Sir Cliff Richard is a self-made man in every sense of the word. A new biography, Cliff: The True Story Of Sir Cliff Richard, details his life from a struggling postwar kid in post-war London to the Queen’s favorite uncle and one of Britain’s most successful recording artists. Cliff has sold 250 million records worldwide as one of the original pop stars who achieved star status singing mostly live with his band The Shadows. He is one of only three performers to have been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with a song that was not released as a single. He is also the only person ever to achieve Double Platinum status for an album, twice in different decades (2000 and 2010). His singles regularly chart even now in 2018. Let’s take an exclusive look at how Sir Cliff went from being born Harry Graham Paige in Lucknow, India to becoming Britain’s most successful male artist in recent history...
Growing up as a “brown kid” in London
When Cliff was growing up, London was still recovering from the effects of the war, food rationing was in place and most people had to make do with very little. Cliff was born in Lucknow, India, in 1940, but moved back to London with his mother when he was two years old. His father had been killed during the war. As a “brown kid”, Cliff was made to feel different from his white peers, who generally didn’t want to play with him. This led to a shy and introverted childhood, during which he dreamed of one day becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star.
Becoming a rock star was always his dream
Cliff’s first musical experience was playing ukulele at school, where he formed a skiffle band. In his teens, he formed his first rock ‘n’ roll band, The Drifters, and then went on to form another band called The Cliff Richard Trio.
In his early 20s, Cliff auditioned for a place in Ted Heath’s orchestra. He was turned down as he was deemed not good enough to play saxophone in the band. Cliff never forgot this insult and vowed to show them. Although he was offered a place in the band a few years later, Cliff declined as he had already begun to pursue a solo career. Cliff’s dream was to become a successful solo artist, which he achieved when his first single, Move It, reached number two on the charts.
His first band, The Drifters
The Drifters was Cliff’s first band. They were formed at the Shenley Church of England Youth Club in Northwood, Hertfordshire, in 1955. Cliff was 15 years old at the time. He played ukulele, banjo, and guitar, and also sang. Cliff formed The Drifters as a skiffle group as he had already listened to American artists like Bill Haley and the Comets. They copied their music and played American-inspired rock ‘n’ roll. In the 1950s, Britain was still recovering from the effects of World War II and had not yet recovered fully. Just like in the United States, there were very few venues in the UK that would allow the band to perform their music.
The Shadows and the beginning of his solo career
After The Drifters broke up in 1957, Cliff Richard formed his next band called The Cliff Richard Trio. He soon met Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, who joined his band as guitarists. Later that year, Cliff joined The Shadows as the lead singer.
The Shadows were already one of the most popular bands in the UK. Cliff’s first single with the group was Lucky Me, which was released in 1958. He began to perform with the band at venues across the UK. The Shadows have been voted the UK’s most successful chart act of all time. In 1960, Cliff made his first studio album, Cliff Richard and the Shadows. It became the first album ever to be awarded gold status in the UK.
1964: The year that changed everything
1964 was the year that changed everything for Cliff. Cliff had just begun to come into his own as a solo artist and the public was starting to take notice. His first three albums were all number one and he was the most popular artist in Britain. The public loved Cliff’s music and his performances were legendary. He performed most of his concerts with the Shadows and occasionally with other bands.
Cliff Richard is one of the rare artists whose music has remained popular for decades. His songs are often played on the radio throughout the year and his concerts are always sold out.
Cliff was a pioneer in the rock ‘n’ roll scene, and his music still inspires artists who are making music today. He has received many awards, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2002, the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol in 2002. A few years ago, Cliff was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with a song that was not released as a single. This has only happened to three other artists.