Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Johnny De Little

Between 1961-5 Johnny De Little was a singing protege of John Barry. Five singles were released (on Columbia and CBS) all of which were given the official John Barry stamp of approval: Not Guilty/They; Lover/You Made Me Love You; Days Of Wine And Roses/Ride On; The Wind And The Rain/Unchained Melody; The Knack/What To Do With Laurie.

You're probably thinking - who the hell is Johnny De Little? Well, I'll tell you. He was actually Brian King from Penrhiwceiber, in the Aberdare valley. At Cwmdare School he had sung in the boys' choir. When he left, aged 16, he became a van boy. During this period he took his first step on the showbiz ladder by joining the Bright Lights Concert Party. They performed regularly at workingmen's clubs around south Wales.

12 months later he signed up with the Royal Army Service Corps for a 3 year stint. He wanted to see the world but spent most of his time stationed in York. However, as luck would have it, York also happened to be the place where John Barry lived.

Upon returning to civvy street King remained in York and became a bus conductor. Harbouring ambitions of becoming a professional singer he plucked up the courage to knock on John Barry's front door. He wasn't in. However, Barry's dad was, and he arranged for King to have an audition at the Rialto Cinema. During the audition John Barry, himself, walked into the auditorium. He was impressed by King's vocal style and technique and promised to find him some decent material. True to his word several singles followed - a couple of them from film soundtracks. None of them really did anything chart-wise and their collaborations ended in the mid-Sixties.

The fantastic YouTube, above, is an excerpt from a Tommy Steele cinematic vehicle called It's All Happening (1963). In it, Johnny De Little (as he had by then become), cameos with the fabulous John Barry Orchestra. He plays the gauche singer who finds his rhythm and, consequently, his mojo. It's a great piece of footage and the song's not at all bad either.

I think Johnny De Little is still alive and living in the north east of England, somewhere. If you want to hear more of his recordings check out the relevant John Barry collections that have been released down the years.