The Shadows were formed from members of late 1950s UK skiffle groups: the Newcastle-based Railroaders (and also the Five Chesternuts on Columbia Records) who supplied Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, both inspired by US pop music; and the Vipers Skiffle Group (on Parlophone Records) who supplied Jet Harris and Tony Meehan from London, both inspired by UK jazz–skiffle music. The Shadows, although originally the backing band for Richard, were later an instrumental combo, following their success with the Jerry Lordan composition, "Apache".
The Shadows disbanded in 1968 but Marvin and Welch formed a vocal–guitar trio with John Farrar, as Marvin, Welch & Farrar. Because of low sales and fans demanding Shadows numbers at gigs, the Shadows reformed in 1973 with Bennett as a full member and various extra musicians. The group disbanded in 1990 but reformed in 2004–05 for a UK and continental European tour and again during 2009–10 to tour and release an album with a 50th anniversary reunion with Richard.
Formed as a backing band for Cliff Richard under the name the Drifters, the original members were founder Ken Pavey (born 1932), Terry Smart on drums (1942), Norman Mitham on guitar (1941), Ian Samwell on guitar and Harry Webb (before he became Cliff Richard) on guitar and vocals. They had no bass player. Samwell wrote the first hit, "Move It", often mistakenly attributed to Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Initially, Norrie Paramor wanted to record using only studio musicians but after persuasion he allowed Smart and Samwell to play as well. Two session players, guitarist Ernie Shear and bassist Frank Clark, played on the "Move It"/"Schoolboy Crush" single on Paramor's insistence to ensure a strong sound. In his memoirs Welch regrets that he and Marvin could not be at the start of making history with "Move It".
The Drifters signed for Jack Good's Oh Boy! television series. Paramor of EMI signed Richard, and asked Johnny Foster to recruit a better guitarist. Foster went to Soho's 2i's coffee bar, known for musical talent performing there, particularly in skiffle, in search of guitarist Tony Sheridan. Sheridan was not there but Foster's attention was caught by another musician, who played guitar well and had Buddy Holly-style glasses.
In spring the same year, the US Drifters threatened legal action after the release and immediate withdrawal of "Feelin Fine" in the US. The second single, "Jet Black", was released in the US as the Four Jets to avoid further legal aggravation but a new band name was urgently needed. The name the Shadows was invented by Harris (unaware of Bobby Vee's backing group) while he and Marvin were at the Six Bells pub in Ruislip in July 1959. From The Story of the Shadows:
With a combination of the American situation, Cliff Richard's runaway success (Living Doll had by now sold over a million copies in Britain alone) and a bit of nudging from Norrie Paramor, we set about finding a permanent name, which arrived out of the blue one summer's day in July 1959 (maybe the 19th). When Hank Marvin and Jet Harris took off on their scooters up to the Six Bells pub at Ruislip. Jet hit upon a name straight away. 'What about the Shadows?' The lad was a genius! So we became the Shadows for the first time on Cliff's sixth single "Travellin' Light".
In 1960, "Apache", an instrumental by Jerry Lordan, topped the charts for five weeks. Further hits followed, notably "Wonderful Land", another Lordan composition with orchestral backing, at the top of the charts for eight weeks. "Kon Tiki" six months earlier had also reached number one. The Shadows played on more chart-toppers as Richard's band. This group, referred to subsequently as "the Original Shadows", had seven hits.
In October 1961 Meehan left to be a producer at Decca records. He was replaced by Brian Bennett. In April 1962 Harris was replaced by Brian Locking, also known as 'Licorice'. Bennett and Locking were friends from the 2I's who had been in Marty Wilde's backing group, the Wildcats, who recorded instrumentals as the Krew Kats. This Shadows line-up also produced seven hits, two of which, "Dance On!" and "Foot Tapper" topped the charts. The Marvin-Welch-Bennett-Locking line-up lasted 18 months. In October 1963 Locking left to spend more time as a Jehovah's Witness. See The Shadows discography.
Meanwhile, Harris and Meehan teamed up at Decca as an eponymous duo to record another Lordan instrumental, "Diamonds". It rose to UK no. 1 in January 1963. Two further hits, "Scarlett O'Hara" (also by Lordan) and "Applejack", followed in the same year. On the Lordan tunes, Harris played lead using a six-stringed Fender Bass VI. During 1963 the ex-Shadows' were competing with their former bandmates.
The Shadows had met John Rostill on tour with other bands and had been impressed by his playing, so they invited him to take over. This final and longest-lasting line-up was the most innovative as they tried different guitars and developed a wider range of styles and higher musicianship. They produced albums but the chart positions of singles began to ease. The line-up had ten hits but the most successful, "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt", was also the first of those ten. See the Shadows discography. During the 1960s the group appeared with Richard in The Young Ones, Summer Holiday, Wonderful Life, Finders Keepers and as marionettes in the Gerry Anderson film Thunderbirds Are GO. They starred in a short B-film called Rhythm 'n Greens which became the basis of a music book and an EP. They appeared in pantomime. Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp was in 1964 at the London Palladium with Arthur Askey as Widow Twankey, Richard as Aladdin, and the Shadows as Wishee, Washee, Noshee and Poshee. Cinderella at the Palladium in 1966 featured Richard as Buttons and the Shadows as the Broker's Men. The film and stage roles allowed the group to develop as songwriters. They wrote only a few songs for the earliest film, 1961's The Young Ones, but by Finders Keepers in 1966 almost the entire soundtrack was credited to Marvin-Welch-Bennett-Rostill. In 1967 the Shadows used Olivia Newton-John on the track "The Day I Met Marie" on their album From Hank Bruce Brian and John (SX6199/SCX6199).
The group began 1970 by appearing on the BBC's review of the '60s music scene, Pop Go The Sixties, performing "Apache" and backing Richard on "Bachelor Boy", broadcast across Europe and BBC1, on 31 December 1969. This was followed by Marvin and a reconstituted Shadows becoming resident guests on Richard's debut TV series for the BBC, It's Cliff Richard!
The group were chosen by BBC Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton to perform the Song for Europe in the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest. The Shadows recorded six options, seen each week on a weekly television show It's Lulu, on BBC1 and hosted by Lulu, a former Eurovision winner. The group taped all six performances in the TV studio before the series itself began, with the video cut into the weekly show. For the presentation of the songs on week seven and the announcement of the result on week eight, the pre-recorded performances were run again.
Two of the songs ("No, No Nina" and "This House Runs on Sunshine") were co-written by members of the group. The public voted for "Let Me Be the One", composed by Paul Curtis, to go to the Eurovision final in Stockholm. There, the group came second to the Dutch entry, Teach-In's "Ding-A-Dong". Having long stepped out of Richard's shadow, this was a rare excursion into lyrics for a band known for instrumentals (however they had cut vocal tracks on most albums, plus some singles 'B' sides, and had two charting vocal singles in the '60s). Welch sang lead and let the world know when, forgetting a couple of words, he turned to colleagues and said "I knew it" in range of his microphone. Author and historian John Kennedy O'Connor notes in The Eurovision Song Contest – The Official History that they were not a popular choice to represent the UK and the viewers' postal vote was the lowest in 'Song For Europe' history.
In 1976 EMI released a compilation album from 1962 to 1970: Rarities with sleeve notes by John Friesen. The first half of the album was by the Shadows and the second was from Marvin's solo career.
Following the rare vocal single "It'll Be Me, Babe" written and sung by Marvin & Farrar. Farrar left the band that year, amicably moving to the USA to produce Olivia Newton-John. Among her hits, Farrar wrote "You're the One That I Want" (covered by the Shadows in 1979) for the film 'Grease'.
The packaging of hits in Twenty Golden Greats by EMI in 1977 prompted the group to reform again for a tour featuring Francis Monkman from Sky on keyboards, leading to a number one album. Francis left after that tour and the line-up settled as Marvin, Welch and Bennett, supplemented on records and gigs by Cliff Hall (keyboards) and Alan Jones (bass). It was this line-up that reunited with Cliff Richard for two concerts at the London Palladium in March 1978. Highlights of the concert, including four solo Shadows tracks, were released the following year on the top ten charting album Thank You Very Much.
In 1979 their version of "Cavatina" became a hit and they recorded ten more tracks with Alan Jones on bass for String of Hits on EMI which topped the album charts causing EMI to moot a follow-up album akin to a 'String of Hits-volume 2' with 13 old (including a Marvin solo track), and one unreleased tracks from albums released in 1967, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1977 of cover versions of hit singles eventually released as Another String of Hot Hits in 1980.
In December 2004 the Shadows were each appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) but Marvin declined.
The group reformed in 2004 for a farewell tour, and recorded "Life Story" (written by Lordan) to accompany a hits package of the same name which featured '80s re-recordings of all their 1960s and 1970s hits. This opportunity to see Marvin, Welch and Bennett, joined on keyboards by Cliff Hall and on bass by Mark Griffiths, was successful enough that they extended the tour to continental Europe in 2005. The line-up was almost the same, but Warren Bennett, son of Brian, came in on keyboards instead of Hall.
Marvin, Welch and Bennett appeared together as special guests at Marty Wilde's 50th anniversary concert at the London Palladium on 27 May 2007, performing "Move It" with Wilde on vocals. The concert also featured former Shadows Jet Harris and Brian Locking.
On 11 December 2008, Richard and the Shadows performed at the Royal Variety Performance at the same time announcing their forthcoming 50th anniversary tour. The tour began in September 2009 with 36 shows throughout the UK and continental Europe, extending to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 2010. A new album Reunited featuring mostly rerecorded versions of their own hits reached number four in the UK album chart in 2009. "Singing the Blues", the first Cliff Richard and the Shadows single for 40 years, reached number 40 in the UK singles chart, and is Richard's most recent top 40 hit.
The Final Tour was put on Blu-ray format by Eagle Records in 2010.
Welch, Bennett, Mark Griffiths and Warren Bennett performed two Shadows hits ("Apache" and "Wonderful Land") at Albert Lee's 70th birthday concerts at Cadagon Hall, London, on 1 and 2 March 2014, Lee playing with them on lead guitar.
The Shadows recorded an interpretation of John Barry's The Appointment for the 2015 Brian Bennett album "Shadowing John Barry".
The Shadows are difficult to categorise because of their stylistic range, which includes pop, rock, surf rock and ballads with a jazz influence. Most tunes are instrumental rock, with a few vocal numbers. Their rhythmic style is primarily on the beat, with little syncopation. They said in 1992 that "Apache" set the tone with its surf guitar sound.
The Shadows and their management did not exploit commercial opportunities such as self-promotion via artwork. They allowed Vox to produce metallic badges in a script typeface, with the group name on the front bottom right corner of all three Vox cabinets sometime during the early 1960s. This badge became the "default" band logo but was never commercially exploited by the group.
The Shadows never used the logo on the front of the bass drum, preferring to allow their two Meehan and Bennett to use their names instead. Belatedly, the logo was used once on the front artwork of the 1975 original studio album, Specs Appeal. As of 2009, the logo still remains untrademarked and uncopyrighted.
In lieu of a proper band logo, four silhouettes of the original line up, in ascending order of height, were used as a pseudo-logo on concert programme covers and artwork projects such as sheet music, EP and album covers. From left to right after the drum-kit were Meehan, Harris, Marvin, Bruce Welch. The original artwork group silhouette was modified each time a member changed. The last version of the Shadows group-silhouette featured Brian Bennett and Rostill in the late 1960s. During the 1970s EMI dropped the silhouettes preferring to use three guitar necks or colour photos of the Shadows. During the later 1980s, Polydor used a red Fender Stratocaster (with white scratch plate) as a symbol.
In 1958 Bruce Welch went to a concert as part of the 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis tour of the UK of which he said:
On the show was this black American band called the Treniers. Hank Marvin and I were at the back, and we were really impressed at the way the saxophone players moved in unison, taken, I suppose, from the Glenn Miller days. It looked fantastic and we thought, "We must do something like that because it looks so interesting from the front."
The Shadows developed sequences using their bodies and guitars in tempo with the music, such as the 'walk'. It has been copied by other groups as part of their Top of the Pops performances, notably Mud, the Rubettes, Showaddywaddy and Yellow Dog. The walk is three steps within a 60-60-60-degree triangle with a reverse right-heel back-kick with optional can-can finale. This was varied throughout a gig during certain numbers, for example, "FBI".
During the 1980s, rather than play in a static posture, during an instrumental number, or using the walk, their live act was refined to include another movement. This featured Marvin, Welch and the bassist moving their guitars in time, or in sequence, with note or chord changes. Occasionally, during other instrumentals, this guitar presentation is re-engineered with Marvin and Welch acting out of sequence or alternating.
During the late 1950s in the UK many pop stars were expected to change to a stage name, as in the cases of Billy Fury and Adam Faith. Several members of the original Cliff Richard and the Shadows changed: Harry Webb became Cliff Richard, Brian Rankin became Hank B. Marvin, Terrence Harris became Jet Harris and Bruce Cripps became Bruce Welch. Subsequently the names "Cliff Richard" and "Hank Brian Marvin" were confirmed by deed poll.
The Shadows have been cited as a major influence on some American guitarists but also many British, Australian, Canadian and continental European guitarists, including Brian May, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore, David Gilmour and Tony Iommi A tribute album, Twang! A Tribute to Hank Marvin & the Shadows (Capitol 33928), in October 1996 featured Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Peter Green, Randy Bachman, Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton and others playing Shadows hits.
The Shadows influenced 1960s Yugoslav beat bands like Bijele Strijele, Crni Biseri, Crveni Koralji, Elipse, Iskre, Roboti, Siluete, Tomi Sovilj i Njegove Siluete and Zlatni Dečaci, all of whom were the pioneers of the Yugoslav rock scene. In the words of Crni Biseri member Vladimir Janković "Jet" (who got his nickname after Harris), "even the Beatles weren't as popular in Belgrade as the Shadows were". The second episode of Rockovnik, a Serbian 2011 documentary series about the Yugoslav rock scene, deals with the appearance of the Shadows and the influence they had on Yugoslav bands.Hank Marvin – lead guitar (1958–1970, 1973–1990, 2004–2015)
Bruce Welch – rhythm guitar (1958–1968, 1973–1990, 2004–2015)
Brian Bennett – drums (1961–1970, 1973–1990, 2004–2015)
Mark Griffiths – bass (1989–1990, 2004–2015)
Warren Bennett – keyboards, percussion, harmonica, guitar (2004–2015)
Jet Harris - bass (1959–1962); died 2011
Tony Meehan - drums (1959–1961); died 2005
Brian Locking - bass (1962–1963)
John Rostill - bass (1963–1970); died 1973
Alan Hawkshaw - keyboards (1969–1970)
John Farrar - guitar (1973–1977)
Alan Tarney - bass (1973-1977)
Cliff Hall - keyboards (1977–1990; 2004–2005)
Alan Jones - bass (1977–1989)