Monday, 23 September 2013
Wally Whyton born 23 September 1929
Wallace Victor "Wally" Whyton (23 September 1929 – 22 January 1997) was a British musician, songwriter and radio and TV personality.
Whyton played a major role in the shaping of post-World War II British music. As co-founder and lead singer of influential late-'50s skiffle band the Vipers, Whyton influenced a diverse range of artists, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Davey Graham, and Danny Thompson. Later in his career, he became one of England's best-loved radio personalities. The voice of country music on England's BBC Radio 2, he hosted the popular show Country Club formore than two decades.
Born in London, Whyton studied piano and trombone as a youngster. Inspired by the music of American folk musicians, including Pete Seeger, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie, he switched to guitar. Equally versed in blues and jazz, Whyton was a perfect choice to replace Lohn John Baldry in the early skiffle group the Thameside Four. Although he only played with the group for a few months, the experience proved invaluable when he met guitarist, vocalist, and the manager of London's Gyre and Gimbal Coffee Bar, Johnny Booker. Agreeing to work together, they formed the Vipers Skiffle Band with guitarist/vocalist Jean Van Der Bosch, bassist Tony Tolhurst, and washboard player John Pilgrim. Three months later, the group became the house band at London's Two I's Coffee Bar. Auditioned by George Martin, the Vipers signed with Parlophone in September 1956. Although their second single, "Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O" (which reached the British Top Ten), was followed by half a dozen other charting tunes, the Vipers recorded only one album, The Original Soho Skiffle Band, distributed in the United States.
Whyton and the Vipers enjoyed a close relationship with skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan, who recorded "Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O." Whyton subsequently composed a spoof of Donegan's interpretation, "Putting on the Smile," that Peter Sellers recorded for his album, Songs for Swinging Sellers. Although they dropped
skiffle from their name in May 1958 and had begun veering toward pop, the Vipers continued to influence British rock into the mid-'60s. Their constantly changing personnel included three musicians -- Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, and Jet Harris -- who went on to form the Shadows.
Whyton made his radio debut co-hosting a music-oriented program, Country Meets Folk, with Jim Lloyd. Photogenic and with a soft spoken voice, Whyton normally wore a cardigan as he presented the children's programmes, Small Time, Lucky Dip, Tuesday Rendezvous (on which The Beatles made their second television appearance, performing "Love Me Do"), Five O'Clock Club, Ollie and Fred's Five O'Clock Club and Five O'Clock Funfair for Associated-Rediffusion and Rediffusion London. The shows introduced Whyton's much-loved puppets, Ollie Beak and Pussycat Willum. Whyton normally performed a song while playing his guitar on the children's shows.
Subsequently, he was the host of Granada TV's Time For A Laugh. From the 1960s to the 1990s he was a presenter on BBC Radio 2, mainly fronting folk and country music programmes. One of these was "Hello Folk" and another "Country Club".
Despite his busy schedule as a broadcaster, Whyton continued to find time to record. In addition to recording an album of Woody Guthrie tunes, Children's Songs of Woody Guthrie, he wrote and recorded one of the earliest conservation anthems, "Leave Them a Flower." The cover of Whyton's "It's Me, Mum!" appeared on Steve Carter's Worst Album Covers Ever Created.
During his career Whyton made over 2,000 television appearances and probably twice as many radio broadcasts, yet he always remained accessible to his audiences, meeting them at concerts and personally answering letters. It was a way of life developed from his skiffle days when audience association was just as important as performance. He was always willing to help another, although he admitted he was not always the best talent spotter.
One of his favourite stories was about how he advised Kris Kristofferson, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, that he should change his name for the recording industry. Kristofferson subsequently recorded in London under the name of Kris Carson. A couple of decades later the two met again at Wembley, with the first words uttered by the famous singer/songwriter: "Hey, Wal, I changed my name back again." Such stories not only displayed Whyton's honesty but also revealed his great sense of humour, even at his own expense.
Inspired by the release of a three-CD compendium of Vipers recordings, 10,000 Years Ago, Whyton was looking forward to a group reunion when he succumbed to cancer in January 1997. (Info edited mainly from All Music Guide & The Independent. MP3's from Lord Of The Boot Sale)