The San Francisco 49ers are in search of their first championship in 25 years, while the Kansas City Chiefs are looking for the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years. With both teams looking to go back in time, it’s only fitting that we examine Huey Lewis and the News’ ties to both teams in Super Bowl 54.
Lewis grew up in the Bay Area, and later befriended 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, which makes sense because both were 1980s icons. But the relationship between the 49ers and Lewis hasn’t just been limited to the ‘80s.
He’s been a fixture over the years at various 49ers and San Francisco Giants events, singing the national anthem before important games for both teams. Most recently, that includes before the 49ers’ Divisional Round matchup with the Packers in 2013:
Whether it’s been singing the anthem or just showing up as a fan, Lewis has continued to rep the Bay Area for decades.
But, like Montana and a handful of 49ers quarterbacks, Lewis also has ties to the Chiefs. Here’s a quick rundown of Lewis’ history with both teams.
The 49ers came up with a picture-perfect plan for Lewis to watch games
Lewis sang the national anthem at several 49ers games, and an issue that arose was described by former team president Carmen Policy in an interview with Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lewis, it seems, liked to hang around on the field after the anthem, and stay there to watch the game.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue wanted to crack down on nonessential personnel on the sidelines, and fined the team. In a subsequent game, the 49ers came up with an idea to keep Lewis on the field:
So first quarter of the game I get a call, it’s the NFL observer. ‘Mr. Policy, you’ve got Huey Lewis on the field again.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but Huey’s working today.’ ‘What do you mean he’s working?’ ‘He’s a photographer, check his credential, he’s shooting for the team and the local media.
Lewis won’t be a part of the entertainment at the Super Bowl LIV, though maybe he can apply for a credential as a photographer. After all, he has experience. There are worse things to do when workin’ for a livin’.
Lewis had a special friendship with Dwight Clark
Lewis became good friends with several 49ers during the 1980s, and it didn’t just end with Lewis showing up at games. Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, and Riki Ellison even sang backup on a pair of top-10 hits — “Hip To Be Square” and “I Know What I Like.”
“We found out in the studio that Dwight can really sing,” Lewis recalled in 2018. “So we let him run a little bit. If you listen to the record today, the very last ‘Hip to be square’ is Dwight on there.”
How that musical connection happened was explained in a Q&A by Lewis in 2013:
We first met them at the Bay Area Music Awards and they jokingly suggested that they sing on our record, and that in return, I could take a few “snaps” … never got my snaps!
A common refrain is that athletes want to be rock stars, and rock stars want to be athletes. They have a lot in common — performing before large crowds, lots of travel, celebrity status — and can relate to each other well. Clark, the All-Pro wide receiver, was close friends with Lewis, and their shared existence showed in recalling getting paid by a developer to live in a sweet house. From the LA Times:
“He had done this in LA with movie stars or whatever,” Clark said. “But he’s paying me 15 grand to live at 101 Lombard. I’m single, and the place had three levels. It was one-bedroom, the bed was at the bottom. The middle floor was the family room, kitchen and dining room. And the top was a roof that looked out over the Bay Bridge. It was unbelievable.”
That was 1982, when the players went on strike — a stretch Clark called “the most incredible 57 days of my life.”
“So, we play two games and then go on strike,” he said. “And I’ve got that place, money, notoriety, and a Super Bowl ring. It was like being Huey Lewis.”
Lewis and Clark met in the early 1980s, and the duo charted a friendship course that lasted nearly four decades. The two hit it off early, finding commonalities like each having two kids of roughly the same ages.
“It was kind of cool that Dwight Clark was my pal,” Lewis recalled in 2018. “He felt the same way, and would call me his pal. On the phone he’d say ‘My pal, my pal.’”
They kept in touch long after fading from peak stardom. Clark was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, and shortly before his death in 2018, among the small group of friends to come visit him in Montana was Lewis, as a surprise to Clark.
“The smile on Clark’s face, I mean, oh my God,” Policy told Sports Illustrated.
Lewis help begin a Chiefs tradition
In 1993, Lewis sang the national anthem before Montana’s home debut, and apparently started an Arrowhead Stadium tradition. From the Kansas City Star:
With a crowd of 78,453 on hand, the largest in more than 20 years at Arrowhead, Lewis put an exclamation point on his rendition with “home of the CHIEFS!”
Best as anyone, including Chiefs historian Bob Moore, can seem to sort out, with that the tradition was born.
Still, it’s the 49ers most associated with Lewis, and for good reason. Huey Lewis and the News’ first gold record was Picture This, which was released Jan. 29, 1982, just five days after Montana and the 49ers won their first Super Bowl. The band had five straight gold records, including three that went platinum. Their most famous album is literally called Sports.
Today, Lewis says his hearing loss from Meniere’s Disease has greatly impairing his ability to sing and that the band’s next album may be his last. Fittingly, that album comes out in February, soon after the 49ers and Chiefs meet in the Super Bowl.