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Hank B. Marvin: His Story About and Beyond The Shadows

Hank B. Marvin: His Story About and Beyond The Shadows
If you thought of the '60s' music scene and of prolific musicians, especially guitarists, there is one person who will always appear on your list. He has shaped the way we interpret instrumental music and has influenced many who have followed him. Here is a biography on the legendary Hank Marvin, and his story with The Shadows and the years that followed.
Rashmi Sunder
Last Updated: May 9, 2018
Man of Many Names!
Born as Brian Robson Rankin, he had created a stage name for himself (which was all the rage at that time). He eventually changed his name legally, and is thus, Hank Brian Marvin.
The '60s' was a time when pop music was all the rage, and rock was slowly evolving from blues and jazz into something more individualistic. Eventually, we saw the rise and of Rock n' Roll that is still influencing and shaping lives all across the globe. But nothing beats the classic sounds of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Eric Clapton, and others. But before they all came and changed the way we listened to and experienced music, there was a group of boys from Britain known as The Shadows. While they might have started out as a backup for another legend, they slowly and literally emerged from the shadows to form an image of their own.

There was one member though, who stood out for his geek-chic image, and more importantly for his skill and technique with which he played the guitar. That man was Hank B. Marvin, the lead guitarist, who has been named as a great influence for many mainstream musicians who have succeeded him. Here is a look into the life and success of this legend.
Hank B. Marvin was born on October 28, 1941, in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, United Kingdom as the not-so-jazzy Brian Robson Rankin. As a kid, he had already picked up the banjo (which he bought from his teacher) and played the piano. But watching legend Buddy Holly is what inspired him and egged him on towards guitar (thank you, Holly!). On his 16th birthday, his dad gifted him a Hofner Congress guitar, and from there began the musical journey of this star.

As a youngster, he was nicknamed Hank, to avoid confusion in his friend's circle, which consisted of other Brians. When he started his career, taking up stage names was all the rage. He too, joined the bandwagon and named himself Hank Marvin, the latter coming from country singer Marvin Rainwater's name. Hank had stated in an interview, "I love the sound of that name Marvin, it sounds good." Eventually, he and fellow performer Cliff Richard both legally changed their names with a deed poll.

When he was 16, he left home for London with his school friend Bruce Welch. He had hoped to play music, and get recognized and signed, which is why they ended up at Soho's "2i's Coffee Bar", which was known to host many talents (including Cliff Richard, with whom he later created many hits). As luck would have it, Richard's manager, Johnny Foster, was at the bar in search of guitarist Tony Sheridan to be a part of Richard's backup band, The Drifters, but instead he encountered Hank, who impressed him so much that Foster asked him to be a part of the backup band. Marvin promised on the condition that his friend Welch also be taken as a part of the team. And this is where the success story for both Cliff Richard and what we now know as The Shadows, took roots. He had played for some other bands like The Vipers, The Railroaders, The Crescent City Skiffle Group, and The Five Chesternuts. But his music journey had truly launched when he was signed on by Foster.
Cliff Richard and The Shadows
When they first signed on, Marvin and Welch became a part of The Drifters along with members Terry Smart and Ian Samwell, who then backed Richard. They were later joined by Jet Harris, and Smart was replaced by Tony Meehan. Together, they formed what we know as the original Shadows' lineup. But there already was a US band called the Drifters, and after a clash, they were renamed the Shadows, which is how we all remember them.

They had recorded two tracks with Richard, which failed to chart. They had worked on a number of hits with Richard such as "Living Doll" and "Gee Whiz It's You". Marvin himself had written "The Day I Met Marie", "On The Beach", "I Could Easily Fall in Love with You", "Time Drags By" and "In The Country"―which all turned out to be hits for Cliff. He also teamed up with Richard to create two hit singles, "The Joy of Living and "Throw Down a Line". After a third failed song for The Shadows, there came hope in the form of Jerry Lordan who approached them with a tune called "Apache". Released in July 1960, it skyrocketed to the top of the charts and stayed in the Top 40 for over 20 weeks. This was followed by other hits such as "Wonder Land", "Kon-Tiki", "Shindig", "Sleepwalk", "That's My Desire","Bo Diddley", "Tonight", and "I Only Wanna Be With You" amongst others, while performing for Cliff as backup. After Meehan's departure in 1961, he was replaced by Brian Bennett, (who still remains a member). With different lineup changes over the year, the band too, evolved and tried out a range of styles. This led to a string of hits till the year 1967, where none of their tracks charted. Notably, Marvin had penned "Driftin", "Geronimo", "Spider Juice" (name given by his daughter for orange juice), "I Want You to Want Me", "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt", "FBI", "Foottapper", amongst others for The Shadows.

With time though, the music preference and culture had evolved, which left The Shadows' music seem like it was lacking something. And because of the changing dynamics in the group and some rocky roads, the group split in 1968 with Welch creating the crack.

As Marvin, Welch, and Farrar
After their disbanding, Welch joined Marvin and another vocalist/guitarist, John Farrar. Taking inspiration from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, they formed the trio―Marvin, Welch, and Farrar, and they recorded two albums, the second being called "Second Opinion", along with several singles and another album with Marvin and Farrar. This did not go down well with previous fans or new enthusiasts, who were missing the distinctive sound and feel that the band had brought together. After a lack of success and by popular demand, they reworked and reformed The Shadows again.

During their reformation in 1973, they brought in Farrar as a backing guitarist and featured vocalist. In 1975, they were chosen by BBC to partake in the Song of Europe for the Eurovision Song contest; they had six entries out of which "Let Me Be The One" was chosen by fans who voted. It only came in second and was not one of their finest moments. The following year, a compilation album called Rarities was released.

After Farrar's departure "Twenty Golden Greats" was released in 1977. This was followed by the "String of Hits" album in 1979, which topped the charts and was followed up by "String Of Hits Volume-2" and "Another String of Hot Hits" in 1980. They continued to make a couple of albums which charted, with the exception of "Guardian Angel". After this, there was a slow decline in The Shadows' popularity. Re-banding again in 2004, they performed The Final Tour, along with the track "Life Story", which was a part of a set of hits by them, in an album of the same name. Following the tour's success, it was extended to cover continental Europe in 2005. This marked the end of an era for the legends.

Solo Career
Walking out of the shadows (pun intended!) of his former band, Marvin ventured out on a solo career. He started out initially in 1969, and his first self-title album was a success, with the hit single "Sacha" topping the charts in Australia. This was followed in the '80s by vocal albums such as "Words and Music" and "All Alone with Friends". During the '90s, he released a couple more albums, reverting to his old style and sound, also working with his son Ben, and old band mate Bennett, whose son Warren played the keyboards, adding new flavor to the sound. In 2002, his album "Guitar Player" reached number 10 in the charts. His latest album, which seems to be his last is "Guitar Man", released in 2007 and reaching #6 on the UK charts.

He has also has collaborated with Roger Daltrey on the tracks "Parade" and "Leon", co-wrote "Sam" for Olivia Newton John, teamed up with French composer and keyboardist Jean Michel Jarre's "London Kid", and worked with French guitarist Jean-Pierre Danel.

Tributes and Anniversary Concerts
A tribute album named "Twang!: A Tribute to Hank Marvin and the Shadows", released in 1996, features legendary guitarists and musicians like Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Steve Stevens, Peter Green and the Splinter Group, Neil Young and Randy Bachman, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, Keith Urban, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

On December 11, 2008, Cliff Richard and the Shadows reunited to perform at the Royal Variety Performance, which was followed by their 50th Anniversary tour in September 2009.
Hank Marvin was known for his use of the tremolo arm, creating echoes with the Meazzi, amplification with Vox and a Binson magnetic disc, all of which was used to accompany and enhance the use of his Fender Stratocaster. His tremolo while picking slow, shredded sounds and melodic strumming made him distinctive from a lot of other musicians of that time.

Most of his music was played using the Strato. Incidentally, when he started out, Fender never sold in the UK, so his mate Richard order the notorious cherry red Fender Stratocaster specially from the US for him. Marvin is credited with making this guitar popular, with people like Gilmour and Clapton stating that they too wanted to own one, watching their idol. A signature Hank Marvin Stratocaster series was later brought out in his name. For a short period, he also used the Burns Marvin Guitar, which was something he worked on with their founder, Jim Burn. It is also a signature guitar credited to his name.

Marvin got married early at the age of 19, and had four kids with his first wife Beryl, the eldest of which, Dean, died an untimely death owing to drug and alcohol abuse at the age of 34. The others were twins Peter and Paul and daughter Phillipa. In his second marriage to Carole, he had son Ben and daughter Thalia. He is a Jehovah's Witness.

In 1986, he moved with his family to Perth, Australia, where he currently resides. He also runs a recording studio called Nivram studios, which is a part of Sh-Boom studios in Tiverton Street, Perth, owned by Trevor Spencer and Gary Taylor. Hank's name has become the Cockney rhyming slang for starving. Saatchi and Saatchi made a commercial for a Mattessons snack, which showcased schoolboys donning wigs and eyeglasses, which Marvin had made so popular. Their punchline was, "Mattessons' Fridge Raiders 'For when you're Hank Marvin" (referencing the slang).

An interesting fact is that despite his connection to skiffle, pop rock, surf rock and instrumental, Marvin has always be a fan of Jazz, naming Django Reinhardt as his inspiration. Other personal influences include Buddy Holly (on whom his image is loosely based), James Burton, Scotty Moore, and Eddie Cochran.

Hank's unique musicality has made him the inspiration for many legendary guitarists such as George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Brian May, Steve Howe, Roy Wood, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore, amongst countless others.
With Cliff Richard (With The Shadows)
  • Cliff Sings
  • Me and My Shadows
  • The Young Ones
  • Summer Holiday
  • Wonderful Life
With The Shadows
  • The Shadows
  • Out of The Shadows
  • Dance with The Shadows
  • The Sound of The Shadows
  • Shadow Music
  • Jigsaw
  • From Hank, Bruce, Marvin, and John
  • Shades of Rock
  • Rockin' with Curly Leads
  • Specs Appeal
  • Tasty
  • String of Hits
  • Change of Address
  • Hits Right Up Your Street
  • Life in the Jungle
  • XXV
  • Guardian Angel
  • Moonlight Shadows
  • Simply Shadows
  • Steppin' to The Shadows
  • At Their Very Best
  • Reflection
  • Themes and Dreams
  • Shadows in the Night
Solo Albums
  • Hank Marvin No. 14
  • Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate
  • Words and Music
  • All Alone With Friends
  • Into the Night
  • Heartbeat
  • Hank Plays Cliff
  • Hank Plays Holly
  • Guitar Player
  • Guitar Man
  • Rhythm & Greens Starring The Shadows
  • The Young Ones
  • Summer Holiday
  • Wonderful Life
  • Finders Keepers
  • Thunderbirds Are Go
  • It's Cliff Richard!
Hank B. Marvin was a legend in his own right, whose music still echoes today not only through his work but through the influence he has had on the generations of musicians to follow.