Spotlight on ……
Yes, there were Liverpudlian hit makers before The Beatles, and one had notched up two Number Ones before the Fab Four had even their first chart entry. He was Michael Holliday – one of Britain’s best loved singers from the latter half of the nineteen fifties.
Michael was born with the surname Milne on 26th November 1928 and he took his mother’s maiden name as his professional name when he left the Merchant Navy. It was whilst with the Navy that Michael first started singing, initially to entertain his shipmates. During a stopover in New York he entered – and won – a talent contest at the prestigious Radio City Music Hall. When the offers of a big Broadway musical failed to materialise Michael returned to the UK and left the Navy to concentrate on his singing career.
He toured British holiday camps with the Eric Winstone Band where he was a singer-guitarist and in 1955 was signed to Columbia Records by none other than Norrie Paramor who would later produce Cliff Richard. In Michael he had the perfect easy-listening voice, a cross between Perry Como and Bing Crosby but very heavily influenced by the latter.
‘Nothin’ To Do’ was his first hit in the early Spring of 1956 and he followed this with ‘Hot Diggity’ and ‘Gal With The Yaller Shoes’. The first was a cover of a song by Perry Como and the second was from the film ‘Meet Me In Las Vegas’. Both songs were on the same single as it was not uncommon then for both sides of a single to chart in their own right. After ‘Ten Thousand Miles’ was a hit in October of that year we had to wait until January 1958 for his next hit – he missed out in 1957 completely.
In spite of the lack of hits he continued to increase in popularity, having both TV and radio series. Most notably ‘Relax With Mike’ on which he used to duet with himself using a tape recorder – not a common object in those days.
Michael made up for his chart absence with four hits in 1958, his first being the evergreen ‘The Story Of My Life’. This most popular of songs has had a new lease of life itself of late due to it being used in a television commercial. He faced a lot of competition as it charted also for Dave King (number 20) and Alma Cogan (number 25). Other versions by Marty Robbins and Gary Miller sank without trace. It also did no harm for the writers – Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was their first Number One hit, and we all know what success they would have in the future. The b-side, by the way, was called ‘Keep Your Heart’ and was written by Michael himself.
He had another big hit that year, a Number Three with ‘Stairway Of Love’ and also charted with ‘In Love’ and ‘I’ll Always Be In Love With You’.
He seemed to ignore current musical trends as Michael continued to record old standards on albums and on his radio and TV appearances. This presumable didn’t help his career as he then went through another year, 1959, without a single chart entry. Then on the first day of the new decade, he entered the charts with ‘Starry Eyed’. Four weeks later he was back at the top of the charts. Unfortunately he didn’t remain “starry eyed” for long. He had two more small hits in 1960 ‘Skylark’ and ‘Little Boy Lost’ and that was the end of his chart career.
He was chosen to be the singing voice of cowboy Tex Tucker in the children’s TV series ‘Four Feather Falls’ (Tex’s speaking voice was supplied by Nicholas Parsons no less), and about half a dozen songs were released on a now valuable EP.
Michael’s relaxed image seemed to cover up a troubled life, and he died in October 1963. Mystery surrounded his death, which appeared to be due to an overdose.
© MARTIN HUTCHINSON.
Michael Holliday emerged as a singing star in late-'50s England, at approximately the same time that Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard, and Billy Fury began tearing up the U.K. charts, but he couldn't have represented a more different brand of music. For four years, from 1956 through 1960, Holliday bade fair to be England's top male singing star, with a smooth, pleasing baritone singing style that was often compared to Bing Crosby.
He was born Michael Milne in Liverpool in 1928 and never considered music as a career. It was during a stint as a merchant seaman in the late '40s that he discovered his talent for entertaining, mostly in front of his shipmates. Fate took a hand when he landed in New York and won a talent competition at Radio City Music Hall. Upon his return to England, he secured his release from the merchant service and decided to become a singer. He took the name Michael Holliday and was hired as a singer and guitarist with the Eric Winstone Band. In 1955, he was signed as a solo artist to EMI's Columbia label by producer Norrie Paramor.
Holliday enjoyed modest successes with his covers of "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Sixteen Tons." "Nothin' to Do" was his first Top 30 hit, in March of 1956, and he made the Top 20 with the double-sided hit of "The Gal With Yeller Shoes" and "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity)" later that same year. Holliday's chart action for the next year was relatively modest, his covers of songs such as "Love Is Strange," "Four Walls," and "Old Cape Cod" performing unexceptionally. At the end of 1957, however, he recorded an early Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition called "The Story of My Life," which had already been a hit in America for Marty Robbins, which soared to number one in England in a 15-week ride on the charts, overcoming three competing British versions. Holliday also showed an unexpected ability as a composer, getting one of his own songs onto the B-side. With his soothing vocal style and good looks, Holliday seemed a natural for a screen career, but apart from an acting role in Val Guest's comedy Life Is a Circus, he never tried for a big-screen career. On television, however, he was a regular guest on variety programs, as well as singing the title theme from Gerry Anderson's series Four Feathers Fall. He also had his own program, called (appropriately enough) Relax With Mike. He enjoyed further modest hits with "In Love" and "I'll Always Be in Love With You" and once again soared on the U.K. charts with "Stairway of Love," a 13-week entry that hit number three. "Starry Eyed" was another number one hit for Holliday in 1960 and he had more success with his recordings of "Little Boy Lost" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark." All of these songs were done in a smooth, soothing style of crooning, almost a throwback to the 1940s and very beguiling to adult listeners seeking an alternative to the skiffle and rock & roll sounds that their children were listening to. Holliday's albums seemed aimed at those older listeners -- he recorded five LPs between 1958 and 1962, all of which were far more steeped in nostalgia than his singles, most of which (apart from "Skylark") were covers of contemporary songs.
Holliday's chart entries ended after 1960, but his success up to that point was self-sustaining. He was a popular television and stage entertainer and always bidded fair for a comeback.
His private life, however, was apparently as unsettled as his public persona seemed smooth and relaxed. At the end of October of 1963, the British entertainment world was shocked by the news that Michael Holliday had died suddenly in a hospital in Croydon, by an apparent drug overdose. EMI's Columbia Records released a tribute album in his memory, featuring the top vocal stars on the label, and posthumous singles by Holliday appeared through 1964. Michael Holliday was a stylistic anachronism from the outset of his career. He stood in stark defiance of the changes that were taking place in music around him (and what he made of his fellow Liverpudlians the Beatles during the final ten months of his life is anyone's guess). His voice had a seductive power that, at its best, cut across cultural lines and is difficult to deny even a half-century after his passing. EMI has released three separate CD compilations of Holliday's best recordings and even See For Miles Records has issued a CD collection of its own devoted to his recordings. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
Michael Holliday was born in Liverpool, England and brought up in Kirkdale. His career in music began by winning an amateur talent contest, ‘New Voices of Merseyside’, at the Locarno Ballroom, West Derby Road, Newsham, Liverpool. Then, while working as a seaman in the Merchant Navy, Michael was persuaded to enter a talent contest at Radio City Music Hall in New York and again, he won. This inspired him to seek a career in show business. In 1951 he secured two summer season’s work as a vocalist with Dick Denny's band at Butlin's Holiday Camp, Pwllheli.
In March 1953 he joined the Eric Winstone Band, another Butlin’s contracted band that toured when the summer season's work was over. They also broadcast occasionally for BBC Radio.
In December 1954 Holliday wrote to the BBC requesting a TV audition. His audition came in April 1955 and he made his first TV appearance on The Centre Show on 22 July 1955. This TV performance was seen by Norrie Paramor, then head of A&R for EMI's Columbia record label. He was signed as a solo artist to EMI's Columbia label, by the record producer, Norrie Paramor. He also sang "Four Feather Falls", the theme tune to the puppet based television program of the same name.
Illness and death
Holliday had an ongoing problem with stage fright, and had a mental breakdown in 1961. He committed suicide two years later, dying from a suspected drugs overdose in Croydon, Surrey. His grave is at Anfield Cemetery, Priory Road, Liverpool.
Columbia released a tribute album in his memory which included a eulogy by Bing Crosby.
UK single (release date), highest chart position
"The Yellow Rose of Texas" / "Stein Song", (September 1955)
"Sixteen Tons" / "The Rose Tattoo", (January 1956)
"Nothin' To Do" / "Perfume, Candy And Flowers", (March 1956), UK #20
"Hot Diggity (Dog Diggity Boom)" / "The Gal With The Yaller Shoes", (June 1956), UK #13
"Ten Thousand Miles" / "The Runaway Train", (September 1956), UK #24
"I Saw Esau" / "Yaller Yaller Gold", (January 1957)
"My House Is Your House" / "Love Is Strange", (March 1957)
"Four Walls" / "Wringle Wrangle", (May 1957)
"All of You" / "It's The Good Things We Remember", (July 1957)
"Old Cape Cod" / "Love You Darlin’", (September 1957)
"The Story of My Life" / "Keep Your Heart", (January 1958), UK #1
"In Love" / "Rooney", (February 1958), UK #26
"Stairway Of Love" / "May I?", (May 1958), UK #3
"I'll Always Be In Love With You" / "I'll Be Lovin' You Too", (June 1958), UK #27
"She Was Only Seventeen" / "The Gay Vagabond", (September 1958)
"My Heart is An Open Book" / "Careless Hands", (November 1958)
"Palace Of Love" / "The Girls From The County Armagh", (February 1959)
"Moments Of Love" / "Dearest", (May 1959)
"Life Is A Circus" / "For You, For You", (August 1959)
"Starry Eyed" / "The Steady Game", (November 1959), UK #1
"Skylark" / "Dream Talk", (March 1960), UK #39
"Little Boy Lost" / "The One Finger Symphony", (June 1960), UK #50
"Catch Me A Kiss" / "Stay in Love", (November 1960)
"The Miracle of Monday Morning" / "Remember Me", (February 1961)
"Dream Boy Dream" / "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now", (June 1961)
"Wishin' On A Rainbow / "I Don't Want You To See Me Cry", (April 1962)
"Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?" / "It Only Takes A Minute", (September 1962)
"Laugh and the World Laughs With You" / "Iron Fence", (February 1963)
"Between Hello And Goodbye" / "Just To Be With You Again", (July 1963)
"Drums / "Can I Forget You", (November 1963)
"Dear Heart" / "My Year Of Love", (March 1964)
"My Last Date (With You)" / "Always is a Long, Long Time", (June 1964)
Courtesy of answers.com