|Birth name||David Spencer|
10 April 1939 |
Ynysddu, Monmouthshire, South Wales
|Years active||Late 1950s–present|
|Labels||Columbia, Decca, Crystal|
Life and career
Born David Spencer in Ynysddu, Monmouthshire, near Wattsville, South Wales, he is the eldest of seven children. After leaving school he held various jobs, before electing to join the RAF at the age of 17.
After being discharged, he decided to try to pursue a career in singing. After performing in local clubs for a couple of years, Valance was discovered by an A&R representative from EMI, placed with the record producer Norrie Paramor and signed to EMI's Columbia label. At the first recording session, Valance was given the chance to cover Ray Peterson's American hit, "Tell Laura I Love Her". He was rewarded with a number 1 hit in September 1960, thanks to airplay on Radio Luxembourg. The Guinness Book of Hit Singles stated that his name was changed to Ricky Valance to remind fans of Ritchie Valens, who had died with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper in the Iowa snow a year and a half earlier. However, this information is incorrect, and the author who wrote the listing for the GBHS did not do research into his submission, nor contact Valance directly about the connection. Valance chose the name himself, after hearing a racehorse trainer's name, and there is no connection to any other artist. At the launch party of the 20th edition of The Guinness Book of Hit Singles, Valance confronted David Roberts about this matter, but it has yet to be changed in future editions.
He bucked the trend prevailing at the time by the BBC to deny airplay to teenage tragedy songs like "Tell Laura I Love Her" almost automatically. Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel" had already sunk without a trace, whilst other American death rock records were simply never released in the United Kingdom.
First Welshman at number one
Ray Peterson's original version of "Tell Laura I Love Her", which was co-written by Jeff Barry, was not released in the United Kingdom, because Decca Records considered it in bad taste. EMI subsequently arranged for Valance to cover the song. Valance thus became the first Welshman to reach the top spot - Shirley Bassey being the first Welsh person.
After topping the UK Singles Chart, Valance appeared in the 1961 A Song For Europe competition, hoping to represent the UK in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest. His song, "Why Can't We?", placed third out of the nine entries; the winner was "Are You Sure?" performed by The Allisons.
He released several more singles, including "Movin' Away", "Jimmy's Girl" and "Six Boys", but none of them were UK hits. However, over 100,000 copies sold of "Jimmy´s Girl", and "Moving Away" made it to number one in Australia and Scandinavia, with 150,000 copies sold. Valance changed to a career on the cabaret and nostalgia circuit. Following a bout of severe depression and a nervous breakdown, Valance became a born-again Christian.
- DB4493 - "Tell Laura I Love Her" / "Once Upon a Time" (1960)
- DB4543 - "Movin' Away" / "Lipstick on Your Lips" (1960)
- DB4586 - "Jimmy's Girl" / "Only the Young" (1961)
- DB4592 - "Why Can't We" / "Fisherboy" (1961)
- DB4680 - "Bobby" / "I Want to Fall in Love" (1961)
- DB4725 - "I Never Had a Chance" / "It's Not True" (1961)
- DB4787 - "Try to Forget Her" / "At Times Like These" (1962)
- DB4864 - "Don't Play No.9" / "Till the Final Curtain Falls" (1962)
- F12129 - "Six Boys" / "Face in the Crowd" (1965)
- CR7004 - "My Summer Love" / "Abigail" (1969) (as Jason Merryweather)
- List of artists who reached number one on the UK Singles Chart
- List of Eurovision: Your Decision contestants
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 579. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 53. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- see information on Ricky Valance's own website
- see interview with Ricky Valance in the Round Town News 2005
- BBC Biography: Ricky Valance. Webpage retrieved 2008-08-15