|John Leyton, Johnny Remember Me
Born John Dudley Leyton, 17 February 1939, Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.
John Leyton's ambition was to become an actor. Upon completing drama school he had trouble finding an agent, but after a year or so he was taken on by a new theatrical agency, Robert Stigwood Associates. His first break came when Stigwood secured him a major role ('Ginger') in the Granada TV series "Biggles" in 1960, but further roles were elusive and Stigwood asked Leyton if he could sing. Somewhat reluctantly, he answered "yes .. sort of". After an unsuccessful audition for Pye Records, Stigwood and Leyton went to see Joe Meek, then an almost unknown independent record producer. Meek was unconcerned about Leyton's lack of singing experience, impressed as he was by the young actor's good looks. John's first record, a cover of Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" came out on Top Rank (JAR 426), but just around that time (summer 1960) Top Rank was taken over by EMI, who had their own version of the song by Ricky Valance on Columbia. Leyton's disc was soon withdrawn from the market while the Valance version went on to number one in the UK. Next came "The Girl On the Floor Above" on HMV, an attractive song, but completely ignored by the record buyers. Though John's confidence as a singer was growing, chances of a career in pop music looked thin at the time. Acting still seemed a more promising option and Leyton managed to secure the part of 'Johnny St. Cyr' - a pop star - in a new TV series called 'Harper's West One'.
For Leyton's next session, Joe Meek teamed him up with Geoff Goddard (composer) and Charles Blackwell (arranger). Meek's sound engineering skills gave John's rendition of "Johnny Remember Me" a truly ethereal sound. It was quite coincidental that the song's title and the name of the character that John was playing both began with 'Johnny'. Stigwood persuaded the producers of Harper's W1 to let John sing the song on the show as Johnny St. Cyr. The fans loved it and four weeks after its release in July 1961, "Johnny Remember Me" (Top Rank JAR 577) had sold 250,000 copies and sat solidly at # 1 in the UK charts, staying there for three weeks. This huge hit was followed by further recordings from the Meek/Goddard/ Blackwell team, namely "Wild Wind" (# 2) and "Son This Is She" (# 15). An LP, "The Two Sides Of John Leyton", came out at the end of 1961. Side One featured uptempo songs, the best of which was "Thunder And Lightning". The other side was made up of slower, more melodic numbers and showed John's vocal deficiencies, which did not prevent the album from going Top Ten.
With two hits in the Top 20 and another in the Top 40, 1962 was still a good year for Leyton. However, by the beginning of 1963 Stigwood unwisely decided to transfer Leyton from Joe Meek to EMI's Abbey Road studio. The quality of recorded sound immediately improved and showed that Leyton actually had a good singing voice, but unfortunately the excitement had also gone along with the distortion. Luckily for Leyton, his acting career in movies started to take off. In spite of his phenomenal success as a pop star, Leyton felt far more at home as an actor than as a singer. Since 1963, John has appeared in some 25 films and television series, his most memorable roles being in "The Great Escape" (1963) and "Von Ryan's Express" (1965). The latter took him to Hollywood, where he lived for several years. By then, his UK chart career had faded out, with "Make Love To Me" (# 49, 1964) as his final chart entry. Though his acting career now came first, Leyton never completely left the music business. A constant demand for guest and personal appearances continued and in November 1993 he was invited to be one of the special guests on the 'Capital Gold Anniversary Concert' at the Royal Albert Hall. Such was the reaction to John's performance that he agreed to undertake a 51 date UK concert tour, the "Solid Gold Rock n Roll Show', with artists such as Marty Wilde, Joe Brown and Eden Kane. Due to its huge success, further tours took place in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2004.
In 2006 Leyton recorded his first CD in many years ("Look For A Star") and in 2008 he played the part of Sir Edward Lewis in the feature film "Telstar : the Movie", based on the life of Joe Meek. This year (2010) he celebrates his 5oth year in the entertainment industry.
Pictures of John Leyton's Show, Sept. 27, 2008:
By Dik de Heer for This Is My Story, 2010