John Askew was born on 8 December 1936 in Liverpool. After leaving school he performed at local clubs with friend Bobby Crawford, singing Everly Brothers songs, before he began to enter talent competitions as a solo singer, under the stage name George Baker, and eventually Ricky Damone.
Askew eventually moved to London, where he finally won a talent competition (at the Locarno Ballroom in Streatham) and was subsequently auditioned by Larry Parnes, who won him a recording contract with Philips and gave him the stage name Johnny Gentle.
Gentle released two singles in 1959 – Wendy and Milk From The Coconut – neither of which charted. In May 1960, Parnes promoted a show at Liverpool Stadium, starring Gene Vincent supported by local groups Cass and the Cassanovas, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Parnes thought it would be a good idea to also use Liverpool groups as backing bands for his own artists, including Billy Fury, and held auditions on 10 May 1960 which resulted in The Silver Beetles (at the time comprising John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Tommy Moore) being selected to back Gentle on a short Scottish tour.
After their return to Liverpool, Gentle sang onstage with the group at one of their performances, but by the time he next needed a band to tour with, they were unavailable as they had travelled to Hamburg.
Gentle released three further singles on the Philips label – Darlin’ Won’t You Wait, After My Laughter Came Tears (both 1960) and Darlin’ (1961). He also made several appearances on TV and radio shows.
Changing his stage name again, to Darren Young, he released I’ve Just Fallen For Someone on Parlophone in 1962, again without success. By 1964, he had joined The Viscounts.
He later moved to Jersey, where he worked as a joiner. He now lives in Kent.