Danish heavy metal vocalist King Diamond cites Byron as his favorite vocalist of all time.
From mid-60s to early 70s David Byron did session work for a company called Avenue Recordings, singing lead and backing vocals (occasionally along with Mick Box on guitar and Paul Newton on bass). These were cover versions of Top 20 hits and were released on EPs & LPs.
His first venture into professional music was with an Epping-based semi-pro band called The Stalkers who also featured guitarist Mick Box. Byron and Box worked well together and teamed up to form the band Spice which also featured Paul Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums. The band gigged extensively locally under the management of Paul Newton's father and they secured a recording deal with United Artists who issued the bands one and only single "What About The Music/In Love" (UP 2246), copies of which now fetch around $50 to $100 on the collectors market.
He was the lead vocalist for Spice (1967–1969). Although Spice regularly played venues like the Marquee it wasn't until they met up with manager Gerry Bron that things began to happen. Deciding that the Spice sound would require keyboards; they recruited keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Ken Hensley, who was Paul Newton's bandmate in The Gods. The band rehearsed and played diligently and during this time Bron redubbed the band Uriah Heep from the Charles Dickens classic David Copperfield. Shortly afterward the band's career really took off, first in Germany, Britain and finally the States. In 1971 David also appeared on two LPs by John Schroeder.
He became most famous as the original singer of the English rock band Uriah Heep between 1969 and 1976. David Byron sang on ten Uriah Heep albums: Their first "Very 'eavy Very 'Umble" (originally slated as a Spice release which becomes apparent after listening to "The Lansdowne Tapes",) "Salisbury", "Look at Yourself", "Demons And Wizards", "The Magician's Birthday", "Live", "Sweet Freedom", "Wonderworld", "Return To Fantasy", and "High And Mighty". During these six years David Byron gained a reputation with his operatic vocals and harmonies as one of the best rock vocalists and frontmen in the world. In 1975 Byron released his first solo album, "Take No Prisoners" (Bronze Records ILPS 9824) which also featured fellow Heep members Mick Box, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake. But unfortunately for Byron, he'd also gained a reputation for hard drinking which eventually led to him being sacked from Uriah Heep at the end of a Spanish tour in July 1976. Ken Hensley said at that time, "David was one of those classic people who couldn't face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle". Ahead of his dismissal, Uriah Heep had secured a replacement singer. Their manager at the time, Gerry Bron, said Byron had been released in "the best interest of the group". Bron explained that Byron and the other Heep members had been in disagreement for some time over fundamental issues of group policy, and that the differences had been finally brought to a head following the band's recent tour of Britain and Europe. "It was felt by the rest of the group that they could no longer reconcile David's attitude with their own", commented Bron.
Heep started rehearsals almost immediately with their new vocalist, with a view to fulfilling existing commitments in America in the late summer, and in Yugoslavia and Australia in the autumn.
Byron recorded three solo albums: "Take No Prisoners" in 1975, "Baby Faced Killer" in 1978, and "That Was Only Yesterday". The latter was recorded in 1984, one year before his death.
Determined to get his career going again Byron teamed up with former Colosseum / Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and former Wings drummer Geoff Britton to form Rough Diamond. They recorded one self-titled LP for Island Records (ILPS 9490) in March 1977. Unfortunately, the album sold poorly and Byron quit.
Next, Byron got together with lauded guitarist Robin George and formed The Byron Band. They were signed to Creole Records and debuted with the single "Every Inch of the Way/Routine" (CR 8). This was followed by the single "Never Say Die/ Tired Eyes" (CR 12), before the release of the 1981 album On the Rocks (CRX 2). However, as with his previous band Rough Diamond, neither critical nor commercial acclaim was forthcoming.
Lost and Found is a 2-Disc album that includes demos and live recordings by the Byron Band, which spans two years from 1980–1982. It also includes a Robin George solo track.
David interviewed by Dutch Magazine 'Muziek Express', October 1973
"I started singing 22 years ago at the age of 5. My mother was singing in a Jazz band, my whole family was into music. Everybody played a instrument or was tap dancing. Around that time I tried to get famous by a children's TV show. My first band had no name, did no gigs and lasted exactly 2 weeks. When I was 16 a local band offered me a job. I did one gig with them and joined the band of Mick Box, which then was called The Stalkers. They had fired their vocalist and at the audition I had to sing Johnny B. Goode. I was hired right away."
Interviewed by Dutch Magazine 'Muziek Parade', October 1976.
"The fact that we would produce ourselves was because of bad sales of 'Return to Fantasy' in the USA. With 'High & Mighty' we wanted to go in a new direction. The problem was we used just one source. And we had just little time to be in the studio because of the extensive touring. We decided to put all Ken's songs on the album, and hoped it worked out the right way. I think though we should have used everyone's songwriting. That's why 'High & Mighty' is a bummer to me. For example, Mick Box played just a few parts on the album."
An excerpt of a private letter Dave wrote to a Mr. Trosley around the time he started up the Byron Band (1981): "I don't really know much about Lawton and Sloman, cause when I got out of Heep I wanted to remember the good parts and f**k the rest. Everybody over the years has got fired or whatever only Mick is left and even I don't know whether he is going to try again. I'm very good friends with all of them now but it took a while."
Despite his vocal range (paired with a sense of dynamics), and a charismatic stage presence, Byron was dismissed from Uriah Heep in 1976, at the demand of keyboardist Ken Hensley (the band's primary songwriter), who gave the ultimatum "it's him or me" to band manager Gerry Bron, citing Byron's increasingly erratic behaviour due to alcohol abuse. Mick Box and Trevor Bolder, of Uriah Heep, invited Byron to re-join the band in 1981, after Ken Hensley left, but Byron refused.
Byron died of alcohol related complications, including liver disease and seizures, at his home in Berkshire on 28 February 1985. He was 38 years old.
On BBC Radio's The Friday Rock Show Tommy Vance played "July Morning" in tribute.
On the "Equator" tour, around the time of Byron's passing, Uriah Heep would dedicate "The Wizard" to him.Take No Prisoners – 1975
Baby Faced Killer – 1978
That Was Only Yesterday - The Last EP – Recorded 1984, released 2008
On the Rocks – 1981
Lost and Found – Recorded 1980–82, released 2003
Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble – 1970
Salisbury – 1971
Look at Yourself – 1971
Demons and Wizards – 1972 US:Gold
The Magician's Birthday – 1972 US:Gold
Uriah Heep Live – 1973 UK:Silver US:Gold
Sweet Freedom – 1973 UK:Silver US:Gold
Wonderworld – 1974 UK:Silver
Return to Fantasy – 1975 UK:Silver
High and Mighty – 1976
Live at Shepperton '74 – Recorded 1974, released 1986
The Lansdowne Tapes – Recorded 1969–71, released 1993
Rough Diamond – 1977