( Singer, Songwriter and record producer )
30th January 1946 – 2nd February 2013.
Graham met the Tonebenders at the White Hart pub in Batley in early 1966, he guested with the band playing blues harmonica and joined a few days later.
A former Batley art student, Graham travelled extensively with the band, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire and was famous for wearing striped pyjama’s on stage, the local girls seemed to find this of great interest whilst their boyfriends did not seem to take to Graham at all.
Graham left the band around September 1966, he had previously won a scholarship to the Liverpool college of Art – famous for John Lennon of the Beatles in 1964.
The Liverpool Scene
Already writing songs Graham started to guest in folk clubs in the north, especially one in Chester where Paul Simon played at the time. Also he was introduced to the iconic Troubadour club in London’s Old Brompton Road run by Red Sullivan and Trevor Lucas.
Graham met in late 1966 three Liverpool poets who were about to become influential throughout the English speaking world – they were Roger Mcgough – ( now a CBE ) Brian Patten and Adrian Henri, they asked him to join them in founding the Liverpool scene poetry and musical happenings at the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street Liverpool 8. His brief was to write one new song every week. Graham joined Brian Patten in experimental music and poetry sessions half played and sung half read by the poet ” The Heaven and Woolworth ” sets.
May 1967 saw Graham appear with The Liverpool Poets at the original Cavern in Liverpool, Mike Hart become an important contributor to the Liverpool Scene, a songwriter with a band called The Roadrunners he become a wonderful friend to Graham.
The scene was a big success and saw hundreds of of girls looking for a new excitement after losing there boys (The Beatles) to world queues sneaked down Hope Street on gig nights.
Guests were introduced to the Liverpool Scene, Pete Brown (poet) would arrive from London soon he would meet Jack Bruce of the Cream and write the lyrics to million selling albums for the band headed by Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker on drums.
Alan Ginsberg the American poet arrived, he described Liverpool at the time as the centre of human consciousness – it felt like it !
Paul McCartney’s brother Mike Mcgear and John Gorman who with Roger Mcgough made up the Scaffold (Lillie The Pink) took part in happening sessions. Graham brought in Andy Roberts into the ensemble to work with Roger Mcgough, Andy a clever guitarist was a law student at Liverpool university. To this day he still gigs with Roger on various occasions. The Liverpool Scene travelled extensively on the university circuit nation wide, they gigged at the Edinburgh festival, played the I.C.A. in the Mall and the UFO club in London’s West End. They also teamed up with Mike Horovitz’s New departures group (London based) to play the Palace of Fine Arts, the Belgium equivalent of Britain’s Royal Albert Hall. That night Graham was backed by John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Davey Graham, three guitarists who left their mark on history.
Davey Graham travelled the world with his guitar picking up different influences, Graham once played a piece of classical harmonica with him, Renbourn and Jansch were greatly influenced by him. Unfortunately Davey Graham destroyed himself on heroin and spent years as a vegetable – later he tried to rejoin the world. Graham last saw him on Hampstead Heath some years ago a few months before he died, “of course I remember you Graham” , he kindly said – ” what ever happened to your hair?”
Late 67 Graham leaves Liverpool art college and then turns down a post graduate award at Carlisle college of Art which included some teaching, and headed for London to start an independent music production company. Graham then found himself sharing a flat in Kensington Gardens with Sally Stevens and Sue Vasey, these two girls met at a modeling agency, Sue was a friend from Liverpool art college while Stella was from Byfleet in Surrey. It was through these girls that Graham was to meet Nicky James who would become his writing partner and who he would have a close relationship with until the end of Nickie’s life in 2008. Nicky had been in a group in Birmingham and when the band split up half would become The Moody Blues and half would be The Move, he then joined Phillips records and was produced by the famous Johnny Franz. Within a few weeks Graham was having his first song recorded “Movie Star”- by 36 piece orchestra, Nick and Graham did not keep the writing partnership together for very long but remained great mates and Graham used Nick’s studio in the village of Aldbourne in the Wiltshire countryside.
This stroke of luck coincided with him walking off the street to a record pluggers job with the biggest publisher in the world Screen Gems Columbia Music the London end of a publishing empire based in New York they owned the works of Goffin and King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond the Monkeys catalogue as well as Gene Pitney and a young David Gates. Graham kept quiet about his own writing ambitions and secretly pursued his own own independent production company plans now having made contact with musicians most of whom would play for zero monies, so long as a studio was available. With studio begged his first production was made and sold to Larry Page at Penny Farthing records, and around this time Graham found himself working with Tony Hatch at Pye records where he had quite a few songs that he wrote released under various names such as Jamie and The Popcorn.
Meanwhile back at Screen Gems Graham was sharing a office with Richard Kerr who wrote Mandyfor Barry Manilow, Richard had just had a hit with Rosie for Don Partridge, he would later have a big hit with Never Love This Way Again, recorded by Dionne Warwick.
Graham was next given the job of securing radio plays for a song by David Gates entitled Make it with You, Graham was well known around the BBC programme production offices and in the first week secured 27 airings, it became a big hit and to this day a modern classic. David Gates called to see Graham to thank him for his efforts from the London office. The results for Graham lead to a sort of celebrity status among his fellow pluggers. Offers for him to switch to other organisations were turned down because of his ambitions to be a record producer.
In 1969 Nicky James persuades Graham to leave Kensington for Hampstead and a room in the house of Graham Nash lead singer with The Hollies.
This iconic group was continually on tour around the world, when the Hollies did return home times were fantastic, taxis were ordered for midnight and they would all go to the Speakeasy or the Cromwellian club, where a meal would be taken at the same table as The Everly Brothers, Scot and John Walker Brothers, Mama Cass, John Lennon, indeed anyone passing through London on tour.
The songs of Graham and Nicky were published at this time by G.R.A.L.T.O. the Hollies publishing company which was serviced by the Dick James publishing organisation who Graham would join very soon.
Frustrated at his slow progress Graham approached a northern business man for help, Charles Fenton MD of BBA GROUP LTD. based in Cleckheaton, West Yorks, Charles backed Graham with £6,000 to kick start a more ambitious project, Graham says goodbye to Screen Gems.
What followed was a two year period recording material to present to the music industry, Graham’s team consisted of keyboard player Francis Monkman who was given his first orchestral arrangement’s to write for Graham, and at no cost, just having completed his time at The Royal Academy of Music, he was later to play with a band called Curved Air and the world renowned Sky, he also wrote the music for The Long Good Friday arranged by him too. Martin Kershaw jazz guitarist and rapidly becoming a major session man in all styles , Martin origanally came from Shipley near Bradford, and he played with a group called the Del Rio Four in the early 60s, he wrote arrangements with Graham, last but not least Pete Morgan played bass , stand up and electric – famous for his sessions on the Mike Parkinson tv shows.
Graham with Clive Anstee, Clive booked all the string musicians for Grahams recording sessions, Clive played with The London Philharmonic Orchestra and The BBC Symphony Orchestra in a long and distinguished career.
Francis Monkman, Graham and Martin Kershaw at one of the recording sessions.
Early 1972 its all completed recorded at Audio International studios off Baker Street and Hollandparks Landadowne studios, the bills are all paid. Graham is left with little money to live on desperate for a happy end to his efforts. Almost immediately he meets Dick James then the head of the DJM empire and gets an appointment to talk business, Dick asks Graham what he wants, with no representation and no idea what to ask for, Graham asks for £50,000 for the promise of a five year contract, Sources say Dick spun in his chair telling Graham through his cigar that he has never paid anyone £50,000,” clicking his fingers to his accountant in the room Dick says, £37,500. Perfect Graham thought and suddenly the streets of London were really paved with gold. His works were recorded by a number of artists both in the U.K. and America, Canada and Australia. A member of the P.R.S.organisation he’s also written under three different pseudonym names.
Graham also produced with Terry Ashfield with a group called The Chosen Few for Polydor records, back at DJM Graham was teamed up with Don Black with the intention of writing a new musical called “Dear Anyone” this partnership was a disaster and Graham was miserable and in the end decided to bale out, unfortunately Dick James took umbrage to this situation and cancelled Grahams contract four months short of its completion date. There followed a serious argument with Dick James which resulted in Graham never working in the front line music industry again, closed shops apply in every aspect of employment still! however illegal.
In Graham’s own words:
This Liverpool period was a proud time of my life, I’ve recently visited an exhibition of old Liverpool scene posters and memorabilia collected by a fan and shown at the Victoria gallery Liverpool, I was told about it by a friend in Morecambe who saw my name on television. The scene kicked off in late 66 and by the time i left in the autumm of 67 the whole movement was changing, i knew zero of what happened after my time with them, but i am very proud to be one of the founder members. The Everyman theatre on Hope Street was yet to find its own moment in history when it became a world renouned repratory theatre, many actors and actresses would pass through the Everyman.
These three iconic poets Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger Mcgough not only sold millions of books around the globe but also made it into the G.C.E. curriculum influencing scores of new writers especially song writers of new generations that followed ours.
Written by David M Peters.
I had been playing with a Dixieland band for a long time and a trio throughout pubs and clubs in London. Around 1992 I really wanted to resurrect the great classic songs by Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, Rodgers, and many more. They were known as the “standards.” I put an advert in “Loot” looking for a singer and nine people turned up. Not one of them could have sung these songs. I was about to give up when the phone rang and this voice said: “Is this a joke? If I come over there will I be wasting my time?”
It was Graham. I convinced him I was serious and had access to an agent in East London. He came over and we did “September in the Rain.” I remember distinctly the shock I got when I realised after a few bars that this person was far more than I could have hoped for. He was so relaxed and swingy.
When it was over we just looked at each other and knew we would be working together for a long time. Over the next year and a half I did new arrangements every day on the Yamaha QY300 (tone-generator/midi sequencer) and we rehearsed at least twice a week. We eventually were able to do over 100 great songs.
I phoned the agent and a few friends and invited them over and on a warm summers day Graham and I gave our first performance in our back garden in Leytonstone, London (E11).
Shortly after the agent phoned me up and gave us our first gig. I called Graham and told him. We started making excuses very nervously saying things like we’re not ready yet. We need a couple of rehearsals etc etc. Until Graham said: “What have we been doing for this past year and a half.” I said: “We had better do this gig then!” He agreed and that was that. Graham came up with the name “The Classix” and from then on we worked all over London for almost nine years. We did three Fridays at Aldwinkles jazz cellar in Hampstead, we made many appearances at the Bury Club in Newberry Park. We played in Epping, Dagenham, Leytonstone, Brentwood and many other pubs and clubs. We also did Wanstead and Epsom gold clubs.
Working with Graham performing these great songs was a magical time for me. Everything came so easy and relaxed. Everywhere we played Graham was a star. I hate the feeling I get when I realise he is not around anymore. I will miss him terribly every day for the rest of my life.
Very few people know that I met Graham in 1993. We formed the duo “The Classix” together and worked all over London (pubs and clubs including Aldwinkles jazz cellar in Hampstead and Wanstead and Epsom golf clubs plus many pubs, organisations and clubs). We performed – as the name suggests – the great standards including songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers, Warren, Van Heusen and many more. I have 12 tracks by “The Classix” – our original demo discs recorded in his small studio in Hampstead. We rehearsed for a year and half and worked together performing all over London for nine years. I would have gladly paid to see and hear him sing but I had the privilege for those nine years of sitting behind him and accompanying him at numerous live performances. He was my friend and for all that time we never had a cross word. I miss him terribly. The world is a lesser place without that talent.
The Juke Box.
The songs on the juke box are the album i have called The Early Days, which i put together to gain the recording contract with Dick James Music. The last two songs on the juke box are are songs recorded with David M Peter’s in The Classix.
Here’s a link to the CD baby site which has Songs of Graham Layden available as a download: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/songsofgrahamlayden
An article on Pete Brown:
An article here mentions The Huge Local Sun:
Another link here to Pete Browns Battered Ornaments:
Brian Patten Reading His Poetry (music by Graham Layden):
The Garage Recording Studio (UK)