Cliff Richard & The Drifters

Cliff Richard

Born Harry Roger Webb on 14th October 1940 in Lucknow, India. Like several other of Britain's first rock and roll artists, Cliff Richard's professional career started at the 2 I's Coffee bar in London.

After a brief spell as a skiffler he began to model himself on his idol, Elvis Presley. With his group, 'The Drifters', a recording opportunity arose with Norrie Paramor - a producer at EMI. Paramor decided to use the young singer's talents to produce a version of the American teen ballad 'Schoolboy Crush'.

Fortunately, it was the other side of this disc that caught the attention of disc jockeys and the rock and roll entrepreneur Jack Good. The record, 'Move It', reached #2 in the UK chart and is now widely regarded as one of the finest examples of early UK rock and roll ever made.

Following the success of 'Move It' came a long string of hits. He made a number of successful musical movies including 'Summer Holiday' which was probably responsible for setting the seal on his long term image.

Despite the 'Beat boom' and the advent of the Beatles, Cliff managed to sustain his career, and gradually shifted his material to suit the growing maturity of his audience.

With chart hits in every decade since he first began professionally, Sir Cliff Richard must rate as one the most enduring artists ever to begin with rock and roll.

[A fantastic, clear, live shot of Cliff in action with The Drifters performing their 'synchronised leg-kicks']

 

[Another shot of Cliff et al from the same show]

[Cliff rocking' up a storm with The Drifters on Oh Boy! late 1958]

"His renditions of rock ‘n’ roll songs that were hits at the time were all things by Chuck Berry, Little Richard or Elvis Presley and they were immaculate. Not just his copies but in the spirit of the thing. He had an extraordinary vitality, terrific good looks and he was playing the music I liked anyway!"

Ian Samwell, BBC Interview, 1981

 

[Cliff on Oh Boy!]

[With Marty Wilde and Vince Eager on Oh Boy!]

[Going Wilde with Marty!]

By Paul Rumbol

Cliff was a charismatic performer who excited the nation with his raw and dynamic stage performances on ABC TV's Oh Boy!. Sadly this celluloid legacy has been lost. And any details of the shows are scant to say the least. So what did Cliff perform on Oh Boy! during these early pioneering days of television broadcasting?

I have tried sifting through what little remains of any evidence of this classic rock and roll series and the long forgotten memories of 44 years ago.

Good’s Impression

When Jack Good met Cliff in the first week of September 1958 he saw all the requisite ingredients of a star in the making. "He was malleable," said Good in a BBC interview in 1981. "I thought something could be done with this boy!"

Good is the man who originally taught Cliff the act of stagecraft. He ditched Cliff’s guitar, ordered him to shave off his corny side burns and tutored him in how to perform not only with his body but with his eyes. “I always got him to look up at the camera, head tilted down and the eyes up and the angled shoulders forward. Then suddenly grabbing his arm as if he’d been poked by some hypodermic syringe.

Cliff before Oh Boy!

We presented it as if it was beyond him not to be a smoulderer – yet he didn’t mean to be! That was the excitement! “He was very slim, very innocent looking but he couldn’t help being a smoulderer. He used to get fortunes in pennies – when a penny used to be a real sized penny – thrown at him on the stage by these angry boys. There would be girls falling about and going into hysterics and foaming at the mouth and these furious boys chucking these great pennies at Cliff. Poor fellow! They didn’t know it wasn’t his fault… had to wear this pink jacket and smoulder!”

“After Move It was a hit, the audience reaction was such that he couldn’t help but be exciting because he didn’t have to do anything. The spotlight just came on him and the whole audience went wild.”

The Statistics

Cliff Richard appeared in 20 of the 38 shows in total, 13 of them of them in 1958 with just 7 appearances during 1959, including the surviving final show of the entire series on Saturday 30th May 1959. Cliff’s most consistent appearances were during 1958 when he appeared in 13 of the 16 shows broadcast between 13th September and 27th December that year.
With his natural talent for rock and roll and brilliant voice he quickly became the series' star attraction, even evoking the Daily Mirror to comment in a centre page spread “Is this boy too sexy for television?”

Cliff’s success was further assured when an ill judged decision by agent Larry Parnes to withdraw his boy Marty Wilde from the series after just 6 shows in mid-October 1958 thrust Cliff into the centre spotlight and made him the 'star of the show.' Parnes had remonstrated with Good that Cliff was getting the best songs and stealing the limelight from his protégé. Parnes quickly regretted his decision but Wilde remained ostracised and off air for 16 weeks until 7th February 1959 (show no. 22) and missed out on the recording of the all important official Oh Boy! LP within days of his leaving.

Cliff was left centre stage to take the crown.

Cliff’s appearances on Oh Boy! during early 1959 were more sporadic. His agent Franklyn Boyd had secured Cliff a lucrative but gruelling package of live concert dates around the country (working 7 nights a week) between January and May 1959 and sadly Cliff was unable to commit the time demanded by Jack Good for his live Saturday 'Oh Boy!' broadcasts from the Hackney Empire in London.

Good was a known taskmaster during his rehearsals which usually took up one whole weekday (usually a Tuesday) and the entire Saturday - the day of the live broadcast.

Good said in 1981 “There was Cliff going off into the sticks making a few hundred pounds for himself singing ‘Living Doll’ or whatever, when he should have been on my show.”

Cliff’s career was about to rocket in a way he could never have imagined…and ahead of him would lie a gruelling and frenetic work schedule which would leave him exhausted and exasperated in December 1958 and ill and overworked with laryngitis by February 1959.

Indeed Cliff’s father, a stern man with a fiery temperament, accused Boyd of overworking and exploiting his son and in late January 1959, Boyd was sacked after just three months.

Cliff with Norrie Paramor and Ian Samwell in the control room of the Abbey Road studios listening to some of Cliff's recordings from the live LP Cliff.

Even though suffering from laryngitis - the show must go on!

Cliff was also due to record his first album 'live' in front of a selected teenage audience at the Abbey Road Studios, St. John's Wood, London, on two nights on 9th and 10th February 1959. It was sandwiched in between a full diary of theatre commitments and as a result of overwork Cliff developed laryngitis during the week he was due to make his important recording debut. Cliff still went ahead with the live album -- which has come to be regarded as a classic -- despite his dodgy throat during the two performances.

1959 Appearances

 In 1959 the remaining shows 17- 38 were broadcast (22 shows in total) but Cliff and his Drifters appeared in only 7 of them. Having intermittently appeared in two shows in January 1959 he was absent for five weeks - not returning until the important 7th March 1959 show (No. 26) which was the first recorded for American broadcast.

He had been due to take part in the 7th February show (which marked the return of Marty Wilde after a long absence, but Cliff had to cancel as he was laid low with ‘flu and laryngitis for nearly three weeks during February 1959.

Cliff was absent again during the whole of April whilst on his whistle-stop tour of theatres in England.

After his appearance on Show 29 (28th March 1959) he was off air for another five weeks until his return on 2nd May 1959 (show no. 34) when he sang both sides of his envisaged new single "Choppin' 'n' Changin" and "Dynamite" backed by the Drifters.

He also performed "Turn Me Loose" for the first time and sang duets with Marty Wilde and Alma Cogan. (see detailed 'Running Order' for this show)

Cliff returned for the penultimate 23rd May broadcast singing 'Mean Streak' (Cliff's new single suddenly chosen in favour over "Choppin' 'n' Changin'") and the very final show on 30 May 1959 which includes the now famous footage of "Turn Me Loose" (his second performance of this number in a month).

[If I was sandwiched between 2 Vernons Girls, I'd be smiling too!]

Cliff's Image

13 Sept. 1958

"C'mon pretty baby let's-a move it an'-a groove it"

Described as pure sex, Cliff dressed in tight black pants, black shirt, a broad-shouldered pink box jacket complimented with luminous pink socks and pink tie. He purposefully adopted this image when the Drifters backed him on moody rock and roll tracks but sometimes he just dressed in black trousers and a casual shirt - like 'his pyjama tops' for the final show.

What songs did Cliff sing during the series?

As each show lasted only 25 minutes and featured at least ten acts each week cramming in at least 15 songs there was only time for one solo performance from each of the guest artistes.

In addition the two or three featured solo performers of the week usually united for a song together in the second half and were also present for the show’s big opening and finale tracks featuring the entire cast on set with Lord Rockingham's XI.

Because of the paucity of information, detail of the contents of shows is subject to much conjecture and is reliant largely on the distant and faded memories of those fans who were teenagers back in 1958 (and who have reached, or are now approaching 70!).

Cliff sang two songs, 'Move It' and 'Don’t Bug Me Baby' for his television debut on the first show of the series on Saturday 13th September 1958, which was a generous gesture by Good to introduce his new star to the nation.

Cliff recalls his performance of 'Move It' (his first ever single) received “genteel applause” while the audience screamed for Marty. (Marty was already the star of Oh Boy! having appeared in the two late night pilots to the series which aired in June 1958.)

Cliff’s second song 'Don’t Bug Me Baby' was a fantastic rocker which Cliff was due to record at the Abbey Road Studios on Friday 3rd October 1958 and which was earmarked as his next intended single release.

Cliff gave a blistering live performance of this track on an early Saturday Club radio broadcast and on his first live debut album 'Cliff' in February 1959. Following his superlative performance of 'Don’t Bug Me baby' Cliff joined the entire cast for the show’s finale of 'Hoots Mon' - the current smash hit for Lord Rockingham's XI.

On the second Oh Boy! on Saturday 20th September Cliff supposedly sang 'Schoolboy Crush' (the B-side of 'Move It') according to one book source whose accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This twee cover of a Bobby Helm’s hit was originally released as the A-side having been selected for him by Cliff’s producer Norrie Paramor in July 1958.

 However on auditioning Cliff , Jack Good insisted Cliff sang 'Move It' or he didn’t want him at all. EMI in a swift change of policy flipped the single promoting the new title and relegating 'Schoolboy Crush' to the B-side. Considering Good’s dislike of the song it seems odd that he allowed Cliff to sing it in this second broadcast.

Cliff also performed songs from the officially released Oh Boy! album during the course of the series. But not all of them! Some were originally intended for Marty, including the opening title 'TV Hop' and closing title 'Somebody Touched Me'.

But when Parnes withdrew Marty from the series it was Cliff who was invited to step into Wilde's shoes! He sang 7 tracks on the LP, including the opening and closing titles, which was far more than any other of the featured artists.

During the series Cliff probably sung 'High School Confidential' (a Jerry Lee Lewis rocker), 'Rocking Robin' (Bobby Day hit), 'Early in the Morning' (Buddy Holly), 'I’ll Try' (the B side of Conway Twitty’s 'It’s Only Make Believe') which co-incidentally was a number Cliff also performed in his very early live shows and very likely in the series too.

Another superlative rocker Cliff performed in the 1958 shows was 'Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On' and an actual Oh Boy! still of him singing it is reproduced (right).

Cliff was a big Jerry Lee fan and it is probable that he sang 'Breathless' - which Cliff used for his demo recording in June 1958 and sang during his Butlins residency in August 1958. Cliff’s favourite Jerry Lee track was undoubtedly 'Down The Line'

This frenetic rocker gave Cliff the chance to show off some fancy footwork during the two instrumental breaks and generate genuine excitement amongst the screaming female audience. Cliff recorded this track many times in his early career and it is almost certain he sang it on Oh Boy!. It featured on his first live album 'Cliff' and also on the 'Me and My Shadows' Radio Luxembourg shows (1960) with two alternate takes.

But most importantly it has been preserved on film for posterity, on Cliff’s own Saturday Spectacular for the ATV network in July 1960. This is a classic early live performance much revered by many Cliff fans.

Elvis had to be featured in the series of course and Cliff was the obvious choice to sing the material. 'Baby I Don’t Care' and 'King Creole' were sure fire Cliff choices, the latter he performed in the second of his six part 'Cliff' series for ATV in February 1961.

Among the other cover titles Cliff regularly performed in 1958 /59 were 'My Babe' (Ricky Nelson) and the raucous 'Ready Teddy' (Little Richard) which were both featured on the 'Cliff' debut album. The latter he performed on the 1960 Royal Variety Show broadcast in May that year as well as in show three of the six part ATV 'Cliff' series in March 1961.

One fan with a retentive memory recalls Cliff singing both these tracks on Oh Boy!.

Another fan remembers Cliff performing 'Apron Strings' in the Spring of 1959, which was also on the aforementioned live 'Cliff' album and which eventually became the B-side of Cliff’s summer 1959 smash hit 'Living Doll.'

Concluding the cover versions, Cliff is very likely to have performed 'Twenty Flight Rock'. This Eddie Cochran classic formed an integral part of Cliff’s early stage act and he featured it in his 'Saturday Spectacular' for the ATV network in May 1960 – which was one of three shows he made for them that year!

Major Find

Cliff was keen on promoting both a and b sides of his hit singles on his TV shows. Apart from 'Move It' and 'Schoolboy Crush' (b-side) Cliff performed his second single 'High Class Baby' in early December 1958 and the third single 'Livin, Lovin Doll' – another rocker- in January or February 1959.

The most exciting news though relates to Cliff’s fourth single 'Mean Streak' – as a full clip of this track has been found in the old ABC archives! Cliff and the Drifters performance of 'Mean Streak' from the 23rd May 1959 edition of Oh Boy! was lifted for inclusion in a commemorative documentary made by ABC TV in April 1966 to mark their 10th anniversary in broadcasting.

This show called 'The ABC of ABC' (secondary title 'A Souvenir With Music') still survives and has been donated to the BFI in London where it is available for viewing on the premises.

In the first part of the programme, which is mostly a commentary on the social and cultural changes in Britain during the fifties and early sixties, co-presenter Eamonn Andrews introduces the full length performance of 'Mean Streak' from 'Oh Boy!' with this commentary about the cast. “They opened the floodgates to a golden future. Did they see themselves as shock troops, as symbols of a new way of life?”

The classic clip features a mean and moody looking Cliff in his pink jacket flanked by the Drifters at the rear of the stage. During the song’s instrumental break the circular spotlight hits the Drifters in the distance while Cliff deftly executes some 'Elvis moves' in shadow in the foreground. Sadly the full show from which this excerpt was taken, is lost presumed wiped, along with the rest of the series.

In conclusion, vintage performances of all of Cliff’s first 4 single releases during 'Oh Boy’s' run as well as some great cover versions of rock and roll favourites were all performed 'live' during the series. There were probably at least 22 full solo performances and probably just as many duets sung in the second half with the other artists! And to think its all been lost for over 40 years.

On those rare occasions television pays brief homage to the series and clips are shown of Cliff singing 'Turn Me Loose' for the umpteenth time (which is the only surviving footage from the final show) just remember the classic performances recalled here in this feature and think what might have been saved had Britain’s television companies not been so careless and inept in the handling of its film archives!

Recording 'High Class Baby' among others.

It is without question a monumental and tragic loss!

Cliff Richard & The Drifters (formed in May 1958) personnel over the next year:

Cliff Richard lead vocals, guitar (May 1958 - Jul 1959) (ex The Quintones, The Dick Teague Skiffle Group); Terry Smart drums (May 1958 - Jan 1959) (born Terence Smart, 1942); Ian 'Sammy' Samwell guitar (May - Sep 1958, Oct 1958) (born Ian Ralph Samwell, 19.1.1937, in Lambeth, South-east London died on 13th March 2003, in Sacramento, California, USA) (ex The Ash Valley Skiffle Group); Ken Pavey guitar (May - Sep 1958); Norman Mitham guitar (born 1941) (to The Sundowners, Danny King and the Bluejacks, 1959 - 1961, Jimmy Virgo and the Bluejacks, 1961 - late 1963, Kenny Lee and the Mark Four late 1963 - Jan 1964); Hank B. Marvin lead guitar (Oct 1958 - Jan 1959) (born Brian Robson Rankin, at 138 Stanhope Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland) (ex The Five Chesternuts, Jun - Sep 1958, The Vipers, Sep 1958); Bruce Welch rhythm guitar (Oct 1958 - Jan 1959) (born Bruce Cripps, 2.11.1941, in Bognor Regis, Sussex) (ex The Five Chesternuts, Jun - Sep 1958); Jet Harris bass (Nov 1958 - Jan 1959) (born Terence Harris, 6.7.1939, in Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury, North-west London) (ex The Vipers).

What follows is a brief outline as to who Cliff Richard & The Drifters were, where they came from and what they evolved into!

First we must go back to Cliff, then known by his real name of Harry Webb, before the Oh Boy! TV show was conceived. Harry (Cliff) would hang out at the 2 I's Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street in London's West End - as did a whole host of other young hopefuls - all aspiring to be the next new 'Pop Idol' with a hit record at number one in the Charts, a brand new sports car and enough cash to buy their parents a new house!

[L-R: Terry Smart, Harry Webb, Ian Samwell & Norman Mitham
downstairs in the cellar beneath the 2 I's Coffee Bar]

This particular coffee bar was one of the breeding grounds, an important ingredient of the 'primeval soup', of the newly emerging British teenage music cult which comprised of youngsters imitating, initially, the singing stars across the 'big pond' who were making it big with a new style of music called Rock 'n' Roll.

[L-R: Terry, Harry & Ian playing at Butlins Holiday Camp, Clacton, 1958]

In that magic year of 1958, a group calling themselves 'The Railroaders' left Newcastle to take part in a talent contest in London. Such was the lure of the excitement in the teen music scene in London that two of the band's members decided to remain, and began to frequent the 'hottest place in town', the 2I's Coffee Bar. Those two young men were Hank Marvin and his pal Bruce Welch.

Later that same year, Cliff's manager went to the 2I's to check out a guy called Tony Sheridan as a possible lead guitarist to back Cliff on his forthcoming UK tour as one of the supporting acts to Chart toppers The Kalin Twins from America. Instead he signed up both Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch!

Now we have the essential 'Drifters' consisting of:

  • Hank Marvin: Lead guitar
  • Bruce Welch: Rhythm guitar
  • Ian Samwell: Bass guitar
  • Terry Smart: Drums

[Cliff & Ian Samwell - Sept./Oct. 1958 || Hank & Bruce on Oh Boy!]

In October 1958, Ian Samwell left the group to be replaced by Jet Harris who had been on the Kalin Twins tour as part of The Most Brothers. In fact Jet was already well known to the group because he had guested with The Drifters on that very same tour.

[The Whole Gang!
Cliff with The Drifters backstage
Back L-R: Terry Smart, Bruce Welch
Front L-R: Jet Harris and Hank Marvin]

[A rare shot of Cliff, Hank and Bruce
in Cliff's Marylebone apartment.]

In February 1959, drummer Terry Smart, the last of the 'originals', left and was replaced by Tony Meehan.

In July of 1959, The Drifters had to change their name because Cliff and The Drifters were on a US tour when the established American Drifters took out a court injunction to stop Cliff's backing group from using their name. A new name was quickly conjured up and henceforth The Drifters became...

"The Shadows"

The rest, as they say, is history!

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