John thinks he’s a clown”, said my final school report!....it was the only time the school got anything right ( for me anyway ).
I started playing the Ukulele in 1955 during my lunch-hour at my first job. I learnt 3 chords, D, G, & A7. Then I heard Josh White, Big Bill Broonzy, & Lonnie Donegan and formed my first skiffle group called “Jubilee”. For our first job, we earned £5.00 between four of us for a 4 hour gig (not bad money for 1955 considering we were only worth 5 shillings). By 1958 we were doing 6-8 gigs a week and learning all the time.
After being offered a solo recording contract in 1964, I recorded “More & More” with a new name…..”Bobby Dean”. It got quite a lot of airplay but never did well.
The name had to go, Bill Wellings, my manager, was a great friend and fan of mine, as I was of him. He introduced me to EMI & the “Top Six” label in 1964. Bill got together some of the best musicians around and we copied the original hits of the day. We were known as “The Ghost Squad”. Our slogan was:
“Six Hits for 6s & 8p”
I had the best couple of years recording about 75 hits of the time and, boy oh boy, did I learn a lot, but how could you miss with the following line-up, all directed by the great Johnny Harris and produced by Bill Wellings at the Pye Studios in London.
MUSICIANS MD : Johnny Harris (also piano, trumpet & backing vocals) Piano / keyboards: Johnny Harris & Laurie Holloway Guitar: Big Jim Sullivan, Bass: Vic Pitt, Lennie Bush Drums: Kenny Clare, Bobby Kevin, Jimmy Nicol ( the Beatles deputy drummer) Organ: Roger Coulan (also percussion) Various Brass & Strings
BACKING VOCALS The Mike Sammes Singers I will be eternally grateful to these very talented performers who were always a joy to work with. During this time I was still recording under my own name
“John Smith & The New Sound” and “John Smith & Co.”
I was very lucky to have my recording of “Winchester Cathedral” make number 2 in Germany and “Snoopy Vs The Red Baron” get to number 8 with a self-penned song “Send her Home” on the ‘B’ side. I worked a lot in Germany (see the video clip of “Beat Club” above) & had a few other successful recordings there such as “Make it Me”, “Don’t Break it Up” and a couple of 12” albums did quite well.
At the ripe old age of 28, I was offered a Job working on a cruise ship (guitar/vocals/comic). I was supposed to stay on the ships for about 4 months, but retired from the sea in 1993. ( See my book “A Laugh on The Ocean Wave”)
During my time ashore, I worked with some of the greats:
Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Al Martino Eddie Fisher Bobby Rydell Del Shannon The Village People Chubby Checker John Rowles Tom T.Hall Blood Sweat & Tears Harry Secombe Dick Emery the wonderful Vera Lynn, and many more
I now reside in Devon with my two favourite ladies Pat & Lily…. (by the way, Lily is a Golden Retriever)
'Just A Loser' shows that soulful and heavy sound UK bands were getting at the time. It was written by F. Sheen. The version of Birthday is no improvement over the original. Girl's in Love is an excellent uptempo track with horns. They have several other 45s, including 'Don't Back the Loser' and versions of 'Winchester Cathedral' and 'See See Rider'.
Recently John Smith himself wrote to me in 2008:
I would like to point out that the band pictured on the [sleeve above] is NOT the original "John Smith & the New Sound." The original band frequently flew to Germany in 1966/67 where we had a hit record with "Winchester Cathedral." We followed that up with "Snoopy vs the Red Baron". The 'B' side of 'Snoopy' was "Send Her Home"...which was penned by John Smith. We appeared on "Beat Club" in Germany (TV Bremen), also in Hamburg, Munich & Frankfurt. My records were produced by his manager Bill Wellings. I hope this information is of some use ... the reason it is so accurate is that I am the original John Smith (my real name incidently)!
I have a video of me performing "Winchester Cathedral" on 'Beat Club' in November 1966. Also appearing were Dave Dee & Co., David & Jonathan & a couple of others. I originally recorded "Winchester" with The New Vaudeville Band. Then Bill Wellings (my manager) created the John Smith line-up. The other [versions of] the band were formed after I went to Australia.
I did stay in music, and I started up a cabaret act on my own, sometimes using a guitarist as musical director. In 1969, I was offered a trip to Australia, as a cabaret act, so I went. I worked in Australia for many years, supporting some of the 'greats' such as: Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Blood Sweat & Tears, Cilla Black, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Al Martino etc. I'm now 68 years of age and I live a quiet life in Devon.