Terry Dene

Evergreen - - Summer 2018 - ED­MUND WHITE­HOUSE

Ter­ence Wil­liams was born in the Ele­phant and Cas­tle area of South Lon­don in 1938 and shot to fame in the rock ’ n’ roll era as Terry Dene. Tommy Steele had al­ready been dis­cov­ered at the 2i’s Cof­fee Bar in Soho, a venue also as­so­ci­ated with Adam Faith and Cliff Richard, where Terry’s voice too was con­sid­ered good enough for an im­me­di­ate con­tract with Decca Records.

It was a rapid trans­for­ma­tion from work­ing as a packer in an HMV record shop in Ox­ford Street, dur­ing which time his splen­did im­per­son­ations of Elvis Pres­ley were deemed good enough to send a pri­vate record­ing to Ray Martin at Columbia Records who promptly sent it back!

His first stage ap­pear­ance was in Rom­ford with the Chas McDevitt Sk­if­fle Group fol­lowed by stints in be­tween wrestling bouts at the Royal Al­bert Hall no less. His first sin­gle with a back­ing group chris­tened the Dene Aces was “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Car­na­tion”, and be­came an in­stant suc­cess, sell­ing more than 300,000 copies. His sec­ond, “Start Movin’” also made it into the charts and Terry ap­peared on the BBC pop show Six- Five Spe­cial, and soon af­ter­wards be­came one of the first on ITV’s ri­val pro­gramme, Oh Boy! Suc­cess on this scale, how­ever, was not some­thing which a shy 18- year- old was ready for and tour­ing the coun­try play­ing at large venues re­sulted in a drink­ing prob­lem and a fine for be­ing drunk and dis­or­derly. This may have been em­bar­rass­ing for Terry but it was meat and drink to the press who went to town.

Ar­rested soon af­ter­wards in Glouces­ter for smash­ing win­dows fol­low­ing an­other drink­ing ses­sion, the na­tional news­pa­pers had a field day and Marty Wilde was in­vited to take over the rest of Terry’s tour. Later, new­comer Bill Kent was brought in to front the Dene Aces in a tour of South Africa.

Mean­time, a film called The Golden Disc was be­ing shot about an un­known singer’s rise to fame with Terry in the lead role. As it turned out, Terry’s fans and the gen­eral pub­lic were kin­der than the me­dia and his sixth record, “Stair­way of Love” was an­other suc­cess. He also ap­peared at the Royal Fes­ti­val Hall and ev­ery­thing seemed back on track. What could go wrong now? The an­swer was be­ing con­scripted into the Army!

Now mar­ried to singer Edna Sav­age, it all proved too much and with the press con­tin­u­ally on his back, pok­ing fun and gen­er­ally smear­ing his rep­u­ta­tion, Terry broke down dur­ing ba­sic train­ing and was dis­charged. Hap­pily, he soon made a wel­come come­back and his fans for­gave any fail­ings and per­ceived flaws in his char­ac­ter. In 1959 the BBC’s tele­vi­sion al­ter­na­tive to ITV’s Oh Boy! had been re­named Drum­beat and Terry went down a storm on it. Back on the road at Derby the boos were out­num­bered by cheers.

Iron­i­cally in May that year he re­leased his lat­est sin­gle en­ti­tled “There’s No Fool Like a Young Fool” cou­pled with “I’ve Come of Age”. Even more ironic, soon af­ter­wards he re­leased his fi­nal Decca sin­gle “A Boy With­out a Girl” cou­pled with “Thank You Pretty Baby”. Al­though Edna Sav­age had sup­ported her hus­band as much as pos­si­ble, the pres­sures of star­dom for both of them proved to be in­sur­mount­able and they parted com­pany.

Af­ter two sin­gles re­leased on the Ori­ole la­bel Terry now found him­self only as a sup­port­ing role in a num­ber of tour­ing

con­certs be­fore grad­u­ally fad­ing from the pub­lic eye. How­ever, much brighter things were in store and he dra­mat­i­cally re- emerged as a Chris­tian evan­ge­list, pub­lish­ing an ex­cel­lent book called I Thought Terry Dene was Dead, and work­ing as an itin­er­ant preacher in churches, pris­ons and other venues. He also ap­peared with a Chris­tian rock group based in Southamp­ton when the au­thor was priv­i­leged to meet the former star and be thrilled by his pi­ano play­ing as well as his gui­tar. His gospel al­bums at the time were re­leased by Pil­grim Records.

In 1984 he re­formed the Dene Aces and in 1997 re­leased an al­bum called The Real Terry Dene. In 2004 Vo­calion Records pro­duced his Decca com­pi­la­tion and the same year he ap­peared at a Rock ’ n’ Roll Week­end Fes­ti­val at Chip­pen­ham in Wilt­shire, to­gether with Amer­i­can con­tem­po­raries Lit­tle Richard, Bill Ha­ley’s Comets and Char­lie Gra­cie. More ap­pear­ances in Lon­don, in­cluded a con­cert at the O2 Arena and in 2011 he ap­peared on BBC’s Juke Box He­roes. He also popped up on the BBC4 doc­u­men­tary en­ti­tled Pop Bri­tan­nia which at­tempted to trace the his­tory of Bri­tain’s pop­u­lar mu­sic scene.

He now has his own record com­pany and in 2012 re­leased an al­bum called The Best of Terry Dene prov­ing that nearly 60 years af­ter he first hit the head­lines, Terry Dene is not dead but very much alive and well!

In 1957, when “A White Sport Coat” be­came a best­seller, the tran­si­tion was al­ready un­der way from 10" 78rpm records ( left) with a small hole in the mid­dle, to the 7" 45rpm record ( right). The lat­ter were more flex­i­ble and it was pos­si­ble to punch out the mid­dle sec­tion to make a much big­ger hole but it re­quired a spe­cial adap­tor to fit over the spin­dle and few peo­ple both­ered.

Rock and roll stars were ex­pected to look se­vere but Terry’s mar­riage to singer Edna Sav­age ( right) was a hap­pier af­fair high­lighted in the press. Sadly, the union did not last and both went on to marry again.

Terry Dene to­day with a cheer­ful smile and a gui­tar.In ad­di­tion to his early rock and roll tracks he later recorded sev­eral Gospel songs and is also a fine pi­ano player. He now owns his own com­pany and record la­bel.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.