Cliff Richard

From Academic Kids

Sir Cliff Richard (born Harry Rodger Webb in Lucknow, India, on October 14, 1940) is the stage name of one of the UK's most popular singers.


Brief biography

Recording career

Cliff Richard, a guitarist and lead singer, was one of the founding members of The Drifters (not to be confused with the American group of the same name). At the suggestion of a manager, who thought it would be good to have someone's name out front, they became Cliff Richard and the Drifters and later Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

Cliff (not the group) gained a contract with EMI in the summer of 1958 and went into Abbey Road Studios to record his first record on July 24. The producer, Norrie Paramor, had little faith in the Drifters and consequently brought in two experienced session men, Ernie Shear & Frank Clarke, to provide critical backing on lead guitar and bass. This marked a major point in Cliff's career. From now on, he would be a solo star rather than merely member of a group. For instance, Cliff and the Drifters (subsequently the Shadows) would be contractually separate entities and the group would not receive any performer royalties for the records they made backing Cliff. However, they were not a backing group just like any other. Within a short period, they won an EMI recording contract of their own and were making major instrumental hits by the middle of 1960. They continued to appear and record with Cliff and wrote many of his hits. In the early 60s, Cliff and the Shadows were virtually inseparable as the biggest concert draw in Britain. Typically, the Shadows closed the first-half with a 30 minute set of their own and then backed Cliff on his show-closing 45 minute stint.

But back to the first record in 1958. Norrie Paramor provided a rather bland number called 'Schoolboy Crush', a cover of an American record by Bobby Helms. But Cliff was allowed to record one of their own for the B-side. This was "Move It", written by Ian "Sammy" Samwell, who was at the time a new member of the group. There are a number of stories about why the A-side song was replaced by the B-side. One story says that their producer Norrie Paramor, played the record to his daughter, and she raved about the B-side instead of the A-side. Another possible reason for the flip was that influential TV producer Jack Good, who grabbed the act for his TV show "Oh Boy!", said the song to be sung on his show had to be "Move It!" The single was flipped and went to number 2 in the charts.

The Drifters didn't back Cliff on record until his third release, Livin' Lovin' Doll (not to be confused with the subsequent smash Living Doll). By that time, the band's line up had changed. As Jet Harris, Tony Meehan, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch joined, some very significant 'lucky events' happened, for the band, and also for the world. Popular music could have been totally changed if certain events did not happen, especially in one single day in Soho. On that day, Cliff's manager, John Foster, was looking for a new lead guitarist. He went back to the '2 I's club, a popular hangout for musicians.

The man being looked for was Tony Sheridan, who the Drifters knew, and who later recorded in Hamburg with The Beatles as his backing band, which led them to getting a recording contract in Britain. Tony wasn't there when Foster arrived, and Foster was in a hurry and couldn't wait long. Foster was then told of a guy who was a brilliant guitarist, and so Foster met Hank Marvin. Hank then said he teamed with Bruce Welch, and so Foster on that day brought in two new members to the Drifters. If Sheridan had been in the club that day, The Beatles may have never been heard from.

Tony Meehan and Jet Harris eventually left the group and teamed up very successfully in the charts. One member of Jet and Tony's band was John Paul Jones, later a member of Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page also recorded with them.

A serious accident halted Jet's success, but he later re-emerged with Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds), Ron Wood (The Rolling Stones), and Rod Stewart as The Faces; however, this group didn't last long.

The Shadows had a few more bass players and also took in Brian Bennett on drums.

In the period between 1958 and 1963, Cliff Richard and the Shadows stood as the biggest thing in Britain. They toured the United States and most often stole the show from the accompanying American acts of the time. The problem was that the record company didn't get behind them strongly enough with distributing albums etc and so the chances were lost. It was the same with their appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show (which was responsible for much of the Beatles success, but didn't really help Cliff and the Shadows). Cliff and the Shadows basically re-wrote convention in British recording companies and opened EMI up to the importance and strength of rock n roll. It was due to them that Parlophone were looking for a 'second' Cliff and the Shadows, and eventually took the Beatles.

Many well known groups of the 1960s and 1970s started off as imitators of Cliff and the Shadows, singing and playing only Cliff and the Shadows' material, and groups were trained by following how they did things. The Beatles were taken to Cliff and the Shadows concerts and instructed about clothes, stage presence and various other things, and being of the same fold at Abbey Road, were good friends with the band.

Television and films

Cliff and the Shadows appeared in a number of films, most notably in The Young Ones (which would give its name to 1980s TV sitcom The Young Ones, a show which also made reverent references to Richards), Summer Holiday, Wonderful Life and Finders Keepers. These movies created their own genre known as the "Cliff Richard musical" and led to Cliff being named the Number One Cinema Box Office Attraction in Britain for both 1962 and 1963. Cliff's first straight acting role took place in the 1968 film Two a Penny, which saw him as a young man who gets involved in drug dealing while questioning his life after his girlfriend changes her attitude. He also represented the UK twice in the Eurovision Song Contest, both times unsuccessfully, though his first attempt, Congratulations, was a massive hit in Britain and most of the world and has become a standard, still sung on suitable occasions.

In the early days, Cliff sometimes recorded without the Shadows, mainly to cater for other styles. Hits in this mould included It's All in the Game, Constantly, The Minute you're Gone and Wind Me Up.

In 1960, the Shadows (though having previously recorded as the Drifters without Cliff) released 'Apache', which saw the birth of British rock guitar instrumental music. The record set the Shadows on a path of their own, and soon became an instrumental group.

Throughout the 1960s, Cliff stayed at the top, even at the height of Mersey music. However he did not have the advantage the new acts had of being able to release music and having it go directly to the USA as well. The Beatles had became huge once America took to them, and this in turn opened up the path across the Atlantic.

During the 1970s, Cliff became heavily involved in tv shows, like "It's Cliff Richard", many of which also starred Hank Marvin. The tv shows made Cliff into a tv personality and not necessarily primarily a recording singer. In 1972 Cliff made a short BBC television comedy film called "The Case" with appearances from comedians and dueting on songs with Olivia Newton-John -- the first female for him to have sung a duet with. He was in everyone's homes, and gave enjoyment to all the family, and although still recording and being successful, Cliff and others like his former Shadow Bruce Welch decided that they would once again bring Cliff out as a "rock" artist again. The collaboration produced the landmark Cliff album "I'm Nearly Famous", which brought about the classic rock guitar driven track "Devil Woman" and the haunting "Miss You Nights". It wasn't just Cliff and the fans who were excited that the man who had begun and led British rock from the start was back in strength, but also a host of big music names. People like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Elton John began being seen sporting big "I'm Nearly Famous" badges on their clothes, so pleased that their icon was getting heavily back into the heavy rock that he began his career in.

A number of other strong albums were produced, and in 1979 he went to number one with We Don't Talk Anymore. A true Cliff revival was happening. In the next years into and through the 1980s, Cliff was the biggest pop star in the country, and he became a magnet for other music greats. In the space of a few years he had worked with Elton John, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Julian Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Phil Everly, Janet Jackson and Van Morrison, to name a few. He also did more work with Olivia Newton-John, and to cap the decade off, filled the Wembley Stadium for a few nights with a spectacular simply titled "The Event".

Conversion to Christianity

Another important aspect of Cliff's life was his conversion to Christianity in about 1966. To stand up publicly as a new Christian was a decision which affected his career in various ways. First of all Richard believed that he should quit rock n roll, as he thought he could no longer be the rocker who had in the early years been called a 'crude exhibitionist' and 'too sexy for TV' and a threat to parents' daughters, although his image had already become tamer due to his film roles and well spoken voice on radio and TV. Initially intending to reform his ways and become a teacher, Christian friends told him that he didn't have to give his career up just because he had become a Christian. Soon after, Cliff re-emerged and performed with Christian groups and recorded some Christian material. He still recorded secular songs with the Shadows, some of which introduced revolutionary recording techniques which influenced the Beatles and other groups, but he gave a lot of his time to Christian work. As time progressed, he balanced his life and work out, enabling him to still be one of the most popular singers in Britain while also one of the best known Christians.

After the Shadows split in 1968, Cliff Richard had to record without his band. Cliff had already become used to not having his Shadows with him in recording sessions, and was able to record in any setting. Although many fans, such as John Lennon, had in the early 60s regretted Cliff trying out songs which were not strictly in the rock n roll area, this process of slowly getting used to recording with the Shadows as the "rock group", while at other times singing with other musicians, without a doubt is at least partly responsible for Cliff becoming what he has become.

The Shadows later re-formed (and later again split), and recorded on their own, but reunited with Cliff in 1978 and 1984 for some concerts.

Personal Life

In 1974, he denied the rumor that he had asked his good friend Olivia Newton-John for her hand in marriage. Later, his relationship with Sue Barker was the subject of much gossip, but they disappointed those who expected them to marry. Cliff remained a tennis fan, however, delighting Wimbledon crowds with an impromptu singalong on one rainy afternoon in 1996.

Due to his Christianity and unmarried status, Cliff practices celibacy. He claims to have had sex twice, both times in 1960 [1] ( However, Cliff Richard is popularly believed to be a virgin.


He reached the pinnacle of his career when he was knighted.

Sir Cliff is number 56 in the 2002 list of 100 Great Britons (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public).

The Ultimate Pop Star, a Channel 4 programme screened in 2004, revealed that Cliff Richard had sold more singles in the UK than any other music artist, ahead of the Beatles in second place and Elvis Presley in third.

Sir Cliff has become joint owner of the Arora International Hotel in Manchester, which opened in June 2004.

After having not performed as Cliff and the Shadows since 1989/1990, Cliff joined the Shadows on stage on June 14, 2004, at the London Palladium. The Shadows had decided to re-form for one final tour of the UK, with this concert heralded as their final ever concert as the Shadows.

Christmas songs

Cliff Richard has aimed for the Christmas number one single on several occasions, sometimes successful and others not. His first christmas number one (on some charts) was in 1960, but it was not a yuletide-themed song:

  • 1960: "I Love You" (#1)

In later years, he often released songs with a christmas or other religious theme:

  • 1982: "Little Town" (#12)
  • 1988: "Mistletoe & Wine" (#1)
  • 1989: "Whenever God Shines His Light" (duet with Van Morrison, #20)
  • 1990: "Saviours' Day" (#1)
  • 1999: "Millennium Prayer" (#1, but dropped off the top before christmas)
  • 2003: "Santa's List" (#5)

He also featured on the 1989 christmas number one by Band Aid II, thus appearing at the top of the charts for three consecutive Christmases.


Cliff Richard has scored 14 #1 singles in the UK; more than any other artist with the exception of Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

Cliff has sold more singles in the UK than any other act with sales exceeding 20.1 million records. Interestingly enough, he has only scored 1 million selling single, "The Young Ones".

Cliff is the only act in the UK to score a #1 single in each and every decade since the inception of the UK Singles chart in 1952, with the exception of the 00's, which are not over. He will have to score a #1 single between now and December 2009 in order to maintain the record, although he can claim the record for being the only act to score a #1 single in every decade in the first century of the inception of the UK Singles Chart. Here is a list showing the amount of chart toppers Cliff has scored in each decade:-

  • 1950s - 2; "Living Doll", "Travelling Light"
  • 1960s - 6; "Please Don't Tease", "I Love You", "The Young Ones", "The Next Time/Bachelor Boy", "Summer Holiday", "The Minute You're Gone", "Congratulations"
  • 1970s - 1; "We Don't Talk Anymore"
  • 1980s - 2; "Living Doll", "Mistletoe & Wine"
  • 1990s - 2; "Saviour's Day", "The Millennium Prayer"
  • 2000s - 0; his closest was "Santa's List" which made #5 in December 2003.

See also

Best selling music artists - World's top selling music artists chart.

External links

fr:Cliff Richard nl:Cliff Richard


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