Along with Steve Winwood, R&B veteran Georgie Fame remains one of the finest Hammond B3 organ players ever to have emerged from the British Isles, punctuating a career running over half a century with milestone hits. He was born today in 1943.
R& B organist Clive Powell aka Georgie Fame was born in Leigh, Lancashire. Given his stage name by the impressario Larry Parnes, Clive had played piano in local pubs and small gigs with The Dominoes while serving his apprenticeship in a cotton mill.
A summer season playing keyboards and singing at a holiday camp in1959 led to Powell relocating to London, but he initially struggled to make any impact on the capital’s music scene. That changed however after meeting Parnes, and the newly-christened Fame backed a host of muscians on live dates, including Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
The link-up with Fury saw Georgie link up with a trio of musicians who continued to play together post-tour and would become the house band at the Flamingo Club in London’s Soho by early 1962. Known as Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, the ensemble gained a reputation as a fearsome live attraction and were renowned for playing all-night gigs.
The following year brought “Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo” - a live album that showcased Fame & Co’s energetic sets, featuring a rattlin’ rendition of “Night Train” plus covers by the likes of Mose Allison and Smokey Robinson. Single success then arrived in early 1965 when the infectious “Yeh Yeh” topped the charts in the UK.
Between then and 1967, Fame enjoyed further number ones with tracks including “Getaway” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde”, plus popular releases such as “Sunny”. He also ventured in the world of jazz, recording “Sound Venture” with the Harry South Big Band and touring with the Count Basie Orchestra.
Further commercial success followed via a link-up with former Animals keyboardist Alan Price and the pair had a TV series (“The Price of Fame”) and singles including, “Rosetta”. Subsequent collaborations with the likes of Van Morrison and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings have maintained Fame’s profile, but he continues to record and perform with his own band – latterly featuring his sons Tristan and James.
2009 saw the release of Fame’s most recent studio album “Tone Wheels A Turnin’” (a reference to the solid state mechanism that gives a B3 its distinctive wheeze). Ably assisted by the so-called Last Blue Flames (including trumpeter Guy Barker and sax man Alan Skidmore), the emphasis is on up-beat, good-time R&B.
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And here’s some footage of Mr Fame in action: