Born in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex, England, on 17 February 1939, John Dudley Leyton started his professional career in the television series Biggles, playing the part of Ginger.
His recording career began when he signed a contract with Top Rank Records even though his voice was not the attraction; rather his smooth good looks and blonde hair.
Nevertheless, Leyton had the experienced backing of manager Robert Stigwood and, of course, the dedicated talents of Joe Meek – who was completely responsible for John Leyton’s success.
He produced four eerie, echo-filled singles which turned Leyton into a short-lived mega-chart artist.
Tell Laura I Love Her was Leyton’s debut single but he lost the battle of the hits when Ricky Valance took his version of the song to the top of the British charts during 1960. Girl On The Floor Above was Leyton’s next: that bombed also. A change of composer, though, brought a change of luck.
Geoff Goddard wrote Johnny Remember Me, a haunting song that captured the public’s imagination. The single swept to #1 in Britain in September 1961.
Much of the song’s success was attributed to the singer’s then-current television series, Harpers West One, where his role was one of a singer named Johnny St Cyr, who regularly sang Johnny Remember Me.
Another Goddard composition followed, Wild Wind, which was in a similar style to the chart-topper. It gave Leyton a #2 British hit in October 1961. His last hit of the year, Son This Is She, reached the Top 20 and marked his first release on the HMV label.
During 1962 Leyton enjoyed two Top 40 hits – Lone Rider and Down The River Nile – and one Top 20 entrant, Lonely City. By 1963 he could manage only one Top 30 disc, Cupboard Love, while I’ll Cut Your Tail Off struggled into the Top 50, and – upon re-entry – into the Top 40.
Leyton’s recording career was sliding, and, in 1964, he issued his last chart single, Make Love To Me, which peaked at #49 in the British chart.
All was not lost, though, because singing had been a sideline since 1963 when he decided to move into film work.
To this end, he appeared in The Great Escape (1963) with Steve McQueen among the star-studded cast, and in 1965 starred in another war epic, Von Ryan’s Express with Frank Sinatra. Three years later he had a role in Krakatoa, followed by Schizo in 1977.
It took ten years before John Leyton returned to the studio to record an eponymous album, produced by Kenny Young.
Since that time, his name has been kept alive via compilation albums until the man behind the name took to the stage once more to perform on nostalgia package tours. His 1996 tour was a UK-wide trek in the company of Marty Wilde and Eden Kane.