One of the founding members of Moby Grape, Peter Lewis is undoubtedly one of the most underrated musicians and contributors to come out of the '60s rock revolution. Lewis was born into a show business family, and is the son of a renowned actress, the late Loretta Young. While in high school, Lewis played guitar and sang in a pop/rock band called the Cornells, and also rubbed elbows with Ricky Nelson, among others. After attending military school and a brief stint in the Air Force, Lewis was, for a short time, a commercial pilot for Shell Oil. After seeing an early appearance by the Byrds, Lewis was inspired enough to make music his primary focus. "I would have stayed a pilot too if it wasn't for the Byrds. It was at the Long Beach Arena where I went with my girlfriend to see the Rolling Stones that it happened. Being in the pilot's program had completely absorbed me, and I had spent the last two years doing nothing but flying, or studying about flying. Music had been put in the background. It had no pull on me, because in my isolated situation, I still thought the music scene in America was pretty lame. That all changed when the opening band stepped on-stage that night at the Stones concert. Of course, it was the Byrds."
It was during this period that Lewis began to develop what was to become his signature fingerpicking guitar style. Although galvanized by Roger McGuinn's playing, Lewis chose to explore the style on the six-string electric, and this set him apart from many other guitarists at the time who were merely imitating McGuinn, utilizing 12-string Rickenbackers. For over a year, Lewis and his new band, Peter & the Wolves, played up and down the West Coast.
Sometime in 1966, Lewis began playing with another underestimated musical genius, Joel Scott Hill, and through him, met bassist/vocalist Bob Mosley, and the Moby Grape odyssey began. Lewis' contributions to the band were great and many. Aside from furnishing the band with some of their best and most accessible rockers such as "Fall on You" and "Goin' Down to Texas,", he also had an introspective, psychologically probing and psychedelic ballad style, and this is where his originality and talent truly shine. This is best represented on songs such as "He," "That Lost Horizon," "Horse Out in the Rain," and "Sittin' by the Window" (which be reprised brilliantly on his 1995 self-titled solo album). He also penned the profound "Changes, Circles Spinning," which can be seen as an ode to the end of the '60s, and was part of Joan Baez' late-'60s live repertoire.Between brief Moby Grape reunions in the '70s, Lewis and another Grape co-founder, the late Skip Spence, were instrumental in helping assemble the Doobie Brothers, as well as assisting in getting them signed to Warner Bros. Lewis was rumored to have an offer to join the band early on with Spence, but when his former bandmate decided not to pursue this, Lewis declined as well.
In 1995, he released his only solo album to date, Peter Lewis, on the German-based Taxim Records label. Produced by former Doobies guitarist John McFee, the record is a penetrating example of Lewis' unique talent, as well as his musical growth. He has spent the last few years recording tracks for a follow-up album, and still sporadically performs live as a solo artist and occasionally with some of the surviving members of Moby Grape. At his solo shows, as if to bring things full circle, he often performs a brilliant version of Gene Clark's "Set You Free This Time," which was originally on the Byrds' Turn! Turn! Turn! album.