Roy Young passed away on April 27, 2018
This month it is exactly 50 years ago that Roy Young's first single was released. With his dynamic vocals (a mix of Little Richard and Joe Cocker) and his pounding boogie woogie piano playing, Roy has made a living as a professional musician since 1959, even though he never scored a hit, not in his native England, nor anywhere else. The most likely description you will hear of Roy is "England's Little Richard" and he's happy with that. "I have a powerrful voice, it is not wimpy, it is a rock 'n' roll voice."
Roy Young (his real name) was probably born in 1937, in London. He left school at 14 and at 18 he joined the Merchant Navy to travel the world. While on leave in Australia, he got his first taste of rock'n' roll when he saw the film "Blackboard Jungle". Thinking he was going to see a film along the lines of Tarzan, what he saw and heard on screen blew him away. Roy was so excited that he couldn't wait to return to England to share his new found love of rock 'n' roll with British audiences. But getting into rock 'n' roll proved harder than he had anticipated. His real break came when he auditioned for "Oh Boy!" in 1958, singing "Long Tall Sally" while attacking the piano in Little Richard style. Jack Good, himself a Little Richard fan, hired him on the spot. After "Oh Boy!" ended, he kept appearing on TV regularly, in the shows "Boy Meets Girl", "Wham" (both also produced by Jack Good) and "Drumbeat" (where he was backed by the John Barry Seven). In 1959 he was signed to Fontana, a subsidiary of Philips. However, his first A-side, a cover of Dee Clark's "Just Keep It Up" was an ill-advised choice (Fontana H 200). The B-side, the exuberant "Big Fat Mama" suited his style much better, but received no airplay. It was a tribute to his mother, believe it or not. "She was a fat lady and she loved it" says Roy. More Fontana singles followed and Roy did extensive tours of the UK and Ireland, with Cliff Richard and the Shadows, among others. By 1961, Roy was working in Hamburg, Germany, first at the Top Ten Club, then at the famous Star Club, where he met the Beatles. For several weeks in the spring of 1962, he played keyboard with the group and sang background vocals. Brian Epstein was so impressed that he approached Young with an offer to return to England to procure an international record contract with the Beatles. But Young was tied to an exclusive three-year contract with the Star Club and had to turn down the offer. He remained good friends with the Beatles and was instrumental in bringing Ringo Starr to the group. Both Young and Starr had played in the Beat Brothers with Tony Sheridan in Hamburg.
Returning to England in 1964, Roy joined Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers as their pianist and second vocalist. He can be heard on their two Top 10 hits, "One Way Love" (1964) and "Got To Get You Into My Life" (1966). Cliff Bennett developed a powerful, brassy sound and this permeated into Roy's work with the Roy Young Band in the early 1970s.>From this period comes my own personal Roy Young favourite, "Space Racer", written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, no less. Perhaps not really rock 'n' roll, but quite frantic just the same. It was featured in the movie "Gumshoe" (1971), starring Albert Finney in the leading role and one of the first films of director Stephen Frears. The Roy Young Band made many albums during the 1970s, for a variety of labels. In 1977 Roy moved to Canada (just outside Toronto) and stayed there until 1992, when he relocated to South Florida. He has toured all over Canada and the USA with his band, but now he's back in the UK and still going strong. His current band includes saxophonist Howie Casey, who has testified : "Roy Young was a grerat singer, still is. He can still sing Little Richard songs in F and G, and even Little Richard can't do that." To celebrate his 50-year anniversary in the music business, a double CD has been released with an overview of his career. It's a mixed bag and less than half of the tracks qualify as rock 'n' roll or boogie woogie, but you can't fail to be impressed by the power of Roy's singing and piano playing. The man deserved much greater commercial success than he has enjoyed.
- Website : http://www.royyoung.com/
Dik July 2009
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