Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Wayne Fontana Passes On

Wayne Fontana, the British singer who had hits with both The Mindbenders and as a solo artist, died on August 6 2020 at the age of 74.

Wayne Fontana was born Glyn Ellis in Manchester on October 28 1945. He took his stage name from Elvis Preley's drummer D. J. Fontana. In 1962 he formed his backing band The Jets. After various line-up changes to The Jets, in 1963 Wayne Fontana signed to the label named, by total coincidence, Fontana Records. Mr. Fontana's backing band was then renamed The Mindbenders, after the Dirk Bogarde movie The Mind Benders (1963).

Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders' first single, "Hello Josephine," peaked at no. 46 on the British single chart. Their next two singles did not chart. Their first album, the eponymous Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, was released in 1964. Their next single, "Stop Look and Listen," peaked at no. 37. It was followed by their first major British hit, "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um," which peaked at no. 5 on the British singles chart. It would be their next single that would prove to be Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders' biggest hit. "The Game of Love" peaked at no. 2 on the British singles chart and at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The success of the single would lead to their first American album, The Game of Love.

Unfortunately, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders were unable to capitalize on the success of "The Game of Love." "It's Just a Little Bit Too Late" did relatively well in Britain, peaking at no. 20, but only went to no. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. "She Needs Love," Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders' final single together, only went to no. 32 on the British singles chart. One last album, Eric, Rick, Wayne and Bob – It's Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders was released in 1965.

Wayne Fontana left The Mindbenders in October 1965, reportedly in the middle of a concert. Still under contract to Fontana Records, his first single as a solo artist, "It Was Easier To Hurt Her," was released in 1965. It went to no. 36 on the British singles chart. Wayne Fontana had a few hits in 1966. "Come On Home" went to no. 16 on the British singles chart, while "Pamela Pamela" went to no. 11. Despite the success of "Pamela Pamela," continuing to release singles through 1969, "Pamela Pamela" would be his last single to chart. Wayne Fontana was one of the first performers to play at the now legendary Glastonbury Festival in 1970.

After the Glastonbury Festival, Wayne Fontana took a break from music. He signed to Warner Bros. and released the single "Together" in 1973, but it failed to chart. After signing to Polydor, his final single "The Last Bus Home," was released in 1976.  Afterwards he retired from the music industry. He would later perform on the Sixties revival circuit.

Wayne Fontana had his share of problems ever since the Seventies, but that does not erase his contribution to popular music. Both with The Mindbenders and as a solo artist, he recorded a number of memorable songs. In the United States, "The Game of Love" remains one of the best known British songs from the Sixties and still receives a good deal of radio airplay. His contemporaries certainly respected him. Among the tributes to Wayne Fontana were ones from Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Terry Sylvester of The Swinging Blue Jeans and The Hollies.

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