Vince Hill’s ‘Legacy’

Local music legend, Vince Hill is marking his 55 years since his first solo record by releasing a new album, Legacy.  The 24 track CD includes his number one million selling single Edelweiss, greatest hits including Take Me to Your Heart Again and Look Around alongside highlights from other rare A&B side singles and original studio albums – 11 of the tracks have never been on CD before.

Vince said, “The album is dedicated to my late darling wife Annie who was desperately ill when we worked on this album together but she wanted it for me as a last hurrah.  I wish she was here to share it with me.”

Vince was born in Coventry in 1934 and started his singing career at the tender age of just fifteen after winning a talent contest at The Prospect pub in Margate where he sang Because of You.  He said, “I knew I could sing after my Headmaster asked me to sing in front of the school.  On the appointed day though I stayed away from school!  On the night of the talent contest, I had a couple of lagers for Dutch courage and the pub was full of servicemen.  As I started to sing I began to notice the audience getting quieter and quieter and afterwards people were saying I should get singing lessons.”  Vince afterwards worked at the pub washing glasses and singing in there as well as singing at working men’s clubs.

Whilst working as a coal miner, he read an advert in the Melody Maker which said The Band of the Royal Corps Of Signals needed a vocalist. He travelled to Catterick camp in Yorkshire for the audition and got the job. Vince commented, “My mother wrote the audition letter and at the audition after only eight bars they stopped me and said when can you start?” This offered Vince a wonderful way to do his National Service as well as valuable experience performing all around the world. He added “I had a wonderful time in the band. It was like going to music college for 2 years. It was a huge learning curve with an excellent calibre of musicians.  I will be forever thankful to the band.  They turned me around.”

Vince and Annie’s Wedding

After leaving the Royal Corps of Signals, Vince started singing with some of the popular groups of the time including The Four Others and the hugely popular Raindrops who established themselves with regular radio and television appearances.

Vince’s wife Annie was very instrumental in his solo career.  They met in 1957 when Annie was working in his agent’s office and they married in 1959.  Vince explained, “Annie kept telling me to leave the Raindrops and go solo.  She got fed up of my excuses so booked the Astor club in London without telling me and then said get your act together!”

In May 1962 Piccadilly Records released Vince’s début single The Rivers Run Dry — this became Vince’s first UK chart hit and led to further singles and appearances on top TV and radio shows like Parade Of The Pops and Stars and Garters. This exposure led him to signing a major record deal with EMI/Columbia label and the release of 10 acclaimed studio albums.

The new Legacy album came about after Ted Carfrae contacted Vince by email.  Vince explained, “Ted enquired about my Ivor Novello album (released in 1990 after Vince starred in the stage musical My Dearest Ivor).  I was curious and spoke to him.  I asked him why as the album was an acquired taste.  He replied by saying you’ve got lots of records recorded but you’re not out there enough.  I want to put that right.  You’re not available to download.  He then introduced me to Stephen Munns who coordinated an unprecedented music release campaign involving the record labels which owned my life’s work of music. This resulted in three new CDs and over 300 of my recordings being re-issued worldwide on digital download. Through this we realised that it was 55 years since I started and that during the 1960s there was a period when I was even recording more stuff than The Beatles!”

Vince has worked all around the world with some amazing people. “My favourite venues have been the Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House (which I nearly didn’t make as a storm broke out and I was in Heron Island off the coast of Australia) and the one person I’d still like to work with his Tony Bennett. Tony is still my biggest influence and if he can still do it at 90, I’m sure I can make a comeback at 83!”

Vince and Annie had one son, Athol who was born in 1971, they were devastated when he died suddenly in 2014 at the young age of 43. Vince said Athol was an incredibly talented drummer and a wonderful person. Vince has two grandchildren who are very precious to him.  His granddaughter recently had the leading lady part in the musical Sweeny Todd at her school Leighton Park. Vince said, “This is no school play it was wonderfully acted by all with a 30 piece orchestra.”

What advice would he give to youngsters starting out?  Vince replied, “My advice for others would be go for everything you want to, don’t expect anything and you’ll be pleased when you get something.”

What is Vince’s legacy? Vince would love to be remembered for the singer who made people to listen to the lyrics.  He said, “I love lyrics and I say to people the song wouldn’t be same without the lyrics.”

The Legacy Album can be ordered via Vince’s website and His Greatest Love Songs is available from Amazon and HMV.

Photo: Mike Prior