John Dudley Leyton (born 17 February 1936) is an English actor and singer. As a singer he is best known for his hit song "Johnny Remember Me" (written by Geoff Goddard and produced by Joe Meek), which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in August 1961 despite being banned by the BBC for its death references. His follow-up single, "Wild Wind", reached number two in the charts.
Leyton in Von Ryan's Express, 1965
John Dudley Leyton
17 February 1936
|Years active||c. 1959—present|
|Known for||Pvt. Wilkes in Guns at Batasi|
Flight Lt. William Dickes "The Tunneler" in "The Great Escape"
|Relatives||Hedley Leyton (brother)|
Alongside singing, Leyton's acting career saw him appearing in television and films throughout the 1960s. His films included The Great Escape, Guns at Batasi, Von Ryan's Express and Krakatoa, East of Java. In 2009 he also had a small part in the film Telstar, a biopic based on Joe Meek's life in which Leyton himself was portrayed by Callum Dixon.
Leyton went to Highgate School and after completing his national service, he studied drama, paying his way through drama school with bit-part roles in films and on television. His first major acting role was his portrayal of Ginger in a 1960 Granada TV adaptation of Biggles, which earned him a large following of young female fans and led to the formation of a John Leyton fan club.
Following the success of Biggles, Leyton was persuaded by his manager, Robert Stigwood, to audition as a singer for record producer Joe Meek, and subsequently recorded a cover version of "Tell Laura I Love Her", which was released on the Top Rank label. In 1961 though, the Top Rank label was taken over by EMI who then issued Leyton's records on their HMV label. EMI had already released Ricky Valance's version of the same song. Leyton's recording was withdrawn from sale, whilst Valance's version reached number one in the UK chart.
A second single, "The Girl on the Floor Above", was released on the HMV label, but was not a success. His first big hit, "Johnny Remember Me", coincided with his appearance as an actor in the popular ATV television series Harpers West One, in which he played a singer named Johnny Saint Cyr. Leyton performed "Johnny Remember Me" during the show (backed by the Outlaws), and the single subsequently charted at Number 1. His next single, "Wild Wind", reached number two in the UK Singles Chart, and later singles also achieved lower chart positions.
On 15 April 1962, Leyton performed at the NME Poll-Winners Concert at London's Wembley Pool. But in 1963, Meek and Goddard's association with Leyton ended; that circumstance, combined with the British beat boom, cast Leyton adrift immediately, although he found a lot of acting work in television and film to keep him busy. Despite trying to give Leyton's music more of a 'group' sound by giving him a backing group, The LeRoys, his chart career faded out by the beginning of 1964. In that same year, according to the music journalist Bob Stanley, 'Leyton headlined a tour with up and coming support act the Rolling Stones. Very quickly, it became apparent that the Stones were more popular than the headline act and Leyton, with great dignity, abandoned his pop career on the spot to concentrate on acting.'
Heyday as an actor
Leyton was a familiar face in film and television during the 1960s. He played himself in the 1962 Dick Lester film It's Trad, Dad!, performing his latest single "Lonely City" in a radio studio. In The Great Escape (1963) he played tunnel designer Willie Dickes, one of the only three characters who successfully make it to freedom. Leyton also cut a single with lyrics to Elmer Bernstein's theme to the film. He also appeared in Guns at Batasi in 1964; Every Day's a Holiday (aka Seaside Swingers in the United States) and Von Ryan's Express starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard in 1965. In Krakatoa, East of Java, in 1969 he played the designer of a diving bell.
He returned to Britain in the early 1970s and unsuccessfully attempted to re-launch his singing career, signing to the York record label in 1973. A single, "Dancing in the Graveyard c/w. Riversong (York SYK 551) and an album, John Leyton (York FYK 416) was released that year. A year later (1974) Leyton's cover version of the Kevin Johnson hit, "Rock 'n' Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)", York YR 210) was issued in the UK but without success. In the mid 1970s, Leyton starred in the ITV television series, The Nearly Man. Acting roles became fewer and farther between during the 1970s, and by the early 1980s, he was no longer active in show business.
In the 1990s, however, he began performing in the Solid Gold Rock'n'Roll Show, appearing with artists such as Marty Wilde and Joe Brown. The autumn 2004 tour featured Leyton, Showaddywaddy, Freddy Cannon and Craig Douglas. Leyton has also returned to acting, with a cameo appearance in the 2005 film, Colour Me Kubrick starring John Malkovich.
In May 2006, Leyton released "Hi Ho, Come On England", a re-working of Jeff Beck's "Hi Ho Silver Lining", to coincide with the World Cup in Germany. During the summer of 2007 he filmed a cameo appearance for the Nick Moran film, Telstar. Leyton also topped the bill at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, along with 1960s stars Jess Conrad and Craig Douglas at a concert named "'60s Icons".
Leyton continues to tour the UK and Scandinavia performing his hits (sometimes backed by the Rapiers) and can boast an internet following with his official website. In 2014, he continued to tour with his band, the Flames, featuring John James on guitar, Ray Royal on drums and Charlie Gardner on bass guitar and Jeff Jefferson on rhythm guitar.
Chart singles discography
|Label||UK Singles Chart|
|1961||"Johnny Remember Me"
|Top Rank||No. 2|
|1961||"Son This Is She"
|1962||"Down the River Nile"||HMV||No. 42|
|1963||"I'll Cut Your Tail Off"
|1964||"Make Love to Me" †
(Bill Norvas, Alan Copeland, Leon Rappolo, Paul Mares,
Ben Pollack, George Brunies, Mel Stitzel and Walter Melrose)
† - Billed as John Leyton and the LeRoys
- 1962 - John Leyton (Top Rank JKP3016) - "Wild Wind" / "You Took My Love for Granted" / "Johnny Remember Me" / "There Must Be"
- 1962 - The John Leyton Hit Parade (His Master's Voice 7EG8747) - "Lone Rider" / "Son This Is She" / "Lonely City" / "It Would Be Easy"
- 1964 - Beautiful Dreamer (His Master's Voice 7EG8843) - "Beautiful Dreamer" / "On Lovers Hill" / "I'll Cut Your Tail Off" / "Lovers Lane"
- 1964 - Tell Laura I Love Her (His Master's Voice 7EG8854) - "Tell Laura I Love Her" / "The Girl on the Floor Above" / "Johnny Remember Me" / "Wild Wind"
- 1977 - John Leyton (EMI 2699) - "Johnny Remember Me" / "Son This Is She" / "Wild Wind" / "Cupboard Love"
- 1961 - The Two Sides of John Leyton (His Master's Voice CLP497)
- 1963 - Always Yours (His Master's Voice CLP1664)
- 1973 - John Leyton (York Records FYK416)
- 1997 - John Leyton Is Back
- Danger Within (1959) - Prisoner (uncredited)
- I'm All Right Jack (1959) - Recruit to Detto (uncredited)
- It's Trad, Dad! (1962) - Himself
- The Great Escape (1963) - Flt. Lt. William Dickes "The Tunnel King"
- Guns at Batasi (1964) - Private Wilkes
- Every Day's a Holiday (1964) - Gerry Pullman
- Von Ryan's Express (1965) - Lieutenant Orde
- The Idol (1966) - Timothy
- Krakatoa, East of Java (1969) - Rigby
- Fern the Red Deer (1976) - Mr. Gordon
- Schizo (1976) - Alan Falconer
- Dangerous Davies, the Last Detective (TVM, 1980) - Dave Boot
- Colour Me Kubrick (2005) - Lord Charles Benson
- Telstar: The Joe Meek Story (2008) - Sir Edward
- Young, Graham (20 December 2013). "Film star who broke into big time". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 320. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Film and Television". John Leyton Official Website. John Leyton & JRM Partner. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 85. CN 5585.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 579. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "John Leyton". 45-rpm.org.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
- "John Leyton - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 105. CN 5585.
- "BBC Radio 2 - Sounds Of The 60s with Tony Blackburn - John Leyton". BBC. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 753. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.