It sounds like he had a very interesting and versatile life, great story.
From: Richard Havers <rhavers@...
Date: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 10:45 AM
Subject: [joemeek] Don Charles
Another in my occasional series of artist bios with Meek connections...
Weeks on Chart 5
Charles (real name Walter Stanley Scuffham, b.1939 Hull) began singing in the choir of Welbeck Abbey, but his hobby of answering every advertisement in the 'Champion' comic, mainly for foreign stamps and photographic equipment, led to his leaving school to go to sea. He responded to the advert that said "Join The Navy and See The World"; a fortnight later he was in uniform, despite the call of the Yorkshire colts and a possible career in county cricket. Only 15 when he enlisted, he served in the Royal Navy for six years. He developed a singing career while in Hong Kong, combining it with naval duties as a diver.
In Hong Kong a Filipino bandleader, Maestro Rey, asked him to sing with his band. After a year he went solo, forming his own group of Filipino musicians. His popularity in Hong Kong signaled an end to his naval career and the start of a musical one in Britain. He initially recorded cover versions under various names, often Robert Garfield, for Woolworth's Embassy label; he specialized in copying Nat King Cole and Anthony Newley. In '61 he recorded Teach Me Tonight for Parlophone as Don Bennett (his mother's maiden name, which he had also used in Hong Kong) under the guidance of George Martin. He changed his name legally in '61 to Don Charles and signed with record producer Joe Meek.
Early in '62 Walk With Me My Angel went to No.39, the follow-up The Hermit Of Misty Mountain missed out on chart honours despite strong radio play. Three more Meek-produced singles It's My Way of Loving You, Angel Of Love and Hearts' Ice Cold fared no better; the best track in Charles' opinion, My Friend remained unreleased. On record Charles was usually backed by the Tornadoes but on tour was invariably supported by groups like the Shevells and Birmingham's Beachcombers, the latter including Peter Lee Stirling who later sang as Daniel Boone. After working with Meek Charles and former Tornado Alan Caddy formed Sound Venture Productions. In '63 Charles released their first single Tower Tall on HMV and followed it with 6 more HMV releases in the following two years. Despite the lack of chart success he remained in the public eye as a talented footballer with the Showbiz XI, and as a wicket keeper, playing alongside Fred Titmus, Freddie Trueman and Peter Parfitt.
In the mid/late 60's Charles was commended for his bravery in rescuing people from a fire which gutted Chappells in New Bond Street, a situation not entirely new to him. Aged 17 he received the Royal Humane Society's Silver Medal when he saved a boy from drowning, later still he jumped overboard from HMS Cleopatra to save the ships cat. For the latter act of gallantry he got 28 days detention for leaving and re-entering the ship without permission.
A switch to Parlophone in '67 brought no more success, despite 5 singles between '67 and '68. '69 and '70 saw Charles recording and appearing on TV as Sgt. Will Scuffham, in a World War I uniform complete with moustache; nobody knew it was his real name. He released songs like They All Came Marching Home and The Salvation Army Citadel but they failed to chart. In '70 Charles went to Italy and then Malta where he landed various TV series, became a local celebrity and opened a large restaurant and nightclub with his partner Rolf Harris. It was very successful, until Mintoff became Prime Minister. Mintoff, who was anti America and Britain, tried to force Charles to sell him 51% of the business. Despite constant pressure Charles held out until '77 when, for no reason, he was given 12 hours to leave Malta.
In '79 and '80 he sang in various Iron Curtain countries before turning to photojournalism and writing. During the 80's he wrote children's stories for the BBC, a book and various brochures; he also began work on a novel 'A for Apple'. He now lives on a luxury barge on the Grand Union Canal at Hayes with his solicitor wife. Because he rejected the name Scuffham, when he legally changing it to Charles, his maiden aunt disinherited him; she left �0.5 million to the church instead.
Decca F 11424 Walk With Me My Angel/Crazy Man, Crazy 1962 39
Decca F 11464 The Hermit Of Misty Mountain/Moonlight Rendezvous 1962
Decca F 11528 it's My Way Of Loving You/Guess That's The Way It Goes 1962
Decca F 11602 Angel of Love/Lucky Star 1963
Decca F 11645 Heart's Ice Cold/Daybreak 1963
HMV POP 1271 Tower Tall/Look Before You Love 1963
HMV POP 1307 If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell Ya/Voice On The Phone 1964
HMV POP 1332 Big Talk from A Little Man/She's Mine 1964
HMV POP 1382 Forgetting Me, Loving Him/A Long Time Ago 1965
HMV POP 1420 Dream on Little Dreamer/We Only Live Once 1965
HMV POP 1478 I Could Conquer The World/Time Will Tell 1965
HMV POP 1542 Out Of This Cold/From the Beginning 1966
Parlophone R 5564 So Let It Be/Bring Your Love to Me 1967
Parlophone R 5596 Have I Told You Lately/Time Waits For Nobody 1967
Parlophone R 5659 If I Had The Chance/(I've Got Everything) I've Got You 1968
Parlophone R 5688 The Drifter/Great To Be Livin 1968
Parlophone R 5712 Your Name Is On My Heart/How Can I 1968