It was a taste of things to come when the 1960s started with a Liverpool artist at the top of the charts.
And it wasn’t the Beatles, Billy Fury or even Lita Roza leading the way, but Norman Alexander Milne – much better known by his stage name of Michael Holliday.
His Number One single, the first of a momentous decade for popular music, was Starry Eyed – written by Earl Shuman and Mort Garson, and produced by Norrie Paramor.
Starry Eyed was released on New Year’s Day 1960 and stayed in the charts for 12 weeks. It had been recorded a year earlier in the United States by American artist Gary Stites.
The song was actually Holliday’s second UK Number One. In February 1958, he hit the top spot with a cover version of The Story of My Life by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The single had previously been recorded by American county music singer Marty Robbins and was subsequently released by Alma Cogan, Gary Miller and Dave King.
More than five decades later, Bootle singer Billy J. Kramer recorded a version on his 2013 CD I Won the Fight.
Born in Liverpool in November 1924 and brought up in Kirkdale, Holliday was working as a merchant seaman when he took his first steps in the music world.
He won the New Voices of Merseyside talent contest at the Locarno Ballroom in Newsham before trying his luck in another competition while he was on shore leave in America.
This time the talent contest was at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York. Again Holliday won, convincing him to try his luck as a singer.
Leaving the sea behind, he signed up as the vocalist with Dick Denny’s band at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Pwllheli, Wales, in 1951.
Holliday then joined the Eric Winstone Band and made a few radio broadcasts. His TV break came in July 1955 when he appeared on the BBC programme The Centre Show.
Fortunately for Holliday, his TV debut was spotted by producer Norrie Paramor who was working for the Columbia label at the time. Paramor signed Holliday as a solo artist.
One of Holliday’s first recordings was the theme tune for the Gerry Anderson puppet series Four Feather Falls, based in the American Wild West.
Holliday was heavily influenced by American crooner and movie star Bing Crosby – so much so that he was even described as ‘the British Bing Crosby’.
As a seaman, he’d also smuggled American jazz records into Liverpool to be sold by Lilian Ablett, the mother of future singer-songwriter Elvis Costello.
In addition to his two Number One hits, Holliday released a string of singles from 1955 to 1964. They included I’ll Always Be in Love with You, which went to No. 27 in June 1958, and Skylark which reached No. 39 in March 1960.
Holliday recorded five albums including Hi! in 1957, Holliday Mixture in 1960 and the tribute-laden To Bing – From Mike in 1962.
After suffering a mental breakdown in 1961, Holliday died in Croydon in October 1963 at the age of 38. He is buried at Anfield Cemetery.
Just as Holliday was hitting the big time, other Merseyside artists had already carved out a name for themselves in the 1950s.
Liverpool singer Lita Roza made history when she became the first woman to record a Number One single in 1953 with her rendition of the novelty song (How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?
The eldest of seven children, Roza was the daughter of an amateur accordion player. She started singing in Southport’s New Yorker club at the age of 16.
Roza was voted Top Female British Singer by both Melody Maker and the New Musical Express during the 1950s.
Although he never reached the Number One spot, Liverpool rock-and-roll star Billy Fury matched the Beatles’ record of 24 hits in the 1960s. He rose to fame in the late 1950s after working as a docker.
Merseyside singer Frankie Vaughan was such a celebrity at one point that he even appeared in the 1960 movie Let’s Make Love with Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe!
Well-known for his trademark top hat, bow tie, tails and cane, Vaughan released his signature song Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl in 1955.
Like Holliday, Vaughan notched up two Number One singles – The Garden of Eden in 1957 and the Bacharach song Tower of Strength in 1961.
*Fascinating wartime images of Merseyside feature in Clive Hardy’s latest hardback book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45.
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