Saturday, June 23, 2018

Judy Stone

Judy Stone was born on the 1st January 1942. She started as a country music singer and appeared on country shows around Sydney. Junior to established artists like Reg Lindsay and Slim Dusty, she felt edged out and began experimenting with rock-a-billy style which received some chart success. Judy became a regular feature on Bandstand (Australia) and soon she was the nation’s favourite.

As a regular performer she was paired off with Col Joye and they recorded and did many shows together. Bandstand was a popular TV showcase of young talent both local and international. Based on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand the show ran through from 1958-1972. Bandstand came at the height of rock'nroll era and launched many Australian favourites including Col Joye, Little Pattie, Johnny Devlin, Bryan Davies, Digby Richards, The Bee Gees, The Allen Brothers (the duo that included Peter Allen), and Olivia Newton-John among many others. The program was still the premier music show at the start of the beat boom of 1964-65, but unlike its American namesake, which featured a wide range of newer groups, the changes in the music scene largely passed Bandstand by.

Although The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were reshaping popular music, there was little evidence of this on Bandstand, where it was business as usual with the clean-cut, short-haired, neatly dressed members of The Bandstand Family. Music trends changed but Bandstand aged with its original audience, bringing in more and more elements from jazz, country and club entertainment. By 1972 Bandstand was irrelevant to current trends in Australian popular music. Needles to say it did help many Australian rockers. Judy Stone‘s popularity continued and in her career she received three Logies and 8 prestigious 'MO' awards. She was a “well kent face,” in the business and sang and recorded with many of her contemporaries including the Bee Gees. It takes a lot (to make me cry) was recorded with the boys in 1963 in Sydney. The Bee Gees were by chance in the studio the day Judy was cutting this vocal. The Bee Gees could not resist the invitation to sing backup. Now managed by Col Joye and his brother Kevin Jacobson. They worked on the careers of artists like Little Pattie and Judy Stone, and had been instrumental in unearthing the Bee Gees, and encouraging Barry Gibb to write his own songs.

Throughout the 60s and early 70s Judy has several major national hits including '4,003,221 Tears From Now' (1964), 'Born a Woman' (1966), '(Would you Lay With Me) in a Field of Stone' (1974), 'Mare Mare Mare' (1974), 'Hasta Manana' (1976) and 'Silver Wings & Golden Rings' (1976).

Judy Stone is a survivor of throat cancer and has still continued to perform but due to her health kept it to a minimum. In 1984 she was inducted into Australia Country Music Hands of Fame .

Worth a listen:
Danger! Heartbreak Ahead (1961)
You're Driving Me Mad / It Takes A Lot (To Make Me Cry) ( 1961)
It takes a lot (to make me cry) Judy Stone (with the Bee Gees) (1963)
'4,003,221 Tears from now' (1964),
'Hasta Manana' (1976)

Col Joye
Oh yeah, uh huh (1958)

Ray Manzarek Riders on the storm

(Video Eliaslak2011 Youtube Channel)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Cilla Black (1943 - 2015)

Born 1943, Priscilla Maria Veronica White grew up in one of the toughest parts of Liverpool. Priscilla was encouraged to sing by her family and as a young teenager was determined to break into show business. She worked as a cloakroom attendant at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool as well as waitress at the Zodiac coffee (Duke Street). A personable girl she was popular in the clubs and when Rory Storm asked her to join him on the stage to sing there was no stopping her. She became the female vocalist for the Dominoes (which featured Richard Starky on drums) and would also freelance as there were no other girl singers in Liverpool at the time and Cilla’s appearance on stage was much appreciated. When she sang with The Big Three she was referred to as "Swinging Cilla." When the music paper, the Mersey Beat misprinted and called her Cilla Black, the singer liked the sound of it and decided to use the name professionally. Lennon persuaded Brian Epstein to audition Cilla and when he saw her singing, Bye Bye Blackbird at the Blue Angel jazz club, Epstein signed her and matched her with George Marin, Cilla recorded “Love of the loved” (written by Lennon and McCartney).

The song did well for a debut but was not a top twenty hit. George Martin had expressed some doubt about her singing ability as the scrawny girl was raw but eager. He recognised something in her voice which gave Cilla distinction over her close UK rivals of Lulu, Marianne Faithful, Sandie Shaw and Dusty Springfield. George and Brian thought it was just a question of matching her with the right song. Her second single was a cover version of a Dionne Warwick hit, written by Burt Bacharach-Hal David, the song was "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and gave her first #1 in the UK.

George Martin became Cilla's producer for the next 11 years and she was among the few EMI acts that he continued to produce after he left the company in 1966 to set up AIR Studios. For the next single they took an Italian song “Il Mio Mondo” translated into English, this rich treasure trove of ballads was to set a trend for other divas, including Dusty. The world sat up when Cilla released “You’re my world.“

Cilla Black was never going to be a serious rival to Dusty Springfield, lacking her depth or subtlety, but she had a distinctive and identifiable voice despite the uncertain range and instincts. Her vocals were attractive in their delivery and seemed to get better as she gained experience. Cilla made her acting debut in 1964 in Ferry Cross the Mersey, with Gerry & The Pacemakers. The film enjoyed some critical success, remembered now mainly because of the title track, but it was back to the recording studio for Cilla.

Cilla’s voice had an intense soulful quality, similar to Tom Jones. Her next single was to show this off to very good effect. Another cover version, this time the Righteous Bros, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." 1966 was a watershed year for Cilla and her previous recordings had interested song writer, Burt Bacharach.

When Cilla was chosen to sing the theme tune to a new Michael Caine that was almost the equivalent to singing the next Bond theme the song was a Bacharach- David composition and the theme and film shared the same title, “Alfie“. Burt came to London to produce at Abbey Road Studios and the well know perfectionist must have tried the singer’s patience because she cites this has the most harrowing experience in her recording career. However it was all worthwhile and the song paid justice to their hard work.

Cilla was beginning to have doubts about her management by the end of 1966 and was poised to leave the Epstein stable the following year and join Robert Stigwood. They met when Robert worked in the NEMS organisation, but when Brian died the plans fell through and Cilla’s management was taken over by her husband Bobby Willis. Cilla meantime was rather unique and being close friends with Sir Paul McCartney had the advantage to select the best Beatle compositions for herself. In the waltz like "It's For You," the singer displays a surprisingly adventurous jazz arrangement and the single reached No. 7 in England.

A year later she recorded the ever popular, McCartney’s, "Step Inside Love."

Only days before Brian’s premature death, Epstein had engineered Cilla's switch to television and it proved to be a shrewd move. The Cilla Black Show regularly commanded a staggering audience of 22 million in the UK. A disastrous appearance in the flop film Work Is a Four-Letter Word, (1968) coincided with her decline as a pop diva. Her TV work began to eclipse her musical fame and she went on to host several popular television programmes including Blind Date, and Surprise, Surprise. One enduring feature of Cilla was her marriage to Bobby for over 30 years until his premature death in 1999. The couple had three sons and Robert Jnr, now manages his successful mother. Sadly Cilla Black passed away quietly at her Spanish home in Estepona on the Costa del Sol in 2015. This is perhaps my favourite Cilla song and her last hit released in 1971, “Something tells me.”

Worth a listen:
Liverpool Lullaby (1969)
Love of the loved (1963)
Anyone Who Had a Heart (1964)
You’re my world (1964)
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'(1965)
Alfie Cilla Black (1966)
Its for You
Step Inside Love (1968)
Something Tells Me (1971)

Righteous Bros
You’ve lost that loving feeling

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Billy Fury (1940 - 1983)

Ronald Wycherley was born in 1940 and brought up in Liverpool. As a child he suffered rheumatic fever which left his heart weak but that did not stop him from becoming a consummate performer. In almost formulaic way his father bought him a guitar, (aged 14) and he taught himself to play. Whilst not the best guitarist, he was quite good at writing songs and when he saw the Girl can’t help it (1956) and a friend told him he looked like Eddie Cochrane, he was sold on a career as a rock ‘roller. He took the name Stean Wade and played mostly skiffle and some C´n´W numbers as part of the "Formby Sniffle Gloup." He had enough confidence to record a demo disc and a copy was sent to pop impresario Larry Parnes. Parnes asked him to meet him at the Essoldo Theatre, in Birkenhead, where his Extravaganza Show, with Marty Wilde was showing. Marty Wild was Cliff Richard’s closest rival. Parnes was so impressed with the young scouser he pushed him on stage to perform two of his own songs and the audience just loved them. Parnes signed immediately and Stean Wade became Billy Fury. Within days the new teen sensation had a record contract with Decca Records and “Maybe Tomorrow” became a hit record (1959).

In 1960 Billy was signed and Colette was released while he was on tour with Parnes’ "The Fast Moving Anglo-American Beat Show" (starring Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran). Colette became his biggest success, so far.

Billy’s records continued to sell well and his tours were very popular. The man had animal magnetism and his live shows were earthy for the time. He milked his audience and like the nabob of song, Johnnie Ray knew exactly the importance of screaming fans practicing his stage craft for hours. This did not meet with approval from the guardians of morality who fearing the arrival of R’n 'R as the beginning of the end, began a campaign to ban the singer. The press picked up on the story and Billy had to curtail his live act. Record sales dipped and he released an album called “The sound of Fury” which many believe was one of the most important self-penned British rock and roll albums ever made. The album featured a young Joe Brown on lead guitar, with backup vocals by The Four Jays.

Billy’s usual band was the Blue Flames (BF) but they were sacked because they were becoming too jazzy (1952). The keyboard player was the one and only, Georgie Fame. Still he shouldn’t feel so bad, when Parnes held auditions (Wyvern Social Club, in Liverpool) for a new group he rejected an unknown band called The Silver Beatles. Parnes took exception to the poor bass player (Stuart Sutcliffe) but the band refused to have him replaced and the group lost the gig. Parnes did see something in the Silver Beatles and signed them for a Scottish tour with Johnny Gentle and Duffy Power. According to legend Lennon was consoled when Billy gave him his autograph. In 1961 Billy recorded Halfway to Paradise by Goffin/King . The song had been a minor hit in the US for Tony Orlando (Tie a yellow ribbon), but Billy´s cover is now considered the definitive version.

Rock 'n' Roll’s peak had passed by 1962 and Billy toned down his wild man image to concentrate on ballads. 1962 and 1963 were Billy Fury's best chart years but the man had too much stage sexuality to be just another pop performer. His live performances still remained something to see and he was backed by Joe Meek’s studio band, the Tornadoes (featuring bassist Heinz Burt with his famous blonde hair). They recorded a live album “We want Billy” which is now considered to be a collectable because it was rare for pop groups to record anything other than studio work.

In 1964 the Tornados were replaced by The Gamblers, a six-piece unit from Newcastle whose live performances were extremely popular. In 1967 they were replaced by The Plainsmen. As time passed Billy started to experience pains in his chest. Then in 1967, the singer underwent heart surgery which led to him abandoning touring, altogether. Billy’s features made him ideal for television and his acting debut started early in his career (1959) with a bit part in a play called "Strictly For Sparrows" (plugging his first single Maybe Tomorrow, naturally). Three years later Billy Fury was the key character in "Play It Cool" (1962) (Director Michael Winner – Death Wish) and “Once upon a dream” was the theme. The film also featured Helen Shapiro, Danny Rivers, Shane Fenton (aka Alvin Stardust), Bobby Vee and the Vernons Girls.

Another film followed in 1965 “I've Gotta Horse” which featured The Bachelors. His most memorable performance on celluloid came in 1973 with “That’ll be the day “with David Essex and Ringo Starr. Billy played Stormy Tempest. The character was thought to be based on Rory Storm a very popular Liverpool singer in the 50s and early 60s. Ringo Starr was a Dingle boy like Fury. Ringo (Richard Starkey) originally played drums for Rory Storm & The Hurricanes.

His last public appearance was in December 1982 and Billy died a year later. Privately, Billy was an ornithologist (something we had in common, only he liked the feathered variety). His significant partner Lee Middleton (1959-67) who later married Kenny Everett had a bitter separation but became friends again before he died. Billy was very much a talented pop singer who unfortunately fell into the period between the Rock’n’ Roll and the Mersey Sound, so he was just a little older than the sixties groups and although he enjoyed great popularity he never really had the celebrity he might have had he come earlier or later. Still that is history and many remember Billy with great affection, myself included. The singer had a favourite song entitled “Wondrous Place.” Billy recorded the song at least four times during his career.

Worth a listen:
Maybe tomorrow (1959)
Colette by Billy Fury (1960)
Halfway to Paradise (1961)
It's Only Make Believe (1964)
Once upon a dream Billy Fury (1962)
Wondrous Place

Dave Essex
Rock On (1973)

Hey Joe Otis Taylor

(Video Courtesy: alanmeires
Youtube Channel)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Bachelors

Colneth Cluskey (1941); Declan Cluskey (1942), Sean (John) Stokes (1940), three Dublin boys began their showbiz career as harmonica players called 'The Harmonichords'. The lads learned their stage craft in theatres around Dublin and eventually ended up playing with the Radio Eireann Light Orchestra. The Harmonichords appeared on Hughie Green's 'Opportunity Knocks' (Radio Luxemburg) but nothing came of it. Instead they became a folk trio and changed their name to the 'Bachelors'. (The irony was of course all three married early in life, but then it was considered less appealing to market this). Declan gave up a good daytime job to become a performer and his mother was not too pleased. The boys found work in Britain which meant having to relocate to stand any change of breaking into the big time. Just prior to the Mersey Sound and beat groups, Tin Pan Alley anticipated Country and Western music would be the new big thing and The Bachelors certainly had potential. It was when they were appearing in Arbroath, Scotland that Dick Rowe, the boss of Decca records heard them (Dick had missed the Beatles and was keen to make amends), and signed them up. He insisted they recorded a song Karl Denver had just turned down. It was called Charmaine and became a hit reaching the #6 in the UK hit parade.

The year 1963 started really well for the trio but their output for the rest of the year was less successful, chart wise. Faraway Places reached #36; Whispering #18; and Long time ago did not appear in the charts at all.

The bhoys persevered with their folkish vocals led by Con (the voice), Dec drove the trio with his ideas and John Stokes, the third member was happy to go along with the brothers. John’s lack of enthusiasm eventually however drove the trio apart but not before the Dubliners made their musical mark. 1964 was the Batchelor’s year and came out with a remarkable run of hits, all eminently recognizable, even today, 60 years later. At their height of popularity they managed to outsell ‘The Beatles’. The Bachelors were in actual fact the first of the ‘Irish Boy Bands’ to invade Britain’s shores and beyond.

Their already hardy experience as showbiz types held the lads in excellent stead and even while they enjoyed their popular phase as recording artists, the Bachelors slipped naturally into cabaret and stage work. More chart success followed with I Wouldn't Trade You for the World/ #4 and No Arms Could Ever Hold you/ #7.

Between the years 1964/65 The Bachelors played Top of the Pops that many times they had their own dressing wardrobe at the BBC. In 1965 the Bachelors toured Australia but by the end of that year their pop days were almost over. Their army of fans kept getting their works radio airplay but none the less sales of singles began to dwindle. Their last pop flurry came when they charted with Marie #9 and The Sound of Silence #3.

As one door shut another opened and the Bachelors by now had become showbiz evergreens slipping neatly onto the cabaret, clubs and theatre circuits. The Dublin lads made two films, (singing ‘Stars will Remember’ in one ; and ‘He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands’ in ‘He’s Got a Horse’ with Billy Fury).

The Bachelors have continued to work and successfully maintain their popularity on the cabaret circuit for many years. By 1984 an embittered John Stokes split from the group in circumstances that led to a legal settlement and the subsequent creation of the 'New Bachelors'. During their career the group recorded over 60 albums and have appeared with almost every top name of show business including many well known and highly respected musicians. Con and Dec are still working and easily contactable over the internet. The lads help writers to have hit records through their website. Con became a dedicated member of Rotary Club International, and the brothers are executives of ‘The Grand Order of Water Rats'.

Worth a listen:
Charmaine (1962)
Diana (1964)
I Believe (1964)
Ramona (1964)
I Wouldn't Trade You For The World
He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands
The Sound of Silence

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dickie Valentine (1929- 1971)

Richard Maxwell was born in London in 1929. He started as a child actor (aged 3) and used his mother’s maiden name, Richard Bryce. He appeared in several movies but in his early teens started working behind the scenes as a theatre call boy. That is the person who knocks on the actor’s door and says “You are on in five minutes...” Not content to stay a stage hand he trained as a singer and got his big break with the Ted Heath Band. A name change was in order and Richard became Dickie, and 'Valentine' was very much in keeping with his pretty boy image. Dickie Valentine was a talented and popular entertainer who was able to lend his vocal style and provide impressions of other famous singers. However, he was much more than just an impressionist and had great success with his own brand of romantic ballads chalking up two #1 hits during the mid-1950s.

Dickie Valentine traveled extensively with the Ted Heath Band including Australia. The Ted Heath band was the most famous British band of the post World War Two era and the band leader created stars by grooming his musicians and singers in stage presence and dress and commissioning special arrangements in which to feature them. The three most famous wobblers in the Ted Heath Band singers were Dickie Valentine, Lita Roza (Allentown Jail) and Dennis Lotis (South African singer and actor).

In the mid fifties the band toured Australia and New Zealand and became the only British band to achieve any significant recognition outside the UK. Dickie saw his opportunity and took the brave initiative to leave the band to pursue a solo career. In the early fifties prior to the Rock’n’ Roll influx, UK singers spent much of their recording lives covering US hit.

There were two main female artists contemporary with Dickie Valentine. Alma Cogan (1932-1966) concentrated on up-beat ballads and novelty songs aimed specifically for the younger audiences. She liked to giggle in the middle of her songs and this became an endearing quality of her recording which distinguished her from her rivals.

The other had been a child actor called Petula Clarke or “Britain’s Shirley Temple”. She became known for her upbeat popular hits in the 50s and 60s and was the Kylie Monogue of her day selling 70 million recordings worldwide. Petula is the most successful British solo recording artist to date. She worked with Tony Hatch in the 60s and between them notched up several international hits including Downtown. Petula continued to enjoy celebrity and still tours. She has visited Australia many times.

Dickie worked with Petula on the film version of 6.5 Special (aka Calling all cats). This was the call which preceded the theme tune to the BBC program. Dickie played himself in the 1958 film and gave the young Petula Clarke assistance in her desire to become a pop singer. All very innocent then and I would hate to see a 2015 version of the real thing.

As the sixties approached and Dickie was now in his thirties, he transferred media to became a popular TV host with two TV series “Calling Dickie Valentine" (1961) with Jack Parnell Dance Band ( Parnell also started in the Ted Health Band), and The Dickie Valentine Show" (1966-67) with Pans People (from Top of the Pops). Valentine carried on recording career and worked on the cabaret circuit until his tragic demise in a car crash on 6 May 1971.

Worth a listen:
Finger Of Suspicion/ Who's Afraid Dickie Valentine (1954)
Christmas Alphabet/ Where Are You Tonight (1955)

Alma Cogan
Hernando's Hideaway (1955)
Petula Clarke
The Little Shoemaker (1954)