Novo Combo was a power pop and new wave rock group who enjoyed some popularity in the early 1980s. The initial lineup was Pete Hewlett, Stephen Dees, Jack Griffith and drummer Michael Shrieve, formerly with Santana. Carlos Rios replaced Jack Griffith on the band's second album. The band scored minor hits in 1981 with the songs "Up Periscope" and "City Bound."
Lead singer and bassist Stephen Dees also performed with many other acts from the 1980s including Hall and Oates as well as Tony Carey where he was also featured in the Tony Carey video of "The First Day of Summer." He would later form his own independent pop/art rock band Bandees in the late 1990s.
Lead guitarist Jack Griffith jammed with Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana, Gary Moore, penned songs for Warner Chappell, Fiona, Revo Bop. Now has his own Commercial Business Studio, where he records bands, produces TV commercials.
Novo Combo's singer and guitarist Pete Hewlett is a world-class singer who makes Pittsburgh his home. His name may not be as readily recognizable to Pittsburghers as Joe Grushecky, Donnie Iris or B.E. Taylor, but that's because he was on the road recording and touring with Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Joe Jackson, Julian Lennon, Amy Grant, and Eric Carmen.
Pete Hewlett got his first recording contract when he was 16 years old. His band Peter's Pipers won a battle of the bands contest at West View Park. That sent them onto the national finals, and that got them a deal with Philips Mercury Records.
Then came a new band--Sweet Lightning--and the attention of RCA records, where they recorded an LP and a pair of singles. Next came a move to Cleveland, where Pete recorded with Eric Carmen (Raspberries), then joined the Euclid Beach Band.
But the real turning point came two years later when Hewlett's former Sweet Lightning bandmate Syd McGinness (guitarist for David Letterman) recommended Pete to Carly Simon, who was looking for a new backup singer. Pete got the job, moved to New York City, recorded "Come Upstairs" and headed out on tour with Simon.
While in New York, Hewlett answered an audition with Stephen, Jack, and Michael and formed Novo Combo. They were signed to Polygram and put out two albums. Music reviewer George Thatcher said, "The songs which stand out for me are the ones in which Pete Hewlett sings." Novo Combo toured with The Who, Cheap Trick, Greg Lake and performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival '81.
Then Billy Joel came calling. Hewlett hit the road with Joel for the "An Innocent Man" and "The Bridge" world tours. Then came the tour that made international news: Billy Joel would bring a fully staged rock production to the Soviet Union as part of the Ronald Reagan-Mikhail Gorbachev 1985 Geneva summit. Hewlett performed with Joel in Moscow and Leningrad--and made history as part of the first live rock radio broadcast in Soviet history, which was also simulcast in the United States. The live double-album, KOHЦEPT (translation: 'In Concert'), chronicled the trip.
Back in the States, Hewlett recorded the Starlight Express Broadway soundtrack, Joe Jackson's Big World recording and U.S. Concert Tour, Julian Lennon's The Secret Value of Daydreaming album and Amy Grant's 1997 World Leader Summit performance. Most recently Pete joined Billy Joel once again to perform at the "Last Play At Shea" concerts in July 2008.
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