Lewis was born in New York City and raised in Marin County, California, attending Strawberry Point Elementary School (where he skipped second grade) and Edna Maguire Junior High School in Mill Valley. His mother, Magda Cregg, was a Polish refugee and the girlfriend of poet Lew Welch, and his maternal grandfather had gained some success as the inventor of the red wax protective sealant used on certain varieties of cheese. When he was 13, his parents divorced and he was sent to an East Coast prep school instead of going to Tamalpais High School with his classmates. He graduated from Lawrenceville School, New Jersey, in 1967 with a perfect score of 800 on the math portion of the SAT. Lewis applied to and was accepted by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
In an interview with David Letterman, Lewis talked about hitchhiking across the country to New York and how he learned to play the harmonica while waiting for rides. He talked about hanging out at the airport for three days until he stowed away on a plane to Europe. In Madrid, Spain, Lewis became an accomplished blues player and he hitchhiked around and supported himself by busking with his harmonica. He gave his first concerts in Madrid, earning enough money to buy a plane ticket back to the USA.
On his return, Lewis entered Cornell University, joining the engineering program. While there, he made friends with Lance and Larry Hoppen, who later played with Orleans and King Harvest. Initially being an active student and a member of the fraternity Eta Lambda Nu, Lewis soon lost interest in college. He signed up with a band called Slippery Elm, and in December 1969, during his junior year, he dropped out of Cornell, moving back to the San Francisco area.Make Huey Lewis Playlist