Clive Powel was born in 1943 in Leigh, Lancashire. His interests in music grew from entertaining the family then participating in musical evenings across the street in the church hall. Clive’s father played in an amateur dance band and Clive’s early musical heroes were Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. He left school aged 15 and became an apprentice weaver by day and for pocket money played piano in various pubs. He joined a local group called, “The Dominoes, ” before being asked to join Rory and the Blackjacks in 1959. He gave his job and went on the road. By the time they got to London things were not going so well and the band split up leaving Clive to scratch a living. It is not clear whether it was Rory or Lionel Bart who arranged for Clive to audition for impresario Larry Parnes, but Clive was signed as a backing pianist. Parnes loved stage names that packed a punch and Clive was to be called 'Lance Fortune, but settled for ' 'Georgie Fame,' instead. For the next couple of years Georgie Fame, and toured with Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Tony Sheridan, Freddie Canon, Jerry Keller, Dickie Pride, Joe Brown and many more. Billy Fury asked him to join the “Blue Flames,” but when the singer switched to ballads and orchestrations he no longer needed the group and the band and himself parted company.
At first The Blue Flames were left to play wherever they could and Georgie Fame took over the lead singing role. Billed as Georgie Fame and he and the Blue Flames, in 1961, they score a three-year residency as the house band at the London’s Flamingo Club. Their audiences were black American GIs, West Indians, pimps, prostitutes and gangsters who wanted to dance all night to rhythm and blues and blue beat. Georgie put his piano skills to good use and played a Hammond B-5 organ. This instrument was not commonly used by UK musicians and gave the band a distinctive sound. Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames build a reputation as a hip group and in 1963, signed with EMI Columbia. In early 1964 they released their debut album, Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo which met critical acclaim but their first three singles failed to chart.
Then in 1965 the single "Yeh Yeh," went all the way to number one on the British charts, he released "Getaway" in 1966 and that too went to number one.
Georgie and the Blue Flames parted company in 1966 as he pursued a solo career Georgie’s backing band at the time included Mitch Mitchell (drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and the young guitarist John McLaughlin (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra). Georgie was also pursuing his interest in jazz and recorded Sound Venture, with the Harry South Big Band.
As a result he was invited to join the UK and European tours (1967 and 1968), playing with Count Basie Orchestra. Throughout the same period Georgie Fame had several more hit singles, including the poppy, "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde," which became his third British chart-topper in late 1967 and, the following year, his only Top Ten hit in America.
By the end of the sixties as Georgie became more pop orientated, tastes in music changed and record sales fell away. In the early 70s Georgie Fame worked with fellow musician Alan Price (former keyboard player for The Animals). The successful duo had a very popular TV series and chart success with “Rosseta.”
Georgie reformed the Blue Flames in 1974, and continued to work as a singer working with many of Europe’s finest orchestras and big bands. He also became a successful “jingle” writer and composed the music for the feature films Entertaining Mr. Sloane and The Alf Garnett Saga.
By the eighties Georgie was pursuing his love of jazz roots (and Hoagy Carmichael) and performed with jazz vocalist, Annie Ross (sister of comic actor Jimmy Logan), on the album which featured the music of the legendary Hoagy Carmichael.
A similar tribute to Benny Goodman was recorded in Sweden with vocalist Sylvia Vrethammar, followed in 1983; and in 1989, he recorded a tribute to jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker in Holland.
Just before he joined Van Morrison, Georgie Fame produced an album in Australia called, No Worries, with the Aussie Blue Flames. Georgie Fame was invited to play Hammond organ on Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset and the two musicians got on so well he was asked to join the band and continued as a core member throughout the nineties.
He later joined Bill Wyman in his new band (after the Stones). Georgie continues to work and has produced many excellent jazz albums with some of the greatest musicians of the genre.
Worth a listen:
Yeh Yeh (1964)
Sitting In The Park (1966)
The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
How Long Has This Been Going On (1995)
Blues in the night (1995)