Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



UK instrumental rock group. The heyday lineup was Hank Marvin (b Brian Rankin, 28 October 1941, Newcastle), lead guitar; Bruce Welch (b 2 November 1941, Newcastle) rhythm guitar; Jet Harris (b Terry Harris, 6 July 1939, London; d 18 March 2011), bass; Tony Meehan (b 2 March 1943, London), drums. They were the most influential UK group of its kind in the late '50s-early '60s, turning a whole generation on to homegrown rock'n'roll; trademarks were their gleaming red Fender Stratocasters and the 'Shadows Step', a silly three-step onstage movement. Admirers included a teenaged Neil Young in Toronto.

They began as the Drifters, Cliff Richard's backing group. Richard saw Ken Pavey (Kenneth Charles Pavey, b 9 January 1932) playing in a guitar duo as a ‘redcoat' at a Butlins holiday camp and asked him to join his band. Marvin and Welch came to London in 1958 and played as a duo at the legendary 2 I's coffee bar in Soho, where Richard found them; at the same time, Pavey was replaced by Ian Samwell (b January 19 1937; d 13 March 2003), who volunteered his services as a guitarist, 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. Samwell wrote Richard's first hit, 'Move It', for his first tour. The band soon changed its name to avoid confusion with the famous American vocal group. On the tour, Mickie Most was singing in the Most Brothers, and Harris and Meehan quit his backing group to join the Shadows; Samwell went on to write more succesful songs.

The Shadows made three flop singles of their own, then their first no. 1 UK hit 'Apache' '60 (Danish guitarist Jorgen Ingmann had the no. 2 hit USA '62. The Shadows had no US hits because room for instrumentals in rock'n'roll was always limited; the USA had the Ventures, very similar to the Shadows, plus Duane Eddy, Santo and Johnny etc.) The Shadows had four UK no. ones '61-3 ('Kon Tiki', 'Wonderful Land', 'Dance On', 'Foot Tapper'), plus seven other top ten hits. Meehan quit '61, replaced by Brian Bennett (worked with Marty Wilde, Joe Brown); Harris quit '62, had solo hit 'The Man With The Golden Arm', teamed with Meehan for duo hit 'Diamonds' (no. 1 '63), top five hits same year. Brian 'Liquorice' Locking joined '62-3, replaced by John Rostill.

The Shadows backed Richard on his hits, appeared with him in his films '62-4 and had hit albums of their own '62-5. With the advent of the Beatles the Shadows were increasingly perceived as anachronistic, and split up '68. Marvin, Welch and bassist John Farrar released Marvin, Welch And Farrar '71; Welch worked with protégée Olivia Newton-John. Harris was badly injured in car crash '65; his comeback included album Remembering '76; he was seen in rock'n'roll revival shows in London '86. The Shadows came back with Rockin' With Curly Leads '73, including covers of hits by the Who and the Beach Boys; they were UK entrants in the Eurovision Song Contest '75, uncharacteristically singing 'Let Me Be The One', included on album Specs Appeal. TV-promoted The Shadows: 20 Golden Greats '77 was a surprise no. 1 LP and they had more hit albums until Moonlight Shadows '86 went top ten over 25 years after their first hit: tours delighted old fans with the Shadows Step and note-for-note renditions of hits; they had top five singles '78-9 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and theme from film The Deer Hunter. Marvin also sang occasionally, including duets with Richard; he played in Paul McCartney's Rockestra.