VINCE EAGER (By Steve Walker)
Born Roy Taylor, 4 June, 1940, Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK
Roy Taylor was one of many converts to the skiffling craze of 1956/57. He and some friends formed the Vagabonds Skiffle Group in their home town of Grantham, Lincolnshire (famous in later years as the birthplace of Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher). Their hero was Lonnie Donegan - the Vagabonds were playing "Rock Island Line" on stage within four days of hearing it for the first time and as each Donegan record was released, so their repertoire increased. Roy became such a fan that he booked to see Lonnie twelve times in one week when he made his debut at the Nottingham Empire. Due to Roy's persistence he was invited into Lonnie's dressing room after the Wednesday second house show and it was subsequently arranged for the Vagabonds to play for Lonnie on the Saturday morning at the theatre. Upon hearing them, Lonnie was so impressed he encouraged them to turn professional.
In 1958, the Vagabonds (Brian 'Liquorice' Locking on bass, Roy Clark on guitar and vocals, Mick Fretwell on washboard and drums and Roy Taylor on guitar and lead vocal) entered the grandly-named World Skiffle Championships (there weren't too many entries from outside the UK) which saw them reach the televised final on BBC Television's "Come Dancing". A disappointing second place did not deter the boys and they were offered a residency at the famous 2 I's Coffee Bar in London's West End. It was not long before they were booked by pop Svengali Larry Parnes, manager of Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde, for a Sunday concert in Coventry.
Following the concert Parnes offered Roy Taylor a management deal. It involved Roy changing his name. Parnes considered that Roy was very eager to get on and decided on Eager as his last name. The first name choice was offered to Roy. One of his favourite performers was Gene Vincent and so Roy chose Vince. This was followed by a tour and the making of an extended play record, "Vince Eager & The Vagabonds" for Decca (see discography below). Roy Clark and Mick Fretwell returned to Grantham and bass player Liquorice Locking remained in London in search of his personal fame which he eventually found as a member of the Shadows, who he joined as bass guitar replacement for Jet Harris in April 1962.
Vince Eager became a familiar face on TV, appearing on shows such as "Six-Five Special", "Oh Boy" and "Drumbeat". Whilst his recording career was dogged by the conflict which was to develop between him and Larry Parnes, Vince did release a number of singles on Parlophone, Top Rank and Piccadilly between 1958 and 1963.
Vince toured the UK with various package shows, featuring such stars as Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Marty Wilde, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Fury. On that fateful Easter Day in 1960 which resulted in the death of Eddie Cochran, Vince was waiting at Heathrow Airport to travel to the US with Eddie and Gene Vincent. Due to the tragic circumstances of the fatal car accident, Vince's trip to America had to be cancelled, so we will never know how successful he might have been.
Vince began to wonder why he had never received any record royalties. "You're not entitled to any," Larry Parnes told him. "But it says in my contract that I am," Eager protested. "It also says I have power of attorney over you, and I've decided you're not getting any," Parnes replied. When Vince went to a lawyer, he found the contract was watertight and the only thing he could do was refuse to work for four years until it ran out. Which, eventually, was what he did.
In the years that followed the Parnes era, Vince was kept busy on the British and overseas cabaret circuit, theatre and pantomime. He starred in the Sir Laurence Olivier Award winning West End musical "Elvis" for five years.
In 1986 he took up residency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where, for twelve years, he became a Cruise Director on luxury American cruise ships.
In 2001, Vince was joined by Big Jim Sullivan and Wee Willie Harris on a UK tour "Raised On Rock" which told the story of rock'n'roll in Great Britain using music and reminiscences.
In October 2002, he fulfilled a lifetime's ambition by duetting on stage with his hero, Lonnie Donegan, at the Royal Concert Theatre, Nottingham. Lonnie introduced Vince as the kid who came to see him backstage at the Empire during his first week in variety. "A snotty nose kid with a ukulele in his hand." announced Lonnie. Maybe a snotty nose but no ukulele, recalled Vince, but it made for good theatre. Together, Lonnie and Vince sang "Bring A Little Water Sylvie" and "Midnight Special". A few days later, on Sunday, 3 November, 2002, Lonnie sadly passed away.
In December 2003 Rollercoaster released "Yea! Yea! It's Vince Eager!", an album covering every aspect of Vince's career from the 1957 recording of "Money Honey" through to the 2003 recording of "No Other Baby".
Along with his wife Annette, Vince is now based in rural Nottinghamshire.
Vince's home site: http://www.vinceeager.co.uk/home.htm
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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