Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Harry Roger Webb, 14 October 1940, Lucknow, India) UK pop singer. To Britain at age eight; sang in school group the Quintones, saw Bill Haley in 1957 UK tour, played skiffle with Dick Teague Group and left with drummer Terry Smart. It all happened in 1958: Richard saw Ken Pavey playing in a guitar duo as a ‘redcoat' at a Butlins holiday camp and asked him to join his band; Pavey was replaced by Ian Samwell, who volunteered his services as a guitarist during a gig at Soho's 2 I's coffee shop, the birthplace of British rock'n'roll, and apparently kicked the group up a notch: Richard said later that if it hadn't been for Samwell he might have remained Harry Webb, accounts clerk. Richard changed his name on the advice of an agent and signed with EMI Columbia; his first single was a cover of Bobby Helms's 'Schoolboy Crush', but the flip revealed 'Move It', the most exciting UK rock'n'roll disc to that date, a no. 2 hit '58 written by Samwell. The Drifters were renamed to avoid confusion with the US R&B group, and new personnel recruited for tours became the Shadows (see their entry).

Richard was initially an Elvis Presley imitator, but clearly in a class above others like Tommy Steele, as 'High Class Baby' showed (no. 7 '58); first no. 1 was 'Livin' Doll' '59, written by Lionel Bart, used in soundtrack of Serious Charge; first LP Cliff '59 was made in the studio with an audience; first film starring role Expresso Bongo '60 was followed by string of family film musicals The Young Ones '61, Summer Holiday '62, Wonderful Life '64 that brought him into the musical middle-of-the-road. He had 93 chart hits in UK '58-86 not counting re-entries, including the Expresso Bongo EP, and 42 hit LPs. Other no. 1 singles were 'Travellin' Light' '59, 'Please Don't Tease' and 'I Love You' '60, 'The Young Ones' and 'The Next Time'/'Bachelor Boy' '61, 'Summer Holiday' '62, 'The Minute You're Gone' '65, 'Congratulations' '68 (also runner-up in Eurovision contest). Five no. 1 LPs included 21 Today '61, two film soundtracks, two-disc 40 Golden Greats '77, Love Songs '81. 'Power To All Our Friends' '73 reached no. 4, was also a Eurovision entry. The Shadows backed him on all his hits and had many successful records of their own; Richard ignored changes in music during the '60s, only a cover of Jagger/Richard's 'Blue Turns To Grey' (no. 15 '66 with the Shadows) showing any interest in current trends, perhaps because of his well-publicized conversion to Christianity; he disavowed a cover of 'Honky Tonk Angel' when someone told him it referred to a prostitute. Despite his clean-cut image (he remains a bachelor today) he regained some rock credibility with 'Devil Woman', a good soul/rock treatment that made no. 9 UK '76, no. 6 USA, only his third hit there, from LP I'm Nearly Famous, a no. 5 LP and his best LP in USA at no. 76, produced by ex-Shadow Bruce Welch, who also produced 'We Don't Talk Anymore' '79, his first UK no. 1 in 15 years, also top ten USA; the UK album Rock'n'Roll Juvenile was retitled after the hit in the USA. No. 4 UK album I'm No Hero '80 also made top 100 USA, incl. 'Dreamin' (top ten single UK/USA); Wired For Sound '81 was no. 4 UK, his last US chart entry at no. 132. Alan Tarney wrote 'We Don't Talk Anymore', took over from Welch as producer, succeeded by Craig Pruess; Richard's subsequent work saw him less adventurous. A charity remake of 'Living Doll' with comedy team the Young Ones '86 was no. 1; duet 'All I Ask Of You' same year with Sarah Brightman (Andrew Lloyd Webber's wife) was a top three. He also made an inspirational LP Walking In The Light '85 for Word; also recorded with Olivia Newton-John, Phil Everly, and Marvin; appeared in first stage musical Time '85, had two hits from it, left '87 (see Dave Clark). His work continued to do well, he topped UK charts with his 99th single 'Mistletoe And Wine' and hits compilation Private Collection '88, his 56th album Cliff Richard -- The Album '93; he is a meticulous performer and a hard worker, his live shows good value for fans. Became Sir Cliff '95, knighted for charity work. After years of talk about it, the most innocent man in pop played Heathcliff, the most tortured character in English literature, in a musical version of Wuthering Heights '96; critics thought the music was pap. Four-CD The Rock'n'Roll Years '97 compiled the best of '58-63 tracks.