rundgren.  The band rehearsed for two weeks and made their first appearance opening for the Fabulous Thunderbirds at the US Blues nightclub in Long Island.  They honed their act and music for several months playing clubs in Long Island, Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut.  After six months of performing, Novo Combo signed with Polydor Records. They released the album “Novo Combo” produced by Chris Kimsey in 1981.  The song Tatoo, written and sung, by Hewlett is a highlight of the album that reached number 42 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts.  The song “Up Periscope" reached number 43 in Mainstream Rock.  The album reach #167 on the Billboard top 200.  Australian music critic George Thatcher praised Pete Hewlett in his review of the Novo Combo album, "The songs which stand out for me are the ones in which Pete Hewlett sings."  Going on tour Novo Combo opened for The Who, Cheap Trick, Greg Lake and performed at the 1981 Montreux Jazz Festival.  They appeared on the nationally broadcast Solid Gold TV show in 1981. Novo Combo made their first appearance in Pittsburgh on October 20, 1981 performing to a jam packed crowd at Mancini’s in Pete’s home town McKees Rocks. 

Novo Combo released its second album “Animation Generation” on Polydor in 1982 Guitar player Carlos Rios, who went on to play with Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac,  replaced original guitarist Jack Griffith .  The video off the title song “Animation Generation” made it to the top 5 on MTV. After a change in senior management Polydor pulled tour support for Novo Combo to instead spend its money on new band from the U.K. Def Leppard.  Everyone at Polydor who was into Novo Combo had been sacked. Lacking tour support and backing to do another album Novo Combo broke up in 1983.  

Billy Joel

Pete found work again in 1983 with the help of some friends.  While living in New York, Hewlett became friends with Mark Rivera, Billy Joel’s saxophone player. Rivera and Novo Combo’s tour manager/soundman Ted Leonard helped Hewlett get an audition with Billy Joel.  Impressed with Pete’s voice Joel added Hewlett to his touring band as a vocalist.  Pete sang background vocals on Joel’s 1984 "Innocent Man" tour that visited 48 cities in the U.S, Japan, and the U.K.  In the U.K. they appeared at Wembley Stadium where Pete hit the high notes on the most vocally challenging songs, like "An Innocent Man." that Joel could not sing.   Pete toured again with Billy Joel on his 11 month ‘Bridge’ world tour.   Billy Joel made history in August of 1987 when he performed in the Soviet Union as part of the Reagan-Gorbachev Geneva summit.  Hewlett performed with Joel at concerts in Moscow, Leningrad and Tbilisi. The concerts were the first live rock radio broadcasts in Soviet history and were also simulcast in the United States.  Pete appears on the live double-album Kohuept that documents thee Soviet Union concerts. Pete Hewlett appears on five Billy Joel recordings: Billy Joes Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 (1985), Bridge (1986), Kohuept –Live in Leningrad (1987) , Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997, Bridge/Storm Front/Nylon Curtain 1998, and Collection: Piano Man/52nd Street/Kohuept: Live in Leningrad 2002,

Sideman with Lennon, Jackson, Weber, and more

Hewlett’s work with the Billy Joel’s organization led to more singing engagements. Joel’s producer, Phil Ramone, hired Hewlett for recording sessions.  Pete worked sessions with of Julian Lennon, Joe Jackson, Marc Cohn, and Andrew Lloyd Weber.  Hewlett recorded the "Starlight Express" Broadway soundtrack with Andrew Lloyd Weber. Pete sings a duet with Josie Aiello on the love ballad "Only You"  In 1986 Pete appeared on  Joe Jackson's 1986 "Big World" release and toured with Jackson on his U.S, tour. “Big World” reached #34 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and the single was #11 on the Mainstream Rock chart.  Pete recorded with Julian Lennon's on his "Secret Value of Day Dreaming" album that was released in 1986.  Pete sang the lead note for note with Julian on the hit single “Stick Around” the reached number 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart.  During 1987 Pete recorded with The Pyschedelic Furs on their "Midnight to Midnight" release, Karen Kamon on 'Voices'.

Pete began recording again in 1997 when he appeared on the Clarks "Someday Maybe" and performed with Amy Grant's at the World Leader Summit.  Beginning in 1998 Pete worked in Nashville where he recording with several artists including: Earl Tomas Conley (1998), Pete Benz (2000), Beeb Birtles "Driven by Dreams" (2000), Timothy Craig (2000). He also sang on several national spots for Burger King, McDonalds, Lipton Tea, Slice, and Miller Beer.   

Hewlett-Anderson Live From Studio A

Around 2001 Pete Hewlett and Scott Anderson formed the Hewlett-Anderson Band.  Scott Anderson is a former keyboard player and music director for The Vogues and has played with Joe Negri, Kenny Blake, Billy Price and Chizmo Charles.  The Hewlettt-Anderson band released 2 CDs “That's What I Heard” (2001) and Tracks (2009). 

Hewlett and Anderson appeared on the WQED TV show “Live From Studio A” from 2001 through 2008.  Pete served as the host and Scott Anderson was music director.  The Hewlett-Anderson band performed and backed other artists who appeared on the show.  Donnie Iris, Roger Humphries, Billy Price, and many other Pittsburgh artists were featured.  Studio L was nominated for several regional Emmy awards.  Pete was awarded an emmy in 2007. Every year Studio A presented the “Holiday Jam” show featuring the Hewlett-Anderson Band and an all star cast of Pittsburgh performers including B.E. Taylor, Joe Grushecky, Joe Negri, Kenny Blake, Etta Cox, Bob Corbin, Jimmy Sapienza, Maureen Budway, Hermie Granati and more.

Last Play at Shea with Sir Paul

Only July 16th and 18th 2008, Pete appeared with Billy Joel at the “Last Play at Shea Concert”.  It was the farewell concert for Shea Stadium.  Pete performed with Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Roger Daltrey, Garth Brooks, Don Henley, John Mellencamp, Steven Tyler and Sir Paul McCartney.  The concert is included in the movie “Last Play at Shea” that was released in 2010.  Rising from gigs at Mancini’s bar in McKees Rocks to singing with Paul McCartney at Shea Stadium Pete Hewlett has proven he is simply one of the best popular music singers in the world.

The Voice of Pete Hewlett
Peter's Pipers Airplane
Sweet Lightnin'
Euclid Beach Band - I Need You with Pete on lead 
Euclid Beach Band
There's No Surf in Cleveland

Novo Combo on Solid Gold
Novo Combo at Mancini's
With Joel at Wembley Stadium 1984
Joe Jackson -Big World Tour 

Only You from Starlight Express
Live from Studio A -Maybe I'm Amazed
Hewlett-Anderson Band Whispering
Pete with the Euclid Beach Band