Emile Ford

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Emile Ford
Birth name Michael Emile Telford Miller
Also known as Emile Sweetnam
Born (1937-10-16) 16 October 1937 (age 78)
Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies
Genres Rock and roll, pop
Occupation(s) Singer, guitarist, sound engineer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums
Years active 1957–late 1960s
Labels Pye
Associated acts The Checkmates

Emile Ford (born 16 October 1937) is a musician and singer, who was popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the leader of Emile Ford & the Checkmates.

Life and career[edit]

Emile Ford was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, in the West Indies. According to his own web page,[1] he was born Michael Emile Telford Miller, the son of a 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;[2] some sources erroneously give Emile Ford's birth name as Sweetnam or Sweetman.

He moved to London with his mother and family in the mid-1950s, partly motivated by his desire to explore improved sound reproduction technology,[3] and was educated at the Paddington Technical College in London.[4] It was during this time that he taught himself to play a number of musical instruments. These included the guitar, piano, violin, bass guitar and drums.

Ford 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 1941), electric guitarist Ken Street (born 1943) and drummer John Cuffley as Emile Ford and 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 a deal with Pye Records.[5]

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.[6] Ford was the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a single.[7]

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.[8] Ford's debut album was made up of covers. He made several albums, but his last studio recordings were in 1963.[3] His half-brothers George and Dave Sweetnam-Ford were later members of the Ferris Wheel.[2]

According to his own site, Emile Ford was responsible for creating a backing track system for stage shows, first used in 1960, which later became known as karaoke.[1] In 1969, he set up a recording studio in Barbados with the help of his father, before moving to live in Sweden.[6] While there, he further developed a new open-air playback system for stage shows.[1]

Counting Teardrops, an anthology including all of Ford's work with Pye Records, was released in 2001.[3]


UK singles chart credits[edit]

(αCredited to Emile Ford. All other recordings credit Emile Ford and the Checkmates).[9]


  • 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

Compilation album[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Michael Emile Telford Miller a.k.a Emile Ford, at web-fi.net. Retrieved 30 January 2013
  2. ^ a b VinceTracy.com: Emile Ford. Retrieved 30 January 2013
  3. ^ a b c Biography by Bruce Eder at Allmusic.com. Retrieved 30 January 2013
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 75. CN 5585. 
  6. ^ a b 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. 
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 83. CN 5585. 
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 211. ISBN 0-85156-156-X. 
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 207/8. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]