It’s hard to believe that nearly 55 years have passed since Georgie Fame topped the singles charts with his 1964 release Yeh, Yeh.
The catchy Latin soul tune, first recorded by Mongo Santamaria, ended the Beatles’ five-week reign at No. 1 with I Feel Fine.
It was a powerful debut for the former cotton-weaver. But more was to come.
Fame is the only British pop star to have achieved three No. 1 hits with his only Top Ten chart entries.
Yeh, Yeh was followed up with Get Away in 1966 and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.
The 1960s were a bit of whirlwind for the part-time piano player who first took music lessons at Leigh Central County Secondary School.
It all started when he won a singing contest at Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales, and was instantly offered a job there by band leader Rory Blackwell.
He was performing under his real name of Clive Powell at the time – but that soon changed when manager and impresario Larry Parnes took him under his wing.
At the age of 16, Powell became Georgie Fame and toured the UK with big names like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and Joe Brown.
Fame played piano in Billy Fury’s backing group The Blue Flames, but later took centre stage when the band were given the boot in 1961.
The new group – Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames – were heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and played every week at The Scene in London’s Soho.
Their first album, Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo, was released in September 1963. It was recorded live at the club of the same name.
The LP failed to reach the charts, but the next album Fame at Last went to Number 15. Five appearances on ITV’s music programme Ready Steady Go! swiftly followed.
Yeh, Yeh was at No. 1 in January 1965 and Fame made his American TV debut on the popular music and variety show Hullabaloo the same year.
Fame’s single Get Away, originally written for a TV petrol advert, went to No. 1 in the UK in the summer of 1966. The piano player from Leigh had truly arrived.
Shortly after Get Away, Fame split from his band to forge a solo career.
Two singles followed – a version of the Bobby Hebb song Sunny which went to No. 13 in September 1966 and Sitting in the Park which reached No. 12.
His biggest success was The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde which topped the charts in the UK in January 1967 and climbed to No. 7 in the USA.
More success followed in the 1970s when Fame teamed up with fellow singer-songwriter Alan Price of The Animals.
Their song Rosetta went to No. 11 in the UK singles charts in April 1971. The pair often appeared on stage playing a grand piano each!
Fame reformed The Blue Flames during the 1970s and wrote musical scores for the films Entertaining Mr Sloane and The Alf Garnett Saga.
He played the organ on all of Van Morrison’s albums from 1989 to 1997 and was a founding member of Bill Wyman’s band Rhythm Kings.
Fame also worked as a record producer and played with musicians as diverse as Humphrey Lyttleton, Count Basie and The Verve.
In July 1994, he was the guest of the Birmingham Schools Jazz Orchestra, conducting sessions at the city’s Town Hall.
He has headlined the Croatian Grosnjan Jazz Festival for several years thanks to his friendship with Croatian vibraphone player Bosko Petrovic.
Finally, it’s a little known fact that Fame indirectly launched Britain’s first offshore pirate radio station in 1964.
Fame’s manager at the time, Ronan O’Rahilly, couldn’t get the BBC or Radio Luxembourg to play his protégé’s record – so decided to start his own station to promote it.
That station became the world-renowned Radio Caroline – and launched the careers of household names like Tony Blackburn, Simon Dee, Emperor Rosko and Johnnie Walker.