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The New Vaudeville BandThe New Vaudeville Band

"Winchester Cathedral"

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.

New Vaudeville Band performing 'Winchester Cathedral'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 Cathedral (1966) 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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This page was last updated on 12/28/2014.

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