Launched in mid-June 1980, the Celebrity label was set-up by music publishing company Pendulum Music and promised “full price quality [M.O.R.] at mid-price”, retailing at £3.49p. The label’s first three releases were newly-recorded albums by Vince Hill, Bert Weedon and Harry Secombe, together with two singles from those albums by Hill and Weedon. Initial distribution was by PRT Records, but changed in early 1981 to RCA. Only seven singles and just over a dozen albums were issued by the label. By the 1990s Celebrity Records had become part of the Kassner family of companies.
Born in Coventry, Vince Hill had been a coal miner, baker and truck driver before passing an audition to become the vocalist for The Band of the Royal Corps Of Signals. This led to appearances all over the world after which he became the singer with the Teddy Foster Band and later as a member of the vocal group The Raindrops (along with Jackie Lee and singer / songwriter Johnny Worth. All of this led to a solo career and nearly a dozen chart singles, the biggest of which was “Edelweiss” (# 2, 1967).
If Helen Of Troy launched a thousand ships, it can also be said that Bert Weedon (1920-2012) launched a thousand guitarists. Weedon’s “Play In A Day” guitar tutor sold over a million copies. Paul McCartney and George Harrison have both said they learned the D and A chords together from one of Weedon’s books. As a session musician he backed 1960s stars such as Adam Faith, Billy Fury and Tommy Steele and had hit records of his own including “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” (#10 / 1959), but was not so lucky with his version of “Apache” which he recorded before The Shadows committed their version to tape.
Famous as a member of the legendary comedy team The Goons, Swansea born Harry Secombe (1921-2001) had his first taste of performing in 1944 on a programme aimed at British forces in Italy. It was there he first met Spike Milligan, meeting Michael Bentine a year or so later while performing at the Windmill Theatre in London. Through Bentine, Secombe met Peter Sellers and The Goons were born. Although mostly working as a comic, in the mid-fifties it emerged that Secombe had an excellent and versatile singing voice. Although always a funny man, he had several hit albums and singles including “If I Ruled The World” (#18, 1963) and “This Is My Song” (#2 / 1967)
Jackie Trent & Tony Hatch
Multi-talented singer, song writer and actress Jackie Trent (1940 – 2015) made her first record in 1962 and topped the charts three years later with “Where Are You Now”, a song co-written by Tony Hatch. Together they wrote hits for Petula Clark, Scott Walker and many others. Hatch was a song writer, sometime performer and record producer, first at Top Rank Records and then at Pye where he produced artists such as The Searchers, Mark Wynter, Julie Grant and Sweet Sensation. Together as songwriters and Hatch as a song writer and producer had a significant influence on British pop music.
Australian born Tony Monopoly (1944-1995) was a child star, aged nine, appearing on the weekly “Kangaroos On Parade” show on Radio 5AD in Adelaide. Aged sixteen he spent the next five years as a Carmelite monk after which he became a cabaret singer. In Britain he appeared on “Opportunity Knocks” winning six weeks in a row which led to a recording contract.
Peters And Lee
Lennie Peters (he was Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts’ uncle) was born in Enfield, Middlesex and made several solo records before teaming up with singer and dancer Diane Lee (from Sheffield).
They went on “Opportunity Knocks” and won for a record (at the time) seven weeks in a row. They hit the top spot with “Welcome Home” in 1973 and the following year made number 3 with “Don’t Stay Away Too Long”. Their album “We Can Make It” topped the LP charts, selling over a quarter of a million copies. Lennie Peters (born Leonard George Sargent) died in 1992 aged 61.
Before becoming one of the two girls in the hit recording act The New Seekers in 1969, Eve Graham had sang in a couple of different groups and been a singer with the Cyril Stapleton Band. Her three-octave vocal range was a major part of the group’s success on songs like “I’d Like To teach The World To Sing” (#1, 1971) and “Beg, Steal Or Borrow” (#2, 1972). After The New Seekers broke up Graham worked as a solo performer in cabaret.
There were few singers in the 1950s that were as well-known, or anywhere near as successful as Johnnie Ray (1927-1990). Dubbed ‘The Nabob Of Sob’ and ‘The Prince of Wails’ due to his vocal styling, he had million selling hits like “Cry”, “Walking My Baby Back Home”, “Such A Night” and “Yes Tonight Josephine”.
Aged sixteen, Patricia Ngozi Ebigwei came to Britain, having lived through the three year Biafran War in her native Nigeria. She auditioned for, and won a role in the musical “Hair” in London’s West End. An appearance on “New Faces” made headlines when she was awarded maximum point by the judges and she went on to win the “All Winners Final Gala Show”.
A talented trumpet player, Syd Lawrence (1923-1998) was a member of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra for sixteen years. In 1967 along with musicians from the BBC’s Northern Dance Orchestra, Lawrence formed a band to recreate the style of Glen Miller’s famous band which proved a huge success. The Syd Lawrence Orchestra appeared regularly on TV’s “Sez Lez” show starring Les Dawson which cemented their popularity. The Orchestra was an extremely popular touring outfit which all started because of Lawrence’s love of big band music from the 1940s.