Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chris Blackwell: The man who discovered the Spencer Davis Group

The BBC reports:
The man who introduced the world to Bob Marley and U2 has been named the most influential figure in the last 50 years of the British music industry.
Island Records founder Chris Blackwell received a special honour at the Music Week magazine awards in London.
He was picked from a shortlist of 20 leading UK-based executives.
Other contenders ranged from Sir George Martin, who signed and produced The Beatles, to X Factor and American Idol judge Simon Cowell.
I know Sir George Martin produced the Beatles. But that is nothing. Because Chris Blackwell discovered the Spencer Davis Group.

An old article from Mojo has the tale:
Distantly related to the Crosse & Blackwell of soup fame, Chris grew up in Jamaica; after leaving Harrow, he dabbled in accountancy and property before finding success as a music business entrepreneur by scoring his first Number 1 record in Jamaica with 'Little Sheila' by Laurel Aitken in 1960.
Two years later he was back in London and, with a $5,000 loan, set up Island Records to import Jamaican hits for sale to the growing West Indian community, personally delivering records to the stores in the back of a Mini Cooper.
After reaping his share of the six million sales of Millie's 'My Boy Lollipop' in 1964, he never looked back.His prospects improved further on June 1, 1964 when he took Millie to Birmingham to appear on Top Of The Pops. "I'd been told there were two bands in Birmingham I should see. One was Carl Wayne And The Vikings, who later became The Move. They were dressed in suits and very polished. I didn't really like them."
Blackwell moved on to the next club: "When I walked in, Spencer Davis was singing, and I really loved that. Then Steve sang and I couldn't believe it. It was like Ray Charles on helium. Unbelievable."
Now listen to Georgia on my Mind.


Liberal Neil said...

Didn't he sign Fairport Convention too?

Clearly a visionary.

Simon Titley said...

Blackwell also signed the great John Martyn in 1968 - the first white artist on the Island label. John Martyn sadly died in January.

Dubspeare said...

Why Chris Blackwell has not been Knighted is an absolute mystery. He has changed the face of popular music but maybe he has turned honours down.