Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


FAME, Georgie

(b Clive Powell, 26 June 1943, Leigh, England) UK R&B singer/pianist. Named by impresario Larry Parnes on joining Billy Fury's backing group the Blue Flames, he retained both name and group when Fury quit rock'n'roll for ballads in 1962 (though Fury had once fired Fame for refusing to stick to simple rock'n'roll piano). The other Flames (Colin Green, guitar; Tex Makins, bass; Red Reece, drums) got a residency at London's Flamingo Club, where black US servicemen were among the customers: 'GIs would come up and say, ''Hey, man, have you heard Mose Allison? Eddie Jefferson? Booker T?'' They even lent me their own records so I could hear it for myself.' Mick Eve was added on sax, John McLaughlin replaced Green; in late '62 Fame acquired a Hammond organ, and the influence of Jimmy Smith as well as that of Booker T crept into the synthesis of R&B/soul/jazz. There were more personnel changes; Green returning, drummers Jon Hiseman and Mitch Mitchell passing through; first LP was the influential live Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo, then Fame At Last, both '64. Cover of Mongo Santamaria's 'Yeh Yeh' (which Fame had heard by Jon Hendricks, who wrote the lyrics, on a Newport Festival LP) was a surprise no. 1 UK hit late '64 (no. 21 USA '65); after three top 40 hits, a top ten LP Sweet Things '66 and another UK no. 1 with Fame's own 'Getaway' '66, he left the band.

He fulfilled an ambition to sing with a big band on Sound Venture '66, a top ten LP with Harry South; he toured with Count Basie later; more hits mixed covers with his own song 'Because I Love You' in top 20; his biggest hit of '67 was 'Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde': a novelty no. 1 UK/7 USA hit. CBS decided to make a British Andy Williams of him and LPs Hall Of Fame and Two Faces Of Fame charted in UK; it was his chance to work with strings and ballads. He linked with former Animal Alan Price on piano for duet 'Rosetta', an easy-listening hit in '71, and the partnership lasted two years in TV, cabaret and two albums; he then worked on TV jingles, re-formed the Flames for an R&B-soaked album Georgie Fame '74.

He remained fashionable while horn sections and jazz-blues amalgams were popular; his vocal on Mondo Cane single 'New York Afternoon' got airplay '86 as he packed Ronnie Scott's club in London. He worked with big bands in Scandinavia, Dutch Radio's Metropole Orchestra; toured with the Flames and with the Hoagy Carmichael song-show Stardust Road (eight albums '78-88 included Hoagland '81, with Annie Ross); he starred in November '86 in Swingin' On 10th Avenue, celebrating George Gershwin's music with the London S.O. at the Royal Albert Hall. 'Really, what I've been doing is rehearsing for 25 years.' As a result he's never short of work (quotes from Dave Gelly in the Observer). He played piano on Van Morrison's '89 tour and album Avalon Sunset. Later albums included The Blues And Me and Cool Cat Blues on Ben Sidran's Go-Jazz label, the latter in '91 including Steve Gadd, Jon Hendricks, Boz Scaggs and a duet on 'Moondance' with Morrison; Three Line Whip '94 on Fame's own label of that name featured his sons Tristan and James on guitar and drums.