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Dick James

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Biography

Dick James was a singer in the mid 1950s who enjoyed a couple of hit singles but became more famous after he switched his attention to music publishing and was the founder and owner of the DJM (Dick James Music) record company. He was born Reginald Leon Isaac Vapnick on the 12th of December 1920 in London and in his early teens was a singer with various north London dance bands, becoming a regular vocalist at the Cricklewood Palais. He joined the Henry Hall band, but World War II interrupted his career when he joined the army. After the war he joined Geraldo's band and was also a part time member of the vocal group, The Stargazers who enjoyed two number singles in the early 1950s. By 1956 he had signed a solo contract with Parlophone and had achieved two hits, Robin Hood, the theme from the TV series, backed with a cover of Ballad Of Davy Crockett and his version of Garden Of Eden, both of which hit the top 20. When his singing career appeared to over, he moved into publishing and through his Parlophone connections, he established Northern Songs Ltd to publish the original songs of John Lennon & Paul McCartney. The company Dick James Music administered Northern Songs and by the late 1960s when his relationship with the Beatles had broken down, he developed that into a fully fledged record company with distribution arranged through Pye. He discovered an unknown singer in 1967, Elton John and together with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, he signed both to a contract with DJM. All of John's releases up to 1976 were released on the DJM label which on the back of this success, signed an eclectic mix of artists from Mr Bloe (who had one hit single in 1970 with Groovin With Mr Bloe) to Johnny Guitar Watson, a blues rock album specialist, as well as comedian Jasper Carrott, The Rah Band and diverse actors John Inman and Edward Woodward. Elton John left to form his own Rocket label in 1976 and there was then several long court cases between John and Dick James over unpaid royalties during his successful period with the label. Dick James died of a heart attack on the 1st of February 1986 after which, the DJM catalogue including all of the early Elton John albums was acquired by PolyGram (Universal Music). ~ Sharon Mawer

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