Core members :
HANK MARVIN, born Brian Robson Rankin, 28 October 1941, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
BRUCE WELCH, born Bruce Cripps, 2 November 1941, Bognor Regis, Sussex, England
BRIAN BENNETT, born Brian Laurence Bennett, 9 February 1940, Hampstead, London, England

The Shadows are the most influential instrumentral group in the UK, if not the world. Starting out behind singer Cliff Richard, they were the first backing band to emerge as stars in their own right. The group scored a total of 69 UK chart singles, 35 of which are credited as The Shadows and 34 as Cliff Richard and the Shadows. This makes them the third most successful UK hit singles act behind Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard. As pioneers of the four-member rock- group format, the band consisted of lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. They have inspired countless kids all over the world to take up the guitar.

After scoring a # 2 hit with "Move It" in October 1958, Cliff Richard (and his producer, Norrie Paramor) felt that his backing group, the Drifters, wasn't good enough for the big league. Before the end of 1958, the four original members (Ken Pavey, Norman Mitham, Ian Samwell and Terry Smart) were replaced by Hank Marvin (lead guitar), Bruce Welch (rhythm guitar), Jet Harris (1939-2011, bass) and Tony Meehan (1943-2005, drums). Apart from backing Cliff in the studio and on the road, they had their own EMI recording contract and cut three singles in 1959, four vocal numbers and two instrumentals. The first two singles were released as by the Drifters, but after lawsuit threats by the manager of the American Drifters their name was changed to The Shadows (suggested by Jet Harris). The first 45 under this name, released in December 1959, was "Saturday Dance" (easily the best of their early vocal sides), which just missed the Top 30.

During a British tour in 1960, the Shadows met singer-songwriter Jerry Lordan, who played them a tune he had written called "Apache". This became the first No. 1 for the Shadows and the first of twenty UK hits over the next five years. It is one of the mysteries of instrumental rock why the Shadows never scored a hit in America. "Apache" was released there (as were almost all their singles), but it was a cover by Danish guitarist Jörgen Ingmann that went to # 2 on the Billboard charts in early 1961.

The trademarks of the Shadows were gleaming red Fender Stratocasters and the 'Shadows Step', a rather silly three-step onstage movement. Further # 1 hits were "Kon-Tiki" (1961), "Wonderful Land" (1962, their first record with strings, and, with an 8-week run at the top, the biggest hit of their career), "Dance On!" (1962-63) and "Foot Tapper" (1963). During this hit period, several personnel changes occurred within the group. Drummer Tony Meehan left in October 1961 ; his replacement was Brian Bennett, who is still with the group today. Jet Harris left in 1962 (replaced by Brian 'Liquorice' Locking) and soon teamed up with Meehan, the duo producing three instrumental Top Five records in 1963. Both Bennett and Locking had been members of Marty Wilde's backing group, the Wild Cats, and later of the short-lived instrumental outfit The Krew Kats. Locking left at the end of 1963 to devote more time to the Jehova's Witnesses and John Rostill came in on bass. In this form the group continued until 1968, when Welch decided that ten years with the Shadows was enough and the group effectively ceased to exist. Cliff Richard had to find a new backing group.

In 1970, Marvin and Welch enlisted the help of Australian John Farrar and under the name of Melvin, Welch and Farrar they made three singles and two reasonably successful albums. The Shadows reformed in 1973, with Farrar on guitar and vocals. After the death of John Rostill, the group booked session bassists for recordings and tours. In 1975 they were the UK entrants in the Eurovision Song Contest, where they finished second, after the Netherlands. Their song, "Let Me Be the One" (with Bruce Welch on lead vocals), returned them to the charts (# 12) for the first time since 1967. It was not their first vocal hit, nor their biggest : in 1965-66 they had already charted with "Don't Make My Baby Blue" (# 10), "I Met A Girl" and "The Dreams I Dream". John Farrar left the group in 1976 to work with Olivia Newton-John. He wrote and produced many big hits for her, including "You're the One That I Want" and "Hopelessly Devoted To You", both from the movie "Grease".

The Shadows had their last Top 10 hits in 1978-79, with "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" (# 5) and "Theme From The Deer Hunter" (# 9) ; "The Third Man" (1981) was their final Top 50 chart entry. But several of their 1980s LP's made the album Top 10.

The group recorded and performed until 1990. In 2004 they reformed for what was intended as a farewell tour, but there followed an extended 50th anniversary tour in 2009-2010, with shows in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Marvin, Welch and Bennett were joined by Brian Bennett's son Warren on keyboards and Mark Griffiths on bass.

More info :

All worthwhile books about the Shadows are out of print, but Malcolm Campbell's books can be downloaded for free at :

CD's :
For the completists, there's a 6-CD set "The Early Years : 1959-1966" (185 tracks), issued in 2013 by PLG (Parlophone Label Group). There are plenty of "Best Of" compilations to choose from, for instance "20 Golden Greats" (1986), "50 Golden Greats" (2000) and "Just About As Good As It Gets : The Original Rock 'n' Roll Recordings, 1958-1961" (Smith, 2012, 66 tracks on 2 CD's).

Discography :

Acknowledgements : Malcolm Campbell, Nick Logan, Wikipedia.

YouTube :
Saturday Dance :
Apache :
The Savage :
Kon-Tiki :
36-24-36 :
Wonderful Land (live) :
Foot Tapper :
Atlantis (live, 1989) :

Dik, February 2014

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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