David Byron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Byron
Background information
Birth nameDavid Garrick
Born(1947-01-29)29 January 1947
Epping, Essex, England
Died28 February 1985(1985-02-28) (aged 38)
Berkshire,[a] England
GenresHard rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, art rock, soft rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1961–1985

David Garrick (29 January 1947 – 28 February 1985), better known by his stage name David Byron,[3] was a British singer, who was best known in the early 1970s as the original lead vocalist of the rock band Uriah Heep.[4] Byron possessed a powerful operatic voice and a flamboyant stage presence.

Early life (1958–1969)[edit]

David Byron was educated at Independent school (United Kingdom) Forest School, Walthamstow, from 1958 to 1964, where, as a popular pupil he excelled at sports and was in the school 1st XI football team.[5] From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, he did session work for a company called Avenue Recordings, singing lead and backing vocals (occasionally along with Mick Box on guitar and Paul Newton on bass). These were cover versions of Top 20 hits and were released on EPs and LPs. [6]

His first venture into professional music was with an Epping-based semi-pro band called The Stalkers, which also featured Box.[4] Byron and Box then teamed up to form the band Spice (1967–1969), which also featured Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums. Before settling on the name Spice other names were considered including 'The Play' and a handful of acetates exist of unreleased tracks recorded at the time and credited to 'The Play'. The band gigged extensively locally under the management of Paul Newton's father and they secured a recording deal with United Artists, which issued the band's only single "What About The Music/In Love"; copies of which now fetch around $50 to $100 on the collectors' market.

Deciding that the Spice sound would require keyboards, they recruited keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Ken Hensley, who was Newton's bandmate in The Gods. During this time, Byron renamed the band Uriah Heep from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield.

With Uriah Heep 1969–1976[edit]

Uriah Heep in 1972
L–R: Ken Hensley, Mick Box, Gary Thain, David Byron and Lee Kerslake

Byron sang on ten Uriah Heep albums: Very 'eavy Very 'Umble, Salisbury, Look at Yourself, Demons and Wizards, The Magician's Birthday, Live, Sweet Freedom, Wonderworld, Return To Fantasy, and High and Mighty. In 1975, Byron released his first solo album, Take No Prisoners, which also featured fellow Heep members Box, Hensley and Lee Kerslake. Byron also gained a reputation for hard drinking, which eventually led to him being sacked from Uriah Heep at the end of a Spanish tour in July 1976.[4]

Hensley said at the time, "David was one of those classic people who couldn't face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle." Ahead of his dismissal, Uriah Heep had secured John Lawton as replacement singer. Their manager at the time, Bron said Byron had been released in "the best interest of the group". Bron explained that Byron and the other Uriah Heep members had been in disagreement for some time over fundamental issues of group policy, and that the differences had been finally brought to a head following the band's recent tour of Britain and Europe. "It was felt by the rest of the group that they could no longer reconcile David's attitude with their own," commented Bron.[7]

Later career (1975–1984)[edit]

Ad from 1975

Byron recorded three solo albums: Take No Prisoners in 1975, Baby Faced Killer in 1978, and That Was Only Yesterday, which was recorded in 1984, one year before his death.[4] During this period, Byron teamed up with former Colosseum / Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and former Wings drummer Geoff Britton to form Rough Diamond. They recorded one self-titled LP for Island Records in March 1977. The album sold poorly and Byron quit.[4]

Next, Byron got together with guitarist Robin George to form The Byron Band, which was signed to Creole Records ( a label which was perhaps an inapposite choice since it specialised in early reggae, showcasing artists like Sugar Minott and Max Romeo) and debuted with the single "Every Inch of the Way/Routine" (CR 8). This was followed by the single "Never Say Die/Tired Eyes", before the release of the 1981 album On the Rocks (CRX 2). However, as with his previous band Rough Diamond, neither critical nor commercial acclaim was forthcoming.[4]

Box and Trevor Bolder invited Byron to re-join Uriah Heep in 1981, after Ken Hensley had left, but Byron refused.[8]

Lost and Found is a double album that included demos and live recordings by the Byron Band, which spanned from 1980 to 1982. It also includes a Robin George solo track.

Death and legacy[edit]

Byron died of alcohol-related complications, including liver disease and seizures, at his home in Berkshire on 28 February 1985. He was 38 years old.[9] On BBC Radio's The Friday Rock Show, Tommy Vance played "July Morning" in tribute.

On the "Equator" tour, around the time of Byron's death, Uriah Heep dedicated "The Wizard" to him. There were also tributes to him and deceased bassist Gary Thain on the 1998 album Sonic Origami.


Solo albums[edit]

with the Byron Band[edit]

with Uriah Heep[edit]

with Rough Diamond[edit]


  1. ^ Byron owned a house in Maidenhead at the time of his death, although sources differ as to whether he died in Reading or Maidenhead[1][2]


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "David Byron (Biography)". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  2. ^ "England & Wales Government Probate Death Index". www.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  3. ^ "eFortress.com". Users.efortress.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 212. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  5. ^ "Forest School Archive". Forestschoolheritage.daisy.webds.net. Retrieved 15 May 2020. (registration required)
  6. ^ "David Byron: Pure Heart, Pure Art, Pure Performer". Rock Legend News. Alchemists Publishing poted on issuu.com. June 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  7. ^ "Uriah Sack Byron", New Musical Express, July 1976
  8. ^ I wanted David Byron to REJOIN Uriah Heep! HE WOULDN'T LISTEN! (Podcast). 19 January 2023 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Literature Study Guides – By Popularity". eNotes.com. Retrieved 23 July 2014.[dead link]

External links[edit]