HANK MARVIN, has been a major influence on guitar heroes ever since he first played lead guitar with The Shadows, the UK’s top instrumental outfit during the 1960s. Growing up in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the 1940s/50s, Hank first learned to play banjo and gigged with various skiffle groups in the area before he and his school pal, rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch, moved to Swingin’ London where they joined Cliff Richard and formed his backing band the Drifters for Cliff’s first professional tour in October 1958. To avoid confusion with the US vocal group of the same name the Drifters soon changed their name to The Shadows.. Hank’s metallic echoed picking on a red Fender Stratocaster – with generous employment of tremolo arm – is often cited as the inspirational source of the fretboard pyrotechnics of Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, and numerous other guitar icons – Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Mark Knopfler and Neil Young – who began by playing in groups imitating The Shadows, of whom Marvin, in his black horn- rimmed specs, was the principal public face.
Cliff’s early chart-toppers – ‘Move It’, ‘Living Doll’ and ‘Travellin’ Light’ – kick-started a truly awesome string of 43 Top 20 hit singles in just ten years. The Shadows, four instrumental virtuosos, soon became legends themselves, scoring five No. 1 hits – including the legendary ‘Apache’ – and numerous other international Top 10 hits as well as appearing in and writing songs for hit movies such as ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘Summer Holiday’ before disbanding – for the first time – in 1968.
It was then that Marvin’s solo career began with his eponymous Top 20 album, then in the early 70s, seeking a fresh artistic direction, Hank joined up with Bruce Welch and John Farrar to record two vocal harmony albums ‘Marvin Welch & Farrar’ and ‘Second Opinion’, with a subsequent release entitled simply ‘Marvin & Farrar’.
Towards the end of the 70s a re-formed Shadows hit the top of the album charts with “Twenty Golden Greats, followed by more top ten albums. They hit the singles Top 10 again, first with ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ followed by ‘The Theme From The Deer Hunter’, and ‘Riders In The Sky’. Then in 1982 Hank charted with a solo single ‘Don’t Talk’ and, after working with The Shadows during the 80s, went on to record a sustained series of solo albums throughout the following two decades, several of which reached the Top 10 and Gold Record status. During the recording and subsequent live performances of these albums Hank introduced more of his acoustic guitar work than before which met with audience approval, this audience response was the catalyst for his top ten acoustic “Guitar Player” CD in 2002. Hank and his band which included his son Ben on guitar, Brian Bennett’s son Warren on keyboards, guitar and vocals, Mark Griffiths on bass guitar and Fergus Gerard on drums and percussion, performed their last concert tour, a 63-date sprint around Europe culminating with a final show at The London Palladium in 2002.
Fifty years on from when he started, Hank B. Marvin is assured a place in pop history and remains, unquestionably, one of the major influences on so many of the world’s finest rock guitarists: to quote another guitar hero, Eric Clapton, Hank is simply “unbeatable”. It was during the hot summer's afternoon of June 17th 1960 that The Shadows entered Abbey Road's Studio 2 to record 'Apache', the track that was to become the instrumental hit of the decade. It reached Number One, became an instant classic and saw the start of a string of over thirty hits for the group who pioneered the now familiar band line up of two guitars, bass and drums.
It was also the record that inspired a new generation of artists to take up the guitar, some of whom had this to say:
• Jimmy Page: “Hank had the first Fender Stratocaster that came into England and he made a great impression on me.”
• Brian May: “I, in common with thousands of others, started to learn Hank’s single note style. None of us ever quite got that great sound.”
• Eric Clapton: “When I was thrashing around on acoustic guitar there was someone who had already found and settled on a clear, pure sound; that was Hank Marvin. The result was a clear, sweet melody over a strong rock beat.”
HANK MARVIN’S professional journey has repeatedly taken him around the globe and seen him acknowledged as one of the world’s leading musical talents.
The Who’s Pete Townshend:
“Hank is a great stylist and technician, with a wonderful gift for expression on the electric guitar.”
In all the years I have been a Shadows fan I have never once seen them play live. I have watched them on television, heard them on record and on the radio. They remain, to this day, a myth to me. Meeting Hank Marvin in John Stephen's clothes shop in Carnaby Street soon after the Who's first record was released, I was impressed by his caution when he praised it, saying,’ Good record, lad'. He spoke in a tone that implied it was good, not great, that the future might hold all kinds of shocks for me. I don't suppose he knew, any more than l did, that the Who would last nearly as long as, but not outlive, his own band. Whether we have ever made a record as good as Can't Explain, the song he praised, is doubtful, pop tends to produce early highs and later lows.
The last time I met him, apart from a fleeting chat at an awards ceremony, we played together on Paul McCartney's Rockestra sessions. He was cool and professional, I was cool and drunk.
Having been a dyed-in-the-wool Shadows fan since the early days, I was ecstatic to hear the news one day that the guys were going to release Don't Cry For Me Argentina. I could hardly wait to hear Bruce's tender treatment of my poignant lyrics blending sweetly with Hank's soaring harmonies. My hasty enthusiasm was temporarily dampened when I realised that it was an instrumental treatment but it proved to be yet another Shads classic. I feel I've been incredibly lucky to see the group as a fan and as a writer.
My original interests and intentions in guitar playing were primarily centred on quality of tone, for instance: the way the instrument could be made to echo or simulate the human voice. At the time when I was still thrashing around on the acoustic guitar trying to sound like Leadbelly or Jesse Fuller, there was someone who had already achieved this particular goal. That was Hank B. Marvin of the Shadows. He had found, and settled on, a clean, pure sound, which disallowed any kind of hand-fisted playing. Only the lightest touch was permitted. The result was a marvellous mixture of clear, sweet melody over a strong rock beat (and what a great drum sound). On top of all this, he looked like Buddy Holly and played a real Stratocaster! Unbeatable.... My own playing has gone through many changes and a great deal of ups and downs over the years, and therefore it never ceased to amaze me that Hank managed to arrive exactly where he wanted, and then stayed there. As for the Shadows, all in all they always seemed to me to be the ideal rock band. They have lasted for more than four decades, their music lasts forever. Hats off to Hank and the boys...
Roger Taylor of Queen:
Around the year 1960 there existed in Britain a curious epidemic of about 39,000 instrumental beat groups. With a peculiar regularity they would tend to consist of four youths in identical shiny suits - one would play drums, the other three would wield salmon-pink Fender (or cheaper look-alike) guitars in choreographed poses, whilst executing a curious synchronised’ dance-walk'. The lead guitarist would often wear horn-rimmed spectacles and the electric bass player would tend to be a swept back bleached blond. The bass player would usually get the girls. All these groups would play almost exclusively covers of Shadows tunes. In many cases they would actually imagine themselves to be Hank, Bruce, Jet or Tony. These groups were The Shadows clones. I know - I was that group!
Brian May of Queen:
When I was a kid, there was no rock music as such. When Cliff Richard and 'The Shadows' made their first recordings, they brought the stirrings of the new American rock 'n' roll to England. Only a few months later, The Shadows' records had created a completely new style and standard, which literally thousands of budding guitarists all over the country attempted to emulate. For me, The Shadows were the heaviest, most metallic thing around. Hearing Man of Mystery, The Stranger, Apache, etc....I, in common with thousands of others, started to learn the single note lead style of Hank Marvin. None of us ever quite managed it. No one 'ever quite got that sound. It was special. I can remember trying to play whole lines on one new string! But that sound was elusive. I remember taping and learning to play Foot Tapper before it was in the shops, and astonishing my friends who were still struggling with Dance On. I remember Ventures songs and Spotnicks tunes which were tests of speed, but The Shadows made the stuff that people wanted to hear. Taste Class!
“Hank is 80% of the reason I started playing guitar”
In 2004 The Shadows, in response to public demand, reformed to present a “Farewell’ tour of the UK to say “goodbye and thanks” to the fans. This tour was a huge success and in the following year they toured the show throughout Europe, but declined the offers to take the show into other territories.
In 2009 Cliff Richard and The Shadows joined forces to re-record many of their great hits from the late ‘50s to the mid ‘60s this was combined with a hugely successful sell out arena tour of the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa. The DVD of the tour topped the DVD charts.
When recording his hit acoustic CD ‘Guitar Player’, Hank rekindled an interest in the music of Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephan Grapelli and their group ‘The Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France’. Then in company with guitarist Gary Taylor, and composer, pianist and accordionist extraordinaire, Nunzio Mondia, he started to explore this musical genre which is known as ‘Gypsy Jazz” or “Gypsy Swing”.
The result of this collaboration is the CD, ‘Django’s Castle’ their interpretation of some of Django and Stephan’s most famous compositions, including the title track.