David Byron

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David Byron
David Byron.jpg
Background information
Birth nameDavid Garrick
Born(1947-01-29)29 January 1947
Epping, Essex, England
Died28 February 1985(1985-02-28) (aged 38)
Berkshire, England[1]
GenresHard rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, art rock, pop rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1967–1985
Associated actsSpice, Uriah Heep, Rough Diamond, The Byron Band
WebsiteOfficial website

David Garrick (29 January 1947 – 28 February 1985), better known by his stage name David Byron,[2] was a British singer and songwriter, best known in the early 1970s as the lead vocalist with the rock band Uriah Heep and recognized for his charismatic stage presence and his operatic voice.[citation needed]

Danish heavy metal vocalist King Diamond cites Byron as his favorite vocalist of all time.[3]

Early life (1967–1969)[edit]

From mid-1960s to early 1970s David Byron 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 & LPs.

His first venture into professional music was with an Epping-based semi-pro band called The Stalkers who also featured guitarist Mick Box. Byron and Box worked well together and teamed up to form the band Spice which also featured Paul Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums. The band gigged extensively locally under the management of Paul Newton's father and they secured a recording deal with United Artists who issued the band's one and only single "What About The Music/In Love" (UP 2246), copies of which now fetch around $50 to $100 on the collectors market.

He was the lead vocalist for Spice (1967–1969). Deciding that the Spice sound would require keyboards, they recruited keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Ken Hensley, who was Paul Newton's bandmate in The Gods. During this time Bron redubbed the band Uriah Heep from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield. Shortly afterward the band's career really took off, first in Germany, Britain and finally the United States. In 1971 Byron also appeared on two LPs by John Schroeder.

With Uriah Heep 1969–1976[edit]

David Byron and Uriah Heep classic line-up members in 1973

Byron was the original singer of the English rock band Uriah Heep between 1969 and 1976. David 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. During these six years David Byron gained a reputation with his operatic vocals and harmonies as one of the best rock vocalists and frontmen in the world. In 1975 Byron released his first solo album, Take No Prisoners (Bronze Records ILPS 9824), which also featured fellow Heep members Mick Box, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake. Byron, however, 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. Ken Hensley said at that 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 a replacement singer. Their manager at the time, Gerry 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.[4]

Uriah Heep started rehearsals almost immediately with their new vocalist, with a view to fulfilling existing commitments in America in the late summer, and in Yugoslavia and Australia in the autumn.

Uriah Heep in 1976

Solo career (1975–1984)[edit]

Byron recorded three solo albums: Take No Prisoners in 1975, Baby Faced Killer in 1978, and That Was Only Yesterday. The latter was recorded in 1984, one year before his death.

With Rough Diamond (1977)[edit]

Determined to get his career going again 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 (ILPS 9490) in March 1977. The album sold poorly and Byron quit.

The Byron Band (1980–1982)[edit]

Next, Byron got together with lauded guitarist Robin George and formed The Byron Band. They were signed to Creole Records and debuted with the single "Every Inch of the Way/Routine" (CR 8). This was followed by the single "Never Say Die/ Tired Eyes" (CR 12), 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.

Lost and Found is a 2-Disc album that includes demos and live recordings by the Byron Band, which spans two years from 1980–1982. It also includes a Robin George solo track.

Background[edit]

Despite his vocal range (paired with a sense of dynamics), and a charismatic stage presence, Byron was dismissed from Uriah Heep in 1976, at the demand of keyboardist Ken Hensley (the band's primary songwriter), who gave the ultimatum "it's him or me" to band manager Gerry Bron, citing Byron's increasingly erratic behaviour due to alcohol abuse.[citation needed] Mick Box and Trevor Bolder, of Uriah Heep, invited Byron to re-join the band in 1981, after Ken Hensley left, but Byron refused.[citation needed]

Death[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.[5]

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 passing, Uriah Heep would dedicate "The Wizard" to him.

Discography[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

with the Byron Band[edit]

with Uriah Heep[edit]

with Rough Diamond[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "David Byron (Biography)". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  2. ^ "eFortress.com". Users.efortress.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  3. ^ http://www.tartareandesire.com/interviews/kingdiamond.html
  4. ^ "Uriah Sack Byron", New Musical Express, July 1976
  5. ^ "Literature Study Guides – By Popularity". eNotes.com. Retrieved 23 July 2014.

External links[edit]