The Four Pennies
Here at Cottontown we're taking a look back at Blackburn's sixties chart toppers, The Four Pennies.
In 1963, a young man goes into the Instrument Department in Reidy’s Record shop. As he was trying out one of the guitars he began to sing and the owner Marie Reidy noticed that he had a lovely voice. She began talking to the man and mentioned making a demo tape to send to a good friend of hers who was a Record Producer. He said that his name was Lionel Morton and he sang with a group “The Lionel Morton Four” and they toured the Clubs around Lancashire and had won talent contests, notably one at Blackpool’s North Pier. Marie told Lionel to make a demo tape of the group which she then sent to her friend, Record Producer Johnny Franz, and upon hearing it, contacted Mrs Reidy to tell her that a contract was on it’s way in the post. Mr Franz said "the tape was so good they were immediately signed to a recording contact”. Not long after signing, the group were playing with the Beatles in the legendary Cavern Club.
Record Producer Johnny Fritz, who worked with such famous artists as Dusty Springfield, Peters & Lee, Harry Secombe, & The Walker Brothers, suggested that they changed the name of the group. After various suggestions, including “The Harmonious Hedgehogs” they decided on "The Four Pennies" after the music store owned by Mary Reidy, which was situated on Penny Street. The shop still exists today as "Reidy's Home Of Music". They went down to London to record their first single releases and recorded six songs, which eventually ended up as their most popular hits. The Four Pennies first single “Do You Want Me To” just squeezed into the chart at number 47. The follow up became their biggest hit. They had a No.1 hit in May of 1964 with "Juliet" (written by Fryer / Morton & Wilsh named after Fryer’s 2 year-old niece), which was originally the B-side of "Tell Me Girl" (written by Wilsh & Fryer). It knocked The Searchers “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” from the top spot. It was at No.1 for one week before it was replaced by Cilla Black’s “You’re My World”. Ironically, at this time, The Four Pennies opened the new Reidy’s Music Store in Penny Street. It was the only UK No.1 by a UK group not to chart in the USA in 1964. The US Division of Philips Records only released 2 of their records, “Juliet” and “Until It’s Time For You To Go” but neither made to Billboard Top 100.
They had a further three Top 20 hits "I Found Out The Hard Way" and a reworking of Leadbelly's "Black Girl" & "Until It's Time For You To Go" which was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1972. In-between these hits they had 2 releases which didn’t chart, “The Way Of Love” & ”Someone Stole The Sun” although “The Way Of Love” did find some success in Turkey in 1966. In 1964 they were due to tour South Africa but it was cancelled. They were told not to go by the British Musicians Union, which opposed South Africa’s then Apartheid policies. They even played on the pitch at Ewood Park, the home of Blackburn Rovers, their hometown team during the half-time interval in a match against Aston Villa in January 1965. From 1965 however, their original material was only recorded as “B” sides, with the “A” side now usually a cover version. In 1966 they had their last chart success with “Trouble Is My Middle Name”, originally done by Bobby Vinton. This was followed by another cover version, this time a Charles Bell song “Keep The Freeway Open”.
The group split in 1967 after their last single “No More Sad Songs For Me”, written by Tom Springfield, also failed to trouble the charts. They played their last show in Turkey. The Four Pennies also starred in 2 films, they mimed to “Juliet” in “British Big Beat” and performed “Black Girl” in “Pop Gear” in 1965. They appeared a total of 7 times on Top Of The Pops.
Afterwards Fritz Fryer created the group "Fritz, Mike & Mo" with Maureen Edwards & Mike Deigham and released two singles before becoming a record producer for Clannad, Horslips, Motorhead & Stackridge. Lionel Morton went on to record 5 solo singles, one of which was ”Waterloo Road” (which was written about a street in Stoke On Trent), popular in France under the title “Champs-Elysees” on RCA Victor. He married actress Julia Foster in 1966, now mother of the TV Presenter Ben Fogle. Alan Buck had previously drummed for Joe Brown’s Bruvvers & Johnny Kidd’s Pirates prior to joining the Pennies. Afterwards he continued to work in show business, including production work at Radio Luxembourg. Mike Wilsh led various line-ups of the Four Pennies on the nostalgia circuit for many years and led the house band Tantra at the Tantra Jazz Café Bar in Bristol. Tony Davidson, the boss of Manchester-based TJM Records, tried to re-form The Four Pennies in 1992 to re-record their hits. Unfortunately, after a meeting at the Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Lead singer Fritz Fryer pulled out and the comeback came to nothing. Drummer Alan Buck died from a heart attack in March 1994. Fritz Fryer died from Pancreatic Cancer, aged 62, on 2nd September 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.
By Roger Booth with special thanks to Marie Reidy
Lionel Morton (Vocals / Rhythm Guitar)
Born Lionel Walmsley, 14th August 1940, Blackburn. Sang in a Cathedral Choir for several years before the Pennies. Twice married and both ended up in divorce.” It was just a question of marrying the wrong girls” said Lionel. Married Actress Julia Foster in 1966 (co-star of Alfie with Michael Caine & Half A Sixpence with Tommy Steele) and had 1 child, Emily. The couple split in 1971. After the Four Pennies split, appeared on Children's TV programmes Play Away & Play School in the 1970’s with Brian Cant & Toni Arthur. Played the leading role in the rock musical Hair at the Metropole Theatre in Glasgow in 1970. Played Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar in London in 1974 & as Tony in West Side Story in 1975. In 1972 created a production company called Friendship Productions and released a children’s record with Coronation Street’s Chris Sandford & Man About The House star Richard O’Sullivan called “Listen To The Music”. Former Play School presenter and former Folk singer Toni Arthur also recorded on the Friendship label.
Fritz Fryer (Lead Guitar)
Born David Roderick Carney Fryer (nickname Fritz), 6th December 1944 in Oldham. Mother ran The Blackburn Salvation Army and Father played organ for churches in the diocese and was the writer of 2,000 hymns including “The Virgin’s Cradle Hymn”. Went to St Peters School in Blackburn (with Mike Wilsh). After The Four Pennies split, Fritz created the group "Fritz, Mike & Mo" with Maureen Edwards & Mike Deigham. Opened a restaurant in Monmouth before transforming a barn in Rockfield, Monmouthshire into a recording studio and becoming a record producer for Clannad, Horslips, Motorhead & Stackridge. Set up own lighting company at Ross-on-Wye, "Fritz Fryer - Antique Lighting" with his partner of 30 years, Joan Graham. Eventually sold it and the company still bears his name today. Died of Pancreatic Cancer aged 62, 2nd September 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal. Diagnosed in July, Fritz died after operation to remove a tumour and the doctors could not control the bleeding. The Funeral was held at St Luke's Church, Santa Barbara, Lisbon.
Mike Wilsh (Bass / Keyboard / Backing Vocals)
Born Michael Wilshaw, 21st July 1945 Stoke-On-Trent. Went to St Peters School in Blackburn (with Fritz Fryer). Played in a guitar duo with Fryer called The Fables. Started a Wednesday Evening Folk Club at The Castle restaurant in Clitheroe in the late 70’s. Mike’s most successful composition wasn’t “Juliet” but “Down Waterloo Road” which was recorded in the UK by The Settlers & Mrs Mills. In France it sold more than a million records and up to the 80’s over 40 different artists had recorded it. From 1974 – 1980 the two songs made over £50,000 in royalties but claimed that it all went in alimony to his ex-wife. Was frequently seen busking in Blackburn Town Centre in the early 1980’s.
Alan Buck (Drums)
Born 7th April 1943 Brierfield, Burnley. Went to Mansfield High School, Brierfield. Before the Four Pennies had previously played with Johnny Kidd’s Pirates & Joe Brown’s Bruvvers. Auditioned at Burnley Mecca for The Four Pennies. Afterwards he continued to work in show business, including production work at Radio Luxembourg and a music publishing company in London. Made TV appearances in The Bill & The Darling Buds Of May and produced programmes and radio commercials. Alan was found dead, aged 50, in his London flat from a heart attack in March 1994. Funeral held 24th March 1994 with a service and cremation in Burnley.
Born Reading, Berkshire. 1965-1966 replaced Fritz Fryer for a short time and left the group when Fryer returned.
Also deputised on rare occasions.
November 1963 - Do You Want Me To / Miss Bad Daddy (Philips BF 1296) UK Chart #47 (entered chart 16 Jan 64 - 2 weeks on chart) Mint Value £9 (record collector 2008).
March 1964 – Tell Me Girl / Juliet (Philios BF 1322) UK Chart #1 (entered chart 2 Apr 64 - reached No.1 for 1 week 21 May 64 - 15 weeks on chart) £10
June 1964 – I Found Out The Hard Way / Don’t Tell Me You Love Me (Philips BF 1349) UK Chart # 14 (entered chart 16 July 64 – 11 weeks on chart) £5
October 1964 - Black Girl / You Went Away (Philips BF 1366) UK Chart # 20 (entered chart 29 Oct 64 – 12 weeks on chart) £5
1965 - The Way Of Love / A Place Where No One Goes (Philips BF 1398) UK Chart # --- £5
October 1965 - Until It's Time For You To Go / Till Another Day (Philips BF1435) UK Chart # 19 (entered chart 7 Oct 65 – 11 weeks on chart) £5
February 1966 - Trouble Is My Middle Name / Way Out Love (Philips BF 1469) UK Chart # 32 (entered chart 17 Feb 66 – 5 weeks on chart) £5
1966 - Keep The Freeway Open / Square Peg (Philips BF 1491) UK Chart # -- £5
October 1966 - No Sad Songs For Me / Cats (Philips BF 1519) UK Chart # -- £10
1964 – “Juliet / Tell Me Girl” (Philips 40202) US Chart # --
1965 – “Until It’s Time For You To Go / Til Another Day” (Philips 40333) USA Chart # --
1964 - The Four Pennies - Miss Bad Daddy / Running Scared / San Francisco Bay / I Found Out The Hard Way (Philips BBE 12561) £20
1964 - Spin With The Pennies - When Will I Be Loved? / My Prayer / You've Got It / Juliet (Philips BBE 12562) £20
1965 - The Swinging Side Of The Four Pennies - Da Doo Ron Ron / Why Do You Cry? / Pony Time / Claudette (Philips BBE 12570) £20
1965 - The Smooth Side Of The Four Pennies - Sweeter Than You / Now We Are Through / Love's Journey / If You Love Me (I Won't Care) (Philips BBE 12571) £15
1965 - Two Sides Of The Four Pennies - Da Doo Ron Ron / Sweeter Than You / Claudette / If You Love Me (I Won't Care) / Do You Want Me To? / Love's Journey / You Went Away / Will You Love Me Tomorrow? / Now We Are Through / Pony Time / Come To Me / Why Do You Cry? (Philips BL 7642) UK Album Chart # 13 £50
November 1966 - Mixed Bag - Cryin' Inside / Look Down / I'm On My Own / She Didn't Say Yes / It Is No Secret / Iko Iko / Without Love / Try To Find Another Man / Maracabamba / Stewball / All My Sorrows / Someday Soon / Wild Goose / Let It Be Me (Philips BL 7734) UK Album Chart # -- £90
???? – Juliet – Do You Want Me To / I Found Out The Hard Way / Black Girl / Miss Bad Daddy / Juliet / The Way Of Love / Until It’s Time For You To Go / Square Peg / Way Out Love / Trouble Is My Middle Name / Till Another Day / Keep The Freeway Open (Wing WL 1146) UK Chart # -- £20
Fritz Fryer Solo
1965 - “Someone Stole The Sun / Let Me Hear Your Voice” (Philips BF 1427) UK Chart # -- £10
1965 – “What Colour Is A Man / So Now You’re Gone” (Philips BF 1441) UK Chart # -- £8
Lionel Morton Solo UK Singles
1967 – “What To Do With Laurie / I’ll Just Wait Around” (Philips BF 1578) £7
1967 – “First Love Never Dies / Try Not To Cry” (Philips BF 1607) £7
1969 – “Waterloo Road / Floral Street” (RCA Victor 1875) £7
1974 – “Don’t Let Life Get You Down / Play Away” (BBC BEEB011)
19## - “What A Woman Does / Listen To The Music” (Cube BUG224)
Lionel Morton Solo UK Albums
1973 – Lionel (Contour 2870324)
1973 – Bang On A Drum, Songs From Play School & Play Away (BBC RBT 17) TRACKS: Early in the morning /Brush Brush Brush / Sunbeams Play / I am Here / Caterpillers only crawl / Wheels keep turning / I like peace I like Quiet / Building up my house / I think I've caught a cold / The Israeli Boat song / One potato two potato / Bang on a Drum / Jump / The paper song / Down on the farm / come to the shops / what do we do with this and that / The circus is coming / Build it up / Fidget / You can stamp your feet / Play Away.
1973 – Playaway (BBC RBT 19)
The Party Is About To Begin (Ding Dong) All Change / Superstition / Say When / Umbabarbarumba / Captain Kipper’s Clipper / If I Had A Hammer / Stops & Starts / Rabbit & Pork / The Rain Makes All Things Beautiful / Words Words Words / Sitting By The River / The Hokey Cokey / The Hippo Song / The Train To Glasgow / First Things
1974 – Lionel Sings For The Children (Contour ####)
1975 – BBC Children’s Programmes (BBC REH 214)
Play Away: Theme - sung by Lionel Morton/Superstition - sung by Lionel Morton and Toni Arthur with some words from Brian Cant and Chloe Ashcroft / Dr. Who: Theme / The World of Dr. Who / Blue Peter: Opening Theme 'Barnacle Bill' / Kum Ba Yah / Magic Roundabout: Theme / Chigley: The Dutch Organ / Song of the Fair / Fourth Dimension: Theme / Ring A Ding: Theme / Ricky and his aeroplane / Trumpton: Trumpton Town Clock, Fireman Bold, The Band Concert / Ragtime: Theme / I'm Going To See The World / Crackerjack: Vote for Crackerjack / The Oggle Cockle Song / The Changes: Theme / Camberwick Green: The Music Box / Rubovia: Gavot, Scherzando, Minuet coda / The Record Breakers: Theme / Anne of Avonlea: Theme / Vision On: Closing Theme / Moonbase 3: Theme / Play School: Theme - Composed and arranged by Paul Reade, Wouldn't it be funny? - sung by Lionel Morton and Chloe Ashcroft
Do you have any memories of The Four Pennies? Why don't you share them with us and we will put them on the website for other Four Pennies fans to enjoy. Were you at the opening of the new Reidy's Music store in 1964 when The Four Pennies cut the ribbon? Did you see The Pennies at Ewood Park? Where were you when you heard "Juliet" was No.1? Do you know where the remaining members of the Four Pennies are? We are looking to contact them, Lionel Morton or Mike Wilsh as we would love to speak to them for our website. If you have any information please contact us here at the Library via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was a keen Four Pennies fan and bought a copy of Juliet which I played incessantly. The mother of a school friend of mine knew Lionel Morton’s mother who ran a confectioner’s shop. She was able to get me a signed photograph of the group. Although I treasured it at the time, it has long since disappeared.
When I found that they were going to be playing at a Rovers match, I was desperate to go. My father was a season ticket holder in the Nuttall Street stand and I badgered him to take me to this match. He took some persuading, but eventually agreed. I had no interest in football at this time, so I took a Mary Poppins book with me for entertainment during the match. Of course the highlight was seeing my idols playing live. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a great view as Dad’s seat was close to a pillar.
I remember to this day that Rovers played Aston Villa and scored 5 goals.
Ironically, a couple of years later I became a keen football fan and went to every Rovers home match, sometimes accompanying my Dad and sometimes standing with friends in the Enclosure.
By Diana Rushton, Community History Manager, Blackburn with Darwen Libraries
Memories of Alan
My close and dearest friend ALAN BUCK.
April 7th seems a very opportune date to pay tribute to one of my closest and dearest friends, Alan Buck who would have been 67 years old today. Three days separated our respective birth dates and we always saw fit to celebrate the two events.
I met Alan, far removed from the music scene and days of The Four Pennies, in the early 1980s. He was living and working in Ealing, West London where he had resided for many years. Drumming was still his passion and he used to play in a trio every weekend (set up by Bob Harris who co-wrote "Release Me" for Engelbert Humperdinck) at the various clubs in and around London. Alan and Bob had previously worked together for Polydor. I used to accompany him to these Clubs and together we carried the drums and all the props up and down stairs (how different I thought to those heady days of "Top of the Pops" and their entourage!)
As the years go by I think of Alan more and more and miss him so much. I have my memories and there are plenty. One being introduced to Brierfield, the home town that made Alan so proud of his roots. Our going to Great Yarmouth where the BBC were recording a play and Alan was an extra. He still kept his Equity Card and portfolio up to date for any future work and was always optimistic that he would realize the good days again.
He had few friends but those he had he remained loyal. I do not think he ever came to terms with what he once had and lost, speaking often of the old days. It, therefore, did not really surprise me to hear that he had died only days before his 50th birthday, an Open Verdict being recorded. My wish is that things could have been different for Alan. He was a complex person, but he brought a lot of happiness and laughs into my life and he left this world too soon.
By Liz Damaschka
Alan and I grew up together in Brierfield. He lived on Halifax Road next door to Alf McGuiness' cobblers.I lived on Stanley Street. ('Back doors' to his house, as they used to say).
Alan was some years older than I and even before his fame with the 'Pennies' he was my hero because he had a massive quiff which I tried to emulate, (and succeeded). I was also allowed to have a play on his drums in the front (posh) room of his home, which also doubled as a photo studio for his father, Edwin.
He was a genuine person, a great performer and a good friend. Not many people were aware that his speaking voice was also of a very high calibre, not readily associated with a Brierfielder. I attribute this to his mother and father who were lovely people..
It so sad that he died so young with so much more to give, and is sadly missed.
I am proud to have known him as a friend.
Memories may fade but they live forever
I remember a holiday at the Butlins Metropole Hotel in Blackpool - must have been about August/September 1963 - Lionel Morton Four (as they were then) appeared on stage in the hotel one evening - they played 'Juliet' and I have always had a soft spot for the song ever since.
Could this have been the night they won the talent show on North Pier - after all it is next door to the Metropole?
Always remember that holiday when I hear the song & I am now 63!
By Dennis Hornsby
Hi my name is Pete Reidy I'm a singer / songwriter.
I remember the Four Pennies well, I was in my cousin Marie's music shop on Penny street trying out a guitar at the time she was talking to them and was playing the demo."Do You Want Me Too" which I thought was a great song.
I saw them live at The King Georges Hall in Blackburn, I remember that Julia Foster was there that night, I was in my teens then but remember It really well as I thought Julia Foster was beautiful.
My Dad (James Reidy) who was a well known Organist and musician was at the opening of the new Reidy's Music Shop in Penny Street.
I remember when the Four Pennies opened a boutique on King Street, I think it was owned by Fritz Fryer but not sure. The screams where deafening
Some years later I was a musician myself playing guitar and singing with various bands from Blackburn, I turned pro when I was offered a job with the Paper Dolls playing with their Backing Band, The Paper Dolls had had a massive hit with "Something Here In My Heart" years before and where touring the cabaret circuit, they made a living off that song for years, it was a great learning curve.
Years later I was taken by surprise when I received a phone call from Alan Buck the drummer from the Four Pennies, he wanted to meet me at a pub in Salmesbury on the outskirts of Blackburn with view to forming the Four Pennies again, I met him and we had a talk but at that time Lionel Morton had also re-formed the Four Pennies in London, Alan said it didn't matter as he also owned the name, he planned to go on tour with the new Four Pennies line up to Europe but I was already busy working with another band and didn't think it would work without Lionel so I declined.
Lionel Morton's cousin (Brendan Cooke) is a friend of mine and lives not far from me in Thornton Cleveleys, at one time he managed the King Georges Hall but is now retired. Best Wishes and thanks for the memories.
By Pete Reidy
I attended the same school, St Peters Secondary Modern, Byrom Street, Blackburn, as did Fritz,and Mike Wilshaw although a few years older than me I remember them well. Lionel, Fritz,and Mike came back to the school to do a nostalgic story for the Blackburn Times newspaper at the time of the success of Juliet, they came up to the art room and I was there working on an acoustic guitar I was making under the guidance of the art teacher Mr Clay, I had my photo taken with them admiring my work, I still have the photo and guitar.
I went on many occasions later to watch them play, notably Rawtenstall Astoria and twice at the Starlight Club in Little Harwood, Blackburn (great cabaret venue that used to feature all the top acts of the era). They were a fantastic live act who should have been more appreciated than they were (maybe down to bad management) who knows. I did see them open Reidys new store, my friend from school Martin Pendelbury's parents ran the Fleece Hotel across the road so we watched the event from the upstairs window. I was also at Ewood Park when they performed, to try and boost the Rovers attendances, they played Aston Villa that afternoon and I think the Rovers won the game 5-1. Happy days !
By John Croasdale
(thanks to John for permission to use the photo below)
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