John Carter (musician)

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John Carter
Birth name John Nicholas Shakespeare
Born (1942-10-20) 20 October 1942 (age 75)
Origin Small Heath, Birmingham, England
Genres Pop
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1960s–present

John Nicholas Shakespeare (born 20 October 1942),[1] known as John Carter, is an English singer, songwriter, and record producer.


Mainly popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, Carter's craftsmanship can be heard at work with:


Carter met his future songwriting partner Ken Hawker at school in Birmingham. They formed a skiffle band in the 1950s called LVI. It was then they began writing songs together: "We began to write real Buddy Holly take-offs. Which was good, it got us excited about songwriting." In 1960 the duo went to London and presented themselves under their songwriting pseudonyms John Carter and Ken Lewis. Terry Kennedy became their manager and convinced them to start their own band as an outlet for their songs. In 1961 the first single by Carter-Lewis and the Southerners was released, "Back on the Scene". But the band never broke through and their main claim to fame remains a brief stint that Jimmy Page did as their lead guitarist.[3] In 1964 they met Perry Ford, who worked as an engineer in a small recording studio in Denmark Street, London. They noticed their voices blended well and started recording demos together, resulting in a single on Pye Records, "What More Do You Want" as the Ivy League. Their luck changed when Herman's Hermits recorded "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat"[3] and took it to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.[4] In the UK it was a smaller hit for Goldie and the Gingerbreads.[8][9]

They then provided backing vocals for "I Can't Explain", by the Who.[10] In 1965 and 1966, The Ivy League scored four UK chart hits, including "Tossing and Turning", which reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart and "Funny How Love Can Be" top 10 hit.[11] By early 1966 Carter decided he had had enough of touring and was replaced by Tony Burrows from The Kestrels. That year he married Gill Shakespeare who would later write lyrics for some of his songs. Carter concentrated on songwriting, providing hits for Peter and Gordon and Brenda Lee. He found a new songwriting partner in Geoff Stephens, resulting in "My World Fell Down", recorded by The Ivy League,[12] later to be covered by Gary Usher's Sagittarius.[13]

Carter sang lead on the New Vaudeville Band's hit single "Winchester Cathedral",[14] a traditional pop pastiche that became a U.S. chart-topper. He also released a single, recorded with Mickey Keen and Robin Shaw, as The Ministry of Sound. Early in 1967, Ken Lewis quit the Ivy League and started writing and recording again with Carter. One of the first results was "Let's Go to San Francisco", released as the Flower Pot Men.[3] As was the case with "Winchester Cathedral", when the recording, made by session musicians, became a hit, a band had to be assembled for live appearances.

In late 1967, Carter and Lewis formed Sunny Records as their production company. Starting early 1968 Carter's output became more and more confusing. Songs intended for the Flowerpot Men were released as Friends, Haystack and Dawn Chorus, only to be re-released in this century as the Flowerpot Men. The 'touring' Flower Pot Men were forced by Deram Records to record songs by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook. As Mark Frumento wrote in the liner notes of the retrospective Flowerpot Men album Listen To the Flowers Grow (compiled by Carter): "At this point Deram decided that the Flower Pot Men name was no longer commercial and the next single, "Piccolo Man" was released as 'Friends'.... The final Flowerpot Men single was released in 1969, but this time the writing team Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway were behind the production". After one abortive attempt the remains of the Flowerpot Men changed their name to White Plains.

The 1970s started with a disappointment when Mary Hopkin became runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest with "Knock, Knock Who's There?", which Carter had written with Stephens.

In the following years Carter released records under many names: Stamford Bridge (number 47 with "Chelsea"),[7] Scarecrow and Stormy Petrel. He also released a single as the Ohio Express, an American bubblegum group renowned for not playing or singing on most of their records. The hit came with "Beach Baby" - Carter/Shakespeare by First Class in 1974. The record also charted in Europe, Australia and South Africa[5]. Another song wirtten by Carter and his wife Gill Shakespeare was "Dreams Are Ten A Penny" by Kincade which was the big hit all over the continent. After two First Class albums, Carter started concentrating on writing advertising jingles. Among his work are commercials for Vauxhall Motors, British Caledonian and Rowntree's. His last shot at a hit single was in 1977 as Starbreaker with "Sound of Summer", which itself began life as music in a commercial for Butlin's.[citation needed]

In more recent times, Carter has been managing the marketing of his back catalogue through Sunny Records, releasing many songs that were never released at the time of recording.[3] These includes Stamford Bridge's albums Come Up And See Us Sometime and The First Day Of Your Life (1997).

Carter worked with Micky Keen and Robin Shaw and as a result of this collaboration they released two albums, Men From The Ministry and Midsummer Nights Dreaming (2005).

In late 2005, Carter released the compilation album; John Carter - A Rose by any Other Name (2005).[15]

In the mid-eighties, John served on the Council of the British Academy of Composers and songwriters and the council as a writer-member of the Performing Right Society.[citation needed]

He currently runs with Gill, his own publishing company and record production company, which concentrates on compiling and promoting his enormous back-catalogue of songs and records.[citation needed]

In 2012 Carter teamed up with a Brazilian songwriter, Salomao Hamzem who is a musician, songwriter and producer. As writers, they wanted to try something a bit different so hit on the idea of writing songs together in English and Portuguese. When Carter and Hamzem were thinking about names for the band, they came up with the idea of combining the first part Salomao's surname of Hamzem and the last part of Carter making 'Hamzter'. That's why the hamster has become their mascot.[citation needed] The first album A Friend in Need (2016) is a result of this collaboration and they have released their second album Coming Home (2017). They plan to release a third album, Time Will Tell, in 2018.[16]

See also[edit]


  • Mark Frumento, liner notes of Listen To the Flowers Grow (RPM Retro 809), April 2007
  • Mark Frumento, liner notes John Carter - A Rose by any Other Name (Rev-Ola REV 84), January 2005[15]
  • Bob Stanley, liner notes The John Carter Anthology - Measure by Measure (RPM rpmd268), 2003
  • Melody Maker 1962-1979
  • New Musical Express 1963-1979
  • Record Mirror 1964-1967


  1. ^ "Ivy League". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  2. ^ Larkin, C (1997). Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music (1st ed.). Muze UK Ltd. p. 96. ISBN 0-7535-0149-X. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Unterberger, Richie. "John Carter - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  4. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat - Herman's Hermits : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  5. ^ a b Jason Ankeny. "The First Class". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Mary Hopkin - Knock, Knock Who's There ? (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  7. ^ a b "Kincade - Dreams Are Ten A Penny (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 230. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  9. ^ "Genya Ravan". Genya Ravan. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "I Can't Explain - The Who : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 272. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  12. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "Major League: The Collectors' Ivy League - The Ivy League : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  13. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Sagittarius: My World Fell Down - Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "New Vaudeville Band - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  15. ^ a b "Rose by Another Name - John Carter : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 4 January 2005. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  16. ^ "Hamzter - Album Discography - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 May 2018. 

External links[edit]