|The New Vaudeville Band
In 1966, English
songwriter/producer Geof Stephens gathered a
group of studio musicians to record his novelty
composition "Winchester Cathedral," a
song inspired by the dance hall bands of the
1920's; he called the group The New Vaudeville
Band in tribute to the entertainment style
popular in the 1920's and 30's. Much to his
surprise, the song became a huge international
hit, rising to #1 in the United States and #4 in
the UK. Over three million singles were sold in
the U.S. alone, and the song even won a Grammy
for Best Contemporary Song in 1967.
Stephens would have been more
than happy to sit back and collect royalties for
"Winchester Cathedral" while writing
more songs, but he began getting requests for The
New Vaudeville Band to go on tour. Since the band
that recorded the song did not actually exist,
Stephens tried to get the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band,
a British band known for playing similar music,
to go on tour as The New Vaudeville Band. Bob
Kerr was the only member of Bonzo interested, so
he left his old group to help Stephens.
The New Vaudeville Band that went on
tour consisted of Kerr (saxophone), Henri
Harrison (who had been the drummer on the
original "Winchester Cathedral"
recording), Mick Wilsher (guitar), Stan Haywood
(bass), Hugh "Shaggy" Watts (trombone),
and Chris Eddy (bass), with lead vocals provided
by Alan Klein, who was billed as Tristram,
Seventh Earl of Cricklewood. The group enjoyed a
very successful tour of the U.S. in 1966 and 1967
and released two albums -- Winchester
and Finchley Central (1967) -- but never
charted in the U.S. again; they did, however, put
three more singles on the UK charts --
"Peek-A-Boo," "Finchley Street
Central" and "Green Street Green."
They also made a significant contribution to the
soundtrack of The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968).
By 1968 the band's novelty appeal had worn off
and the group spent the next twenty years
performing in Las Vegas and on the UK cabaret
circuit. The group disbanded in 1988.
What happened to most of The
New Vaudeville Band members is unknown, but Kerr
and Harrison formed Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band,
which still performs songs in the
"Winchester Cathedral" vein today.
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