Lawrence Maurice Parnes
In Great Britain exploded onto the scene via Bill Haley’s late 1954 debut “Shake, Rattle and Roll” which topped out at number 4 and would set the stage for all that was to come.
Lawrence Parnes was born in September of 1929 in London.
Not long after the arrival of Haley, followed closely by Elvis (“Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes”) in May of 1956 – (the original Carl Perkins’ version of “Shoes” actually preceded the Presley version by a few weeks); then Gene Vincent in July of ’56 with “Be Bop A Lula”), the Brits began the quick transition from Skiffle groups. The form actually originated very early on in the U.S. but was given new life in the U.K. with musicians rising out of jazz combos, with it’s major practitioner being Lonnie Donegan.
The entrepreneurs scrambled after the arrival of Haley, Vincent and in particular, The King. Teen singers began to emerge from all quarters but the first ones to be presented to the British teen record buying public were a curious mix of rock – pop and show tune fashioned.
A front runner in the introduction of these new male singers was a Londoner who started off at the age of 18 working in a retail clothing store.
The Golden Boys
In 1956, Parnes’ attention was captured by the new American rock thing ascending on Great Britain, and so, along with a fellow Brit, John Kennedy, he embarked on his new venture.
His first signing was a young singer named Tommy Hicks out of Bermondsey London. Parnes, with his sense of glamour and fashion, and the dramatic, renamed his singer “Tommy Steele” and he was off and running. Lawrence envisioned a diverse entertainment landscape for Tommy, beyond pop and rock and that is exactly the future that would come to be for Steele.
Tommy would enter the British charts with his debut single “Rock with the Caveman” in the Fall of 1956 reaching number 13 on the pop charts. From 1956 up through 1961, Steele (backed by his group “The Steelmen” would chart with two dozen singles, one extended play and three long plays.
With this initial success, Parnes would launch seek and find additional teen heart throbs for the pop-hungry teen public and would parade out a line-up of what would become to be known as “The Golden Boys”. Parnes took pains to christen each singer with a stage “glam” name.
The following is a brief presentation of the Parnes’ stable of performers, including a few who wouldn’t necessarily be exactly defined as “Golden Boys”.
Parnes enjoyed a good run with his boys before wisely stepping away from the rock stage to turn his attention to another passion, the theater. He fully retired in 1981 and passed away in 1989 at the age of 59.
Passing on the Silver Beatles
Parnes had an opportunity to perhaps manage the “Silver Beatles” when drummer Pete Best was still with the group and urged on by Golden Boy Johnny Gentle to do so – but he opted to pass – (and actually passed on them once again a little time later).
Golden Boy – Tommy Steele (Tommy Hicks) – with Discography
Tommy Steele was born in December of 1936 in Bermondsey, London, England Thomas Williams Hicks. Tommy left behind his life as a pop star opting for the theater and motion pictures appearing in 11 pictures including the popular “Half A Sixpence”, “The Happiest Millionaire” and “Finian’s Rainbow”.
Tommy charted 24 times on the British Charts with one number 1 single “Singing the Blues” in late 1956. Steele did not chart on either the Billboard long play or singles charts.
Tommy Steele Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Tommy Steele Extended and Long Plays
Tommy Steele Motion Pictures
Golden Boy Marty Wilde (Reginald Smith) – with Discography
Marty Wilde was born in April of 1939 in Blackheath, South London, England Reginald Leonard Smith. He first adopted the performing name “Reg Patterson” before being spotted by Larry Parnes, being brought into his stable of performers and taking on the name of “Marty Wilde”. His backing group was called appropriately enough “The Wildcats” which included future Shadow Brian Bennett.
Much like Tommy Steele, Wilde moved into other areas of entertainment including British Television shows, some stage productions and motion pictures. He married one of the “Vernon Girls”, Joyce Baker. As his popularity declined he still managed to work in entertainment and composed under the names of Frere Manston and Jack Gellar for other acts.
He and Joyce remained married and raised a family of four.
Wilde charted 13 singles on the British Charts from 1958 until 1962 with six entering the Top Ten. He placed two singles on the U.S. Charts “Bad Boy” and 1969’s “Abergavenny” under the name of “Shannon”. The song did not chart in the U.K.
Marty Wilde Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Marty Wilde U.K. Extended and Long Plays (and one picture sleeve)
Marty Wilde Motion Pictures
Golden Boy – Billy Fury (Ron Wycherley) – with Discography
Billy Fury was born in April of 1940 in Liverpool, England Ronald Wycherley. Billy had a pop group as a young teenager and then came into contact with Larry Parnes who renamed him and placed him into U.K. venues. Fury fronted his own group “The Blues Flames” which would break off from Fury and be fronted by band member Georgie Fame – another pop singer who came under the umbrella of Larry Parnes.
Fury placed 29 singles on the U.K. charts, 3 extended plays and six long plays from 1959 through 1983. His biggest hit in the U.K. was “Jealousy” in 1961 which reached number 2. Billy Fury did not place any recordings on the U.S. Billboard Charts.
Billy Fury died on January 28th, 1983 at the age of 42 from a heart attack.
Billy Fury Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Billy Fury U.K. Extended and Long Plays
Golden Boy Georgie Fame (Clive Powell) – with Discography
Georgie Fame was born in June of 1943 in Leigh, Lancashire, England Clive Powell. He was discovered by Larry Parnes at the age of 16 with Parnes making his stage name “Fame” being a mandatory requirement of the deal as he did with all of his acts. Fame first started off backing Billy Fury on piano and then fronted Fury’s band “The Blue Flames”.
Fame was the most successful of the Parnes’ Golden Boys internationally with 13 hit singles in the U.K. including two number one’s: “Yeh! Yeh!” in 1964, “Get Away” in 1966 and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967 all coming after his association with Parnes management.
He placed four extended plays and five long plays on the British Charts as well. In the U.S. he charted four times on the singles Billboard Charts with “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” being his only top ten entrant at number 7. He placed two long plays on the Billboard Charts.
Georgie Fame Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Georgie Fame U.K. Extended and Long Plays (and picture sleeves)
Golden Boy Terry Dene (Terence Williams) – with Discography
Terry Dene was born in December of 1938 in Elephant & Castle, London, Englad Terence Williams. Dene was first discovered by Dick Rowe who secured a recording contract for him. Terry developed a reputation for something of a trouble maker but was picked up by Larry Parnes joining in Golden Boy tours around the U.K.
Since he was somewhat established he was not tapped with a stereotypical “Golden Boy” branding. He departed the Brit pop scene in 1964 turning to Gospel music. Dene placed a conservative four singles on the British Charts with his “Start Movin’ (In My Direction)” being his biggest hit at number 15 in 1957,
Terry Dene Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Terry Dene U.K. Extended and Long Plays
Terry Dene Movie
Golden Boy Vince Eager (Roy Taylor) – with Discography
Vince Eager was born in June of 1940 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England Roy Taylor. His first group was called “The Harmonica Vagabonds” changing to the “The Vagabonds Skiffle Group”. The group was seen by Larry Parnes and thus Eager was taken into the stable of Golden Boys.
During his Golden Boy run he was at times backed by “The John Barry Seven”. He became disenfranchised with the Parnes’ method of doing things and broke away going the way of the cabaret circuit. Eager failed to place any recordings on any charts in Great Britain.
Vince Eager Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Vince Eager U.K. Extended and Long Plays
Vince Eager Sheet Music
Golden Boy Johnny Gentle (John Akew) – with Discography
Johnny Gentle was born in December of 1936 in Liverpool, England John Askew. His first stage name was “George Baker” then “Ricky Damone”. Next Larry Parnes secured his services changing his name to “Johnny Gentle” thus joining the Parnes’ Golden Boys.
He went on a Scotland tour in 1960 with Parnes selecting the “Silver Beatles” to accompany him and were simply called “Johnny Gentle and His Group”. The four Silvers adopted temporary names of “Paul Ramon” (McCartney), “Carl Harrison” (George), “Long John” (Lennon) and bass player “Stuart de Stael” (Sutcliffe).
It was after this time that Gentle would gently encourage Larry Parnes to add the Silver Beatles to his stable, with Parnes declining.
Gentle failed to chart any recordings in the U.K.
Johnny Gentle Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Johnny Gentle U.K. Extended Play
Golden Boy Dickie Pride (Richard Kneller) – with Discography
Dickie Pride was born in October of 1941 in Thornton Heath Surrey, England Richard Charles Kneller. He started off with a skiffle group called “The Semi-Tones”. He was introduced to Larry Parnes by pianist Russ Conway and was promptly deemed “Dickie Pride”.
Pride was put to work recording and making various appearances around the U.K. along with other “Golden Boys”. An exciting performer, Pride experienced only one single on the British Charts “Primrose Lane” in 1959 reaching only number 26.
Parnes dispatched Pride and he went on to form the group “The Guvnors” and then “The Sidewinders”. He died on March 26th, 1969 from an overdose of medication after battling depression and hard drugs. He was 29 years old.
Dickie Pride Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Dickie Pride U.K. Extended Plays
Golden Boy Lance Fortune (Chris Morris) – with Discography
Lance Fortune was born in January of 1940 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England Christopher Morris. He first performed with a group called “The Firecrests”. He dropped out of University and was then discovered by Larry Parnes who renamed him “Dickie Pride”.
Pride would substitute for rocker Eddie Cochran in April of 1960 after Cochran’s tragic death in a car accident in England. Later on Pride would depart the Parnes’ stable and then join a group called “The Staggerlees”.
Fortune logged only two charting singles in the U.K.
Lance Fortune Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Lance Fortune U.K. Extended Play
Lance Fortune Sheet Music
Golden Boy Duffy Power (Ray Howard) – with Discography
Duffy Power was born in September of 1941 in Fulham, London, England Raymond Leslie Howard. He was fronting the group “Duffy and the Dreamers” when discovered by Larry Parnes and renamed “Duffy Power”.
Duffy didn’t score any British hit records and soon left the Parnes’ group due to depression. He worked later as a session musician and with Alex Korner’s Blues Incorporated.
Power died on February 19th, 2014 at the age of 72.
Duffy Power Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Duffy Power Euro Extended and one U.K. Long Plays
Golden Boy Nelson Keene (Malcolm Holland) – with Discography
He found his way onto the British single charts only twice – both times with “Image of a Girl” charting #37 in early 1960 and then 45 later the same year.
Nelson Keene Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Nelson Keene Sheet Music
Golden Boy Joe Brown – with Discography
Brown was one of Larry Parnes’ earliest signings when Parnes was starting off forming his stable of “Golden Boys”. Brown escaped a typical Parnes’ renaming and probably was his one performer who could stand on his own merits without the hype.
Brown’s earliest group was called “The Spacemen” a skiffle group. He took on his session backing musicians which were given the name “The Bruvvers”. The group included two former “Spacemen” brothers Pete and Tony Oakman.
Joe was rather prolific in the recording arena, scoring 11 hit British singles, an extended play and two long plays. Three of his recordings entered the British Top 10 with the highest charting record being “A Picture of You” reaching number 2 in May of 1962. He had several singles released on U.S. labels but failed to reach the charts.
Like another Golden Boy, Marty Wilde, Brown married a “Vernon Girl” Vicki Brown. She passed away in 1991.
Joe Brown Sample 45 U.K. Releases
Joe Brown U.K. Extended and one U.K. Long Plays
Golden Boy Peter Wynne – with Discography
Peter Wynne is one of the lesser-known Golden Boys. He was born in Chester in the U.K. in 1939. Peter started off his career at the age of 15 entering a singing competition and eventually came to the attention of Larry Parnes.
Peter recalls of his time with Parnes, “Larry would decide who played where and on which nights. Sometimes you would finish a show at 10pm and then travel 300 miles overnight so you could sing the same four or five songs the next night! It was tiring work.”
Wynne got the opportunity to travel and perform along with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran along with other Golden Boy performers. Like Tommy Bruce and Joe Brown, Parnes did not rename Peter.
Wynee continues on today as a performer. None of his recordings reached the British Charts.
Peter Wynne Sample 45 U.K. Releases:
Peter Wynne Sheet Music
Golden Boy Tommy Bruce – with Discography
Tommy Bruce was born In July of 1937 in London Thomas Charles Bruce. A neighbor got him started in music encouraging him to record his first record.
Bruce was not a mainstream “Golden Boy” but did come under the management umbrella of Larry Parnes for a time and was packaged into the Golden Boy performances with many of Parnes signings. Larry attempted to rename Bruce in the spirit of his other artists with “Elmer Twitch” but thankfully, Bruce passed.
Tommy’s first recording “Ain’t Misbehavin'” was a big success reaching number 3. He would only find his way onto the British Charts two additional times.
Tommy Bruce passed away on July 10th, 2006 from prostate cancer.
Tommy Bruce Sample 45 U.K. Releases:
Tommy Bruce U.K. Extended Play
Golden Girl Sally Kelly – with Discography
Sally Kelly was Larry Parnes’ lone “Golden Girl” of which not too much is documented. Several photos of Kelly are around but have not been able to locate a biography.
Her recordings did not reach the British charts, she didn’t release a long play, but she did manage to release a handful of singles on the Decca label from 1959 through 1960 and then resurfacing for one additional recording in late 1971.