The Beatles recruited Ringo Starr instead, and a few months later a T.V. crew came to Liverpool to do a feature on him, as he'd said in an interview that he quite fancied owning a ladies' hairdresser's. They whisked him into André Bernard's salon, and Mr. Lewis and Mr. Peter found themselves inadvertently making their T.V. début as a pair of stooges to Ringo's humour as he covered himself, and everyone else, in shampoo suds.29
In February 1963 Lewis left The Renegades and became drummer with the Kansas City Five, a jazz and blues group, but by the autumn of 1963 he was becoming unsettled. He led an extremely busy life – in the evenings he was either playing with the group, going to judo, practising hair-styling, or shooting in rifle competitions. At the weekend he would be out on the Army rifle ranges or playing drums with his dad's band. At the same time, Mike was in the process of forming his satirical group The Scaffold and in between styling hair he and Lewis would work on sketches for the group.
Lewis's apprenticeship in hairdressing was practically complete and, just as he was due to go 'on the floor', he gave it up along with his hobbies. He spent a lot of time considering what direction his life should take, and decided that it just had to be music. The Mersey Sound had become the latest phenomenon and, in Liverpool, music touched everyone. Lewis said, "I was the first punter to hear She Loves You. Paul (McCartney) came back from Birmingham with a test pressing of the record,33 and one night, standing in his carpet slippers over a clapped-out record player,29 played it to Mike and me."33 This made Lewis all too aware of the progress made by The Beatles, whose huge success had seemed so unlikely a year earlier. Even his own father, who had occasionally acted as road manager for The Beatles, had now become the road manager for another Mersey group, The Mojos, and Lewis wanted to be a part of the local music scene too. But he didn't want to be behind a drum kit any longer; he wanted to sing, and to be seen.
He began learning the guitar, and in June 1964, shortly after his eighteenth birthday, joined his first group as a professional musician by becoming bass guitarist with The Eyes. "They were a good hard-hitting rock band, all Liverpool lads," said Lewis.11 The other three group members had previously played together with 'Kingsize' Taylor and the Dominoes. When the Dominoes split up, their bassist quit the music scene and sold his guitar to Lewis. With their new bass player, The Eyes headed off to tour Germany like so many other Liverpool group, visiting Kiel, Berlin and of course Hamburg's famous Star Club. The teenage Lewis was now very 'girl-conscious' and said of his time in Hamburg, "Six months put ten years on me.20 I went there a greenhorn, and still a virgin at 18. I came back an old man having experienced just about everything that was in the book. It was an amazing place."8 But there was also a downside: "In Hamburg, in my group days, I was knifed in the face and had to fight my way out of trouble."27
The pressure of performing at The Star Club was taking its toll, particularly the seemingly non-stop working hours. "I still remember vividly the agony, despite the pills, of playing with blistered fingers"20 By October, Lewis was homesick and quit the group while still in Hamburg. He returned to Liverpool, looking for local work and after seeing an advertisement in a newspaper,14 very quickly joined the Georgians, a Rhythm and Blues group, again as bass guitarist. They occasionally played the famous venues like The Cavern and Hope Hall, but tended to go for universities and larger gigs as they were better paid. And there were more girls. Band member Tim Dugdill remembered, "Lewis Collins and Roger Bioletti were, as one might say, handsome bastards, which made it more difficult for the rest of us in the groupie recruitment, but we managed."12
In the meantime, Lewis's father Bill was still The Mojos' road manager. They were a group with a great live reputation which they never quite managed to convert into record sales. Their preferred style was R&B, but their record label, Decca, wanted their output to be more in the 'pop' vein. They'd had a UK no. 9 hit in March 1964 with Everything's Alright but had struggled to equal this success. Although they had a huge following at their live shows and received a lot of coverage from teen music magazines, the record sales were poor, and they managed only two more Top Thirty hits before the group broke up amid squabbles over song-writing. Singer Stu James and guitarist Nicky Crouch stayed together and kept the name The Mojos, but they needed a new drummer and bassist. They recruited drummer Aynsley Dunbar who had previously played with Faron's Flamingoes, and at the end of December 1964 invited their road manager's son to join them on bass. After only two months with the Georgians, Lewis left to join The Mojos.
The group was relaunched as Stu James & The Mojos, and overnight Lewis entered into a kind of stardom. Joining a well-known group with an existing record contract seemed a guarantee of success, and to begin with, Lewis lived the high life. He had a bachelor pad in Knightsbridge and, like the other Mojos, was chauffeured around in a Rolls-Royce. In early 1965 his father Bill also moved from Liverpool down to London, taking a house at no. 7 Park Avenue in Golders Green, an area in the north of the city.
In April 1965 the slow ballad Comin' On To Cry was released as the first single under the name Stu James & The Mojos. Stu later said, "We made some fairly disastrous records together and this was the first of them. It was a phoney Righteous Brothers take-off. The B-side, That's The Way It Goes was okay though."11 It failed to make any impact on the national chart and Lewis soon discovered that the trappings of fame could be very short-lived. By May 1965 The Mojos found themselves all living together in Bill's house in Golders Green. In September they released their next single Wait A Minute which Stu James described as "a weird ballad that was even worse than Comin’ On To Cry. I don't know how we got into this rut of doing ballads as we were loud and exciting on stage."11 The fans seemed to share the lead singer's lack of enthusiasm for the song, and again the record failed to chart.In addition to playing with The Mojos, Lewis took every chance he could of playing with other musicians. "I floated around a lot, gigging at a club in London called The Cromwellian with people like Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. They were all unknown then just like The Who, who I remember popping in to say they'd recorded a single. When I asked what it was called they said, Can’t Explain. Naturally I said, "Go on, try..." "33 Lewis also extended his musical versatility with a new instrument: "For The Mojos, I not only played bass guitar but also learned flute, which was trendy at the time.”34
But despite the fact that their records were no longer selling, The Mojos were still a popular live act and toured regularly. "I drove them around in my van which was battered beyond belief," said Lewis.34 "Wheels kept falling off, the driver's door was on one hinge, and clouds of smoke came non-stop from the engine!"34 Still, it got the band, and his dog Gypsy, to their gigs. Lewis recalled, "The girls used to scream a lot and I had to throw my cufflinks into the audience, things like that. It was all a bit strange - I'm glad I'm out of that." Some of the band members, though, felt that the songs they played were "rubbish."17 Aynsley Dunbar soon left the group and was replaced on drums by Stan Bennett.
The Mojos were then asked to provide backing for fellow Decca signings Paul and Barry Ryan, who needed stage experience, but new drummer Stan said, "I thought it was degrading because they pinched our numbers. They saw our show in Ronnie Scott's club and they said "Oh that's a good number, we'll do that one." We ended up doing our show with them singing it."11 It was now downhill all the way for The Mojos. The Merseybeat bubble was finally bursting and many groups found themselves in decline, or in debt. "You don't think about accountants and you get ripped off by your manager. Mine ended up in jail. I ended up £2,000 in the red."34 said Lewis. Disillusioned, he quit the group in mid-1966.