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Don Charles

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The famed British record producer Joe Meek considered his collaboration with singer Don Charles his greatest creative achievement: "You are my only legit artist," the eccentric Meek told him. "All the others are yugga-dugs." Born Walter Schuffham in Hull, England, on December 10, 1933, he acquired the nickname Don as a toddler, later adopting the surname Bennett from his stepfather. He joined the Navy at 15 and remained in the armed forces for a decade, moonlighting as a singer with local big bands. After settling in London in 1960 and releasing the George Martin-produced single "Paintbox Lover" on Parlophone a year later, he joined Meek's stable of acts at Decca. Fearing confusion with the American crooner Tony Bennett, the producer renamed him Don Charles in time for the release of "Walk with Me, My Angel." Boasting all the otherworldly hallmarks of Meek's finest creations, the single squeaked into the U.K. Top 40 and earned Charles guest appearances on a number of teen television showcases, where his burly six-foot-four frame proved a stark contrast with the rival pop icons of the day. A cover of Ben E. King's hit "The Hermit of Misty Mountain" followed in 1962, and that same year Charles released the country-influenced novelty "It's My Way of Loving You." The BBC banned 1963's "Angel of Love" as a result of the lyric "Everyone has an angel of love/Way up in the heavens above." Combined with the outbreak of Beatlemania, the move crippled Charles' remaining momentum. After the rush-released "Heart's Ice Cold" fell flat, Meek severed ties with Decca, taking Charles with him. In addition to a series of little-heard HMV releases including "Tower Tall" and "Dream on Little Dreamer," the singer also produced several sides himself, including the Tornados' "Space Walk." In 1967 Charles returned to Parlophone for one final effort, the Northern soul favorite "Bring Your Love to Me," before retiring from performing, later entering the used-car business. He even wrote a successful book, How to Buy a Used Car (And Save Money). Charles died in East Sussex on December 4, 2005, less than a week shy of his 72nd birthday. ~ Jason Ankeny

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