danny king - 3rd july 2002

Danny King and the Mayfair Set

Carl Wayne: My next guest is somebody that I've respected and admired all of my singing life. He was undoubtedly the best of the Birmingham singers. We all knew that, everybody in Birmingham knew that, and he was truly a singer in a rock 'n' roll band; Danny King, up shortly.

Track: “I'm Just a Singer in a Rock 'n' Roll Band” - Moody Blues

That leads me nicely to the best singer ever in a rock 'n' roll band. Joining me in the studio, Danny King. How're you doing?

Danny King: Great Carl, thank you.

CW: Don't tap the table, you're not that nervous!

DK: Yes, I am! It's this build up you keep giving me, people expect too much of me. You guys were better than us.

CW: Danny, you know we've always said you were the best. You and I have touched before on the subject of image and what makes somebody successful, the luck of the draw and all that business. Let's go back to those days of the very early sixties, what an influence you were on the Move. Roy told "Goldmine" a few years ago that the Move got a lot of their cover song ideas from you. He said that you were notorious for having the best record collection in Birmingham. They'd go over to your house and listen to a bunch of eclectic tracks like "Stop and Get a Hold of Myself". Do you still have a vast record collection?

DK: I still have the same record collection, it hasn't grown any. Initially, in those early days, when people were playing skiffle, I actually imported American r 'n' b from a place called Albert Schultz Incorporated, West 14th Street, New York, New York State. I imported records by Roy Brown, Smiley Lewis, those kind of guys. Why, because I wanted that repertoire. 

CW: And Danny King started as Danny Benwell? Or was it Arthur Benwell? 

DK: Yes, it was. Arthur Marcel Benwell!         

CW: Well, I was Colin David Tooley, so there we are! A couple of swinging names, Dan! So tell me, you were singing before me?

DK: Yes, about 1958 or so.

CW: I was at Saltley Grammar School then, and in a school band. At that time were you working, semi-professional?

DK: No, in 1958 we were in Butlins. Me and Clint Warwick, and the Dukes in particular.

CW: Clint Warwick, the bass player from the Moody Blues. And, of course, Danny King and the Dukes.

DK: That's right.

CW: So, you were at Butlins.

DK: Yes, in Eire. We had a wonderful time. 

CW: I remember Carl Wayne and the Vikings auditioning for Butlins. So, take me from there, we're at Danny King and the Dukes, we're at Eire with Butlins. Where does it go from there?

DK: When we got back, for one reason or another the Dukes split up and then I formed the Royals. They were called the Handicaps at the time, but I had to have someone, so I took on the Handicaps and made them into the Royals. I've had so many, Charlie, you know I have. It was the Royals, and it was the Mayfair Set, and it was the Locomotives. I've had so many bands in the past.

CW: And the Mayfair Set, when did they come in, because of course my former guitarist who became bass-player, Trevor Burton, brilliant talent, was with you in the Mayfair Set.

DK: He was indeed, my Trevor! He's recently made a new album and it's superb. 

CW: Well, he always was a superb player, wasn't he? 

DK: Yes, but he's actually written his own stuff which, to me, is absolutely wonderful. I can't sing his praises enough, you're going to have him on this week, aren't you?

CW: It would be nice if he called in, yes. Let's get back to you, because you were the singer. We used to come and stand there at the Cedar Club, which as you know was the place. Who played there that we used to watch? 

DK: We had Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder.

CW: Did he play the Cedar Club? 

DK: Yes, I led him on to the stage! 

CW: Good grief.

DK: There's been everyone; Marianne Faithful. They had all the big stars at the time.

CW: I remember Duane Eddy being in there one night.

DK: Absolutely.

CW: It was a major place, wasn't it? We used to work two or three times a night, did you go through that as well?

DK: Well, I lived there, didn't I?! I'd just never get out of the place, sometimes we'd be on stage until three or four in the morning. 

CW: I know, we all used to meet there, congregate there.

DK: That's right. We had the real busking sessions there.

CW: We did.

DK:You  guys all finished, came in, then it was all hands on deck, wasn't it? Wonderful. Then up to the pie stand. 

CW: It's a point of issue with the local council that not enough is made of what Birmingham and Midlands music has achieved. There's nothing really for tourists who come to this wonderful area to see, and to remember where these things happened. I don't know if there's anything at the Belfry.

DK: I played at the Belfry many times with the Locomotives, but it really wasn't our scene. We liked the atmosphere of a club, the Belfry was too big. I loved the Cedar Club. It was my home, it was everything I was. I could walk to the place and I could walk home. As you know, half the time I was also down at the Last Chance Cafe on the Litchfield Road, and I think I was playing the fruit machines one night from midnight to twelve o'clock midday the next day. You came, you picked me up, and you took me home. Do you remember that?

CW: I do. 

DK: Twelve hours on a fruit machine! 

CW: I rescued you! And you were always professional? That was it, in those days. It was just totally professional musician, there was nothing else?

DK: Yes, in the early days, certainly. 

CW: And after the Mayfair Set, and when we formed the Move, what happened then? 

DK: Well, after the Mayfair Set, I went to work, I went to Dixons. 

CW: And you've been there for thirty years. 

DK: Absolutely.

CW: Without being critical of that decision, why? It's always concerned me that a man with your immense talent and brilliant voice just didn't go further and use that talent. It's such a wonderful voice as people will hear in a minute.

DK: I met a young lady.

CW: Oh, I see....(laughter)

DK: And for her, singing in a band was not a proper job. I subsequently married the young lady and had three beautiful boys by her. That's about it, really. My boys have never been brought up on rock 'n' roll music, believe me Charlie, it was all banned in my home, I never played a record from '71 onwards.

CW: Really, why?

DK: She loves classical music and the shows. 

CW: And what about your kids, are they musical? 

DK: Well, in spite of that kind of upbringing, they found their own kind of rock 'n' roll, yes. My eldest boy of 21 is in a ska punk band. Actually, he's in two, in Scotland, he is at university in Scotland. 

CW: And the other two?

DK: The other two 18 year olds have not found rock 'n' roll as such, yet. But my Richard does sing in Barbershop and in the Litchfield choir. 

CW: Well, I think it's about time we heard you. It's taken me how long to dig this tape out? There's nothing we can find of you, because I know you're not really keen on all this stuff from Abbey Road coming out, are you?

DK: The Abbey Road stuff is just total rubbish! 

CW: But you've always said this about yourself, you've always said you're total rubbish, and you're not!

DK: Charlie, we had half an hour to produce those ruddy records. We went into the studio and within half an hour it was done and dusted. It was never my band, never.

CW: Was it session musicians?

DK: No, it was the Nightriders. I'd take a band down, but the Nightriders were brought in. Nothing derogatory from the Nightriders point of view, but I just didn't like the songs. They gave me songs to sing that I had no interest in.

CW: And what were those songs?

DK: Oh God, Charlie, you don't really want me to name them. Young Blood, Pretty Things, Amen. They were absolute, unadulterated rubbish. I like to sing songs that I believe in. I think for me it was interpretation rather than singing. 

CW: So, you could still do that, voices are timeless, aren't they?

DK: I do it occasionally if there's a charity show. And I go along to see Mike Sheridan once a month. We have a little get together, you should come because that is like the Cedar Club. Everybody's there bar the kitchen sink. And the crowd are wonderful; they come from all over the place, all over the district, all the way to Solihull; and they're absolutely wonderful. 

CW: Well, as you know, Rob Caiger is putting together this Midlands Beat Anthology, and we're trying to collect as much as possible, where permitted, of the last fifty years of people who've made it from Birmingham, and those who haven't. So, that's something we want to talk to you about. But without further ado I need to play this song. This is Danny King and a track called "I Can Hear the Music". 

 Track: “I Can Hear the Music” - Danny King

What a wonderful voice Danny King has. I've never heard that, Danny, you really, really are just a brilliant singer. That's a unique voice, an incredible voice and I can only say that I am in awe of that. I am sure that anybody who's listening to this programme will agree with me. That was recorded thirty years ago?

DK: Yes, it's an old Fortunes track, unfinished, obviously, as everything of mine was.

CW: Yes, but that's what it's about. I've got some tapes of the Move that I've held onto for thirty years when we played at the Filmore West in California, 1969. I've played them to people and I'm embarrassed by them, but people love them.

DK: They love them, of course, well yours is history! 

CW: And yours is history, it's history to me. Let me say this: you are a great singer. If I can, and if I'm allowed to, I'd love to do something with your stuff. I think it's important that you should have something released, so maybe after this programme has finished we'll go and talk about it.

DK: OK, that works for me!

CW: I can see that you're somebody that likes to have control over what he is doing. 

DK: Yes, I want to do a song that I'm interested in and I'd give it my best shot.

CW: Danny King, it's sweet of you to come in today, I know you've taken time off from Dixons, you're a great bloke, you're a great singer. We'll speak again.

DK: OK Charlie, thank you very much.

Transcribed by Helen Macdonald for The Official Carl Wayne Website

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