1950’s Yorkshire’s Pop Musicians

The 1950’s was a great era for Yorkshire popular musicians before the American and Liverpudlian invasion of the 1960’s. Post war music was finding its own brand and style of entertainment that had moved on from big band and Jazz.
I have chosen 4 Yorkshire born figures to highlight the spectrum of new entertainment as we moved from 78’s to 45’s and radio to television as a medium for appreciating Pop music although we hadn’t started to call it that.

David Whitfield 2 February 1925 — 16 January 1980

  • David from Hull has a career that predated and ran through the rock and roll era. As a performer he was more old fashioned that the other Yorkshire born performers we are looking at.
  • Cara Mea, The Rudder and the Rock ‘The Book’ and ‘My September Love’ were some of the ballads and songs that won him fame. He had 2 number ones and many other top ten hits
  • He recorded for Decca, earned the first UK gold disc by a male vocalist and was the first Brit to sell a million copies of one record in USA
  • David entered the talent contest ‘Opportunity Knocks’ when it was a radio show on Radio Luxembourg and was quite a hit. Hughie Green then helped him get more bookings that eventually led to 3 Royal command performances. The 1954 Royal Command Performance included Bob Hope, Frankie Howerd, Guy Mitchell, Norman Wisdom, Dickie Valentine, Max Bygraves, Frankie Laine, Howard Keel, The Crazy Gang, Joan Turner, Jack Buchanan, Al Read, Jimmy Wheeler, Richard Hearne, Gladys Cooper and David Whitfield.
  • Sadly David died whilst touring and performing in Australia in 1980 when aged 54.
  • Ronnie Hilton 26 January 1926 – 21 February 2001

  • “No Other Love” was his one and only UK Number One hit in 1956 but ‘The Wonder of You’ sold well in 1959 only to be topped in 1970 by the Elvis Presley version
  • Ronnie covered the ballads of many American singers including Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis
  • Ronnie Hilton took part in the inaugural A Song For Europe contest in 1957 with “For Your Love”. He also appeared in three subsequent Royal Variety Command Performances.
  • Ronnie’s last chart entry was in 1965. ‘Windmill In Old Amsterdam’ took him away from the romantic ballads of his earlier years.
  • A true Yorkshireman born in Hull but brought up in Leeds, Ronnie Hilton always remained loyal to his roots and especially to Leeds United
  • Don Lang 19 January 1925 – 3 August 1992

  • Together with his band the Frantic Five they recorded “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)” Rock a billy and Witch Doctor in 1957.
  • The theme tune of Six Five Special was performed by Don.
  • Rock and Roll Blues and Sweet Sue were solo records for Don.
  • Don was born in Halifax as Gordon Langhorn and was an accomplished jazz and session musician.
  • Later in his career Don Lang played trombone on the Beatles White Abbey album
  • Marion Ryan 4 February 1931 – 15 January 1999

  • From 1956 Middlesbrough born lass Marion was the regular singer on Spot that Tune a TV programme that morphed into name that tune with Ted Ray
  • Working part time at the Locarno in Leeds she met and made her debut with Ray Ellington.
  • Marion had twin sons, Barry and Paul Ryan who also had musical careers including the hit ‘Eloise’
  • Her top records included “Hot Diggity” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
  • Yorkshire did its bit for entertainment in the 1950’s contributing the music of these artists to radio shows like Two Way Family Favourites. Then along came TV and shows like Six Five Special, Oh Boy, Dig, and Juke Box Jury the theme tune for which was written and performed by another Yorkshireman, John Barry.

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    David Whitfield
    Ronnie Hilton
    Don Lang
    Marion Ryan

    Read more about Yorkshire’s 1960s Music and Club Scene

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