|Birth name||Michael Emile Telford Miller|
|Also known as||Emile Sweetnam|
16 October 1937|
Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies
|Died||11 April 2016
London, United Kingdom
|Years active||1957–late 1960s|
|Associated acts||The Checkmates|
Michael Emile Telford Miller (16 October 1937 – 11 April 2016), known professionally as Emile Ford, was a musician and singer born in Saint Lucia. He was popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the leader of Emile Ford & the Checkmates, who had a number one hit in late 1959 with "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?". He was also a pioneering sound engineer.
Life and career
Emile Ford was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, in the West Indies. He was the son of Barbadian politician, Frederick Edward Miller, and Madge Murray, a singer and musical theatre director whose father had founded and conducted the St. Lucia Philharmonic Band. His mother married again, taking the name of Sweetnam; some sources erroneously give Emile Ford's birth name as Sweetnam or Sweetman.
He was educated at St Mary’s College, Castries. He moved to London with his mother and family in the mid-1950s, partly motivated by his desire to explore improved sound reproduction technology, and studied at the Paddington Technical College in London. It was during this time that he taught himself to play a number of musical instruments, including guitar, piano, violin, bass guitar and drums. Using an abbreviated form of his name, as Emile Ford, he first entered show business at the age of 20, and made his first public performance at the Buttery, Kensington. His first appearance with a backing group was at the Athenaeum Ballroom in Muswell Hill. His TV appearances in 1958 included outings on The Music Shop, the Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson Show, Oh, Boy!, and Six-Five Special.
He teamed up in January 1959 with his half-brother, bassist George Sweetnam-Ford (born 1 January 1940), electric lead guitarist Ken Street (born 1942) and drummer John Cuffley (born 1939) to form Emile Ford & the Checkmates. The band appeared on the TV programme Sunday Serenade, which ran for six weeks. They won the Soho Fair talent contest in July 1959, but turned down a recording contract with EMI because the company would not allow Ford to produce their records, and instead agreed to a deal with Pye Records. Their first self-produced recording, "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?", a song originally recorded by Ada Jones and Billy Murray in 1917, went to number one in the UK Singles Chart at the end of 1959 and stayed there for six weeks. Ford was the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a single.
In January 1960, Ford signed a two-year employment management contract with Leslie Grade. He had several more hits in the UK, and also scored a number one EP in 1960. The readers of the British music magazine New Musical Express voted Emile Ford and the Checkmates as the "Best New Act" in 1960. Ford's debut album was made up of covers. He made several albums, but his last studio recordings were in 1963. His half-brothers George and Dave Sweetnam-Ford were later members of the Ferris Wheel.
As a sound engineer, Ford was responsible for creating a backing track system for stage shows, first used in 1960, which provided a basis for what became known as karaoke. In 1969, he set up a recording studio in Barbados with the help of his father, before moving to Sweden. While there, he further developed a new open-air playback system for stage shows, patented as the Liveoteque Sound Frequency Feedback Injection System.
Emile Ford died in London on 11 April 2016.
UK singles chart credits
- "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?"/"Don't Tell Me Your Troubles" (Pye 7N15225) 1959 – No. 1
- "On a Slow Boat to China"/"That Lucky Old Sun" (Pye 7N15245) 1960 – No. 3
- "You'll Never Know What You're Missing ('Til You Try)"/"Still" (Pye 7N15268) 1960 – No. 12
- "Them There Eyes"/"Question" (Pye 7N15282) 1960 – No. 18 – α
- "Counting Teardrops"/"White Christmas" (Pye 7N15314) 1961 – No. 4
- "What Am I Gonna Do"/"A Kiss To Build A Dream On" (Pye 7N15331) 1961 – No. 33
- "Half Of My Heart"/"Gypsy Love" (Piccadilly 7N35003) 1961 – No. 42 – α
- "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now"/"Doin'The Twist" (Piccadilly 7N35003) 1962 – No. 43 – α
(α – Credited to Emile Ford. All other recordings credit Emile Ford and the Checkmates).
- New Tracks (Pye)
- Emile (Pye)
- Emile Ford (Hallmark Records)
- What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?
- On a Slow Boat to China
- My Kind of Country
- Counting Teardrops – 2001 – Castle Communications
- The Very Best Of Emile Ford & The Checkmates – 2016 (One Day Music DAY2CD303)
- List of artists who reached number one on the UK Singles Chart
- List of number-one singles from the 1950s (UK)
- UK No.1 Hits of 1959
- UK No.1 Hits of 1960
- List of Christmas number one singles (UK)
- List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1960s
- List of artists who reached number one on the Australian singles chart
- "Emile Ford, legendary St Lucian artiste, dies in London", LA Sentinel, 21 April 2016
- VinceTracy.com: Emile Ford. Retrieved 30 January 2013
- Biography by Bruce Eder at Allmusic.com. Retrieved 30 January 2013
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 75. CN 5585.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 47. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 83. CN 5585.
- Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 211. ISBN 0-85156-156-X.
- Michael Emile Telford Miller a.k.a Emile Ford, at web-fi.net. Retrieved 30 January 2013
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 207/8. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.