Chris Farlowe Biography

John Henry Deighton, 13 October 1940, Islington, London, England. Farlowe’s long career began during the 50s skiffle boom when the John Henry Skiffle Group won the all-England championship. He then formed the original Thunderbirds, which remained semi-professional until 1962 when they embarked on a month’s engagement in Frankfurt, Germany. Farlowe then met Rik Gunnell, owner of London’s Ram Jam and Flamingo clubs, and the singer quickly became a stalwart of the city’s R&B circuit. He made his recording debut that year on the Decca Records label with the pop-orientated ‘Air Travel’, and released a number of follow-up singles for Columbia Records including ‘I Remember’ (1963) and ‘Girl Trouble’ (1964). The singer and his backing band also recorded as the Beazers (‘The Blue Beat’) and Little Joe Cook (a terrific interpretation of the T-Bone Walker standard ‘Stormy Monday Blues’, released in 1965 by Sue Records). Farlowe failed to secure commercial success until 1966 when his version of the Rolling Stones’ song, ‘Out Of Time’, produced by Mick Jagger, soared to the top of the UK charts. Several minor hits, including ‘Ride On Baby’ (1966) and ‘Handbags And Gladrags’ (1967), followed, as well as a brace of pop/soul albums, but Farlowe’s intonation proved too craggy for popular consumption. He and the Thunderbirds - which between 1964 and 1967 featured Albert Lee (guitar), Dave Greenslade (organ), Bugs Waddell (bass), Ian Hague (drums) and Jerry Temple (congas) - remained one of the country’s most impressive R&B acts, although session musicians were increasingly employed for recording purposes.

By 1968 the Thunderbirds had been reduced to a line-up of Farlowe, Lee, Pete Solley (keyboards) and Carl Palmer (drums), but two years later the singer founded an all-new unit, the Hill. The venture’s sole album, From Here To Mama Rosa, was not a commercial success and Farlowe joined ex-colleague Greenslade in Colosseum. This powerful jazz rock group disbanded in 1971, and having briefly switched allegiances to Atomic Rooster, Farlowe retired from rock to pursue an interest in military and Nazi memorabilia. He re-emerged in 1975 with Live!, but during the rest of the decade conspicuously failed to find a satisfactory niche for his powerful, gritty voice. Cameo appearances during the 80s on sessions for Jimmy Page engendered the widely acclaimed Out Of The Blue and Born Again, which together served notice that the singer’s feeling for the blues remained intact.

Although he gigs infrequently Farlowe can still be seen performing as a support act, and he can still cause goosebumps with his sensational version of ‘Stormy Monday Blues’. He rejoined his colleagues in Colosseum in 1996 for a reunion tour and album, before resuming his solo career. Farlowe is blessed with a magnificent voice but has never been rewarded with the kind of commercial breakthrough achieved by Tom Jones.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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