History Page

A LIVING PASSION – SHAPING A LIFE OF MUSIC

When you see Mike Silver in concert or listen to his CDs, you’ll know that you’re in the presence of an assured and confident singer of consummate skill, with a lifetime’s experience of music, writing and performance behind him. But take a few moments to read Mike’s life story; then you’ll far better understand the man, his living passion for music – and what has shaped his unique creative gifts.

The South-East Gas Board (Croydon Division) was not a well-known crucible of emerging musical talent in the early 1960s; nevertheless, it was where fifteen year-old Mike Silver found his first job. To the detriment of the Gas Board, but greatly to the world’s benefit, Mike’s devotion to studying for his apprenticeship was considerably diluted by his yet greater love of music; and whilst paying back a paternal loan for his first guitar via a newspaper round, he practiced, sang, absorbed diverse musical influences – and formed The Sundowners, a jaunty, Brylcreemed duo that played youth club dances and performed Shadows songs. Then at 17, Mike joined the big-time when he was signed to Croydon’s hottest beat combo, Glen Athens and The Trojans; a group of such widespread acclaim and renown that it had its own supporters’ club, manager – and massed ranks of hysterical fans.

Wowed by the Blues explosion                                                                                             

 Mid-1960s Britain witnessed a massive Blues explosion - and in his next group, The Light, Mike explored his new-found love for artists such as Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Big Bill Broonzy. From these influences, Mike started to fashion the beginnings of his own sound, his own songwriting abilities, and his own musical self-expression. Bob Dylan followed on as another major influencer, confirming Mike’s desire to be recognised for his own compositions, not for cover versions of others’ songs. However Mike’s true musical epiphany came at the age of 19, when he was invited to Canterbury Folk Club, where he witnessed the playing and singing of Gerry Lockran www.gerrylockran.com  19/07/1942 – 17/11/1987. Gerry’s singing and songwriting genius was underpinned by his acoustic guitar finger-picking, but Mike had never seen a guitar played in this style before – a single instrument generating lead, rhythm and base elements; in a moment of insight and clarity, Mike knew that this was the style and direction that must shape his musical career from now on. 

Jersey, Cornwall and Earls Court                                                                                                      In 1967, Mike decided to turn professional and went to Jersey looking for work. Having slept under a boat for several nights (an obligatory experience for all aspiring musicians), he picked up his first gig in a St Helier pub, walking up and down an L-shaped bar singing anything the punters wanted to hear. Gerry Lockran was working in Jersey as well, and he befriended Mike  - to the extent of inviting him to travel on a week-long West Country tour in September of that year. Gerry was a brilliant teacher, a good friend and freely shared his vast store of knowledge and experience. Mike learned a lot from him, as well as meeting many music fans, performers and singers - including Brenda Wootton, who ran Pipers Folk Club in Penzance and was to become a close and valued friend.

Mike’s next two years consolidated his experience of live performance, meeting many musicians and getting to know the wonderful Jackson C. Frank (Blues Run the Game) who was instrumental in Mike signing his first publishing deal with Lorna Music, run by Alan Paramour, brother of the orchestra leader and arranger Norrie Paramour. Mike spent much of his time travelling between south London and Cornwall, forming the band Daylight with Chrissie Quayle, a local folk singer, and Steve Hayton an American musician. Then Mike moved to Earl’s Court, London, which rivalled Soho for its fertile and creative music scene, with particular focus on folk and acoustic music. The Troubador on Old Brompton Road was Earl’s Court’s musical epicentre, and Mike was irresistibly drawn in, becoming friendly with Del Newman, a highly talented orchestral arranger and composer who had written for Paul McCartney, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and Elton John, whilst also producing recordings for Chris de Burgh, Randy van Warmer, Charles Aznavour and many other major names.

Signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records                                                                                             In 1972 Del Newman instigated and negotiated a contract for Mike with Elton John’s Rocket Records. Only the second English act to be signed to the label, Mike recorded his first solo album, appropriately named Troubadour, which was produced by Del Newman and included three impressive orchestral arrangements. The album was released in the USA in 1973, and Mike toured there in November of that year, supporting Dory Previn, Ashford & Simpson and Paul Yarrow.

The following year, Mike was engaged as a session singer for the first time, on a Ralph McTell release, ‘Let Me Down Easy’. Later in 1974 he moved to Holland, playing gigs in the music clubs of Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands. He also toured Europe with Brenda Wootton, appeared on French TV and sang backing vocals on ‘From the Mighty Oaks’, the solo album of Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues. The next few years saw Mike working throughout Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark - and he made another Moody Blues connection when the band’s Justin Hayward covered Mike’s song, ‘Maybe It’s Just Love’, on his solo album ‘Nightflight’. 

Gigs, albums and session work                                                                                                  

 With a number of well received albums to his credit, Mike returned to the UK, generating a growing following on the UK folk club and festival circuit, and releasing his first independent album, ‘Free’ for his own Silversound Records label. This was followed by ‘No Machine’, also for Silversound, with both albums being produced by Jo Partridge. There was also plenty of work as a session guitarist and singer on a number of recordings with various colleagues - and a live Mike Silver album, ‘Roadworks’ was released on the Silversound Record label in 1990 to widespread critical acclaim, being particularly lauded for its simplicity and honesty. Festival bookings flooded in, with appearances at Wimborne, Cambridge, Trowbridge and Edinburgh festivals, and return bookings following successful appearances at all these gigs.

In 1992, Mike began discovering the joy of working as a session musician and record producer for other singers and writers, and he was asked to appear as a guest artist on Show of Hands’ www.showofhands.co.uk first independent release, recorded live in Bridport in front of an invited audience. Then, in 1994, he toured with Show of Hands as their supporting artist and recorded the album ‘Dedication’ for a Silversound Records release the following year, with Steve Knightley as guest backing vocalist.

 

Performing in the UK, Europe and Canada                                                                             

Today Mike performs regularly throughout the UK, Europe and Canada, appearing at music clubs, concert halls and festivals. With a wealth of self-penned material and a portfolio of albums to his credit, he continues to write new songs and win new devotees. His latest album, 2008’s ‘How Many Rivers’ has gained universal acclaim and plenty of mainstream airplay. As well as being a singer, songwriter and performer in his own right, Mike is much in demand as a contributor to albums and concert appearances by fellow musicians; he played alongside Show of Hands on their first live album; produced ‘Spring Again’ for Harvey Andrews, and provided guitar and vocals on David Munyon’s  www.myspace.com/davidmunyon Deutsche Gramophon Prize-nominated album, ‘Poet Wind’. His songs, too, are covered by other artists, including John Wright 22/06/1947 – 07/02 2008. www.johnwrightmusic.co.uk John’s version of  Mike’s ‘Not a Matter of Pride’, led to him producing their follow-on album ‘Language of the Heart’, which featured this song and two more of Mike’s compositions. Elbow Jane www.elbowjane.com have also championed Mike’s work and he continues to be sought regularly for album contributions and production work. Mike’s work also extends to broadcast media; he has appeared in concert on Radio 1, features regularly on Mike Harding’s Radio 2 Roots & Acoustic radio programme, he performs on local radio – and he launched his ‘Solid Silver’ album by playing live on GMTV, receiving the highest viewing figures for the whole 3½ hour show.

Catch Mike Silver live or on record and you’ll understand where his lifetime’s love of music has led – to irresistible songs of the soul, played with a love, tenderness and compassion that will joyously capture your imagination - and happily enslave your heart.

 


E-mail Mike direct at info@mikesilver.co.uk