Mike Redway made a career as a backing singer and even sang on a Bond film. Now aged 76, he’s penned his first musical. Interview by Neil Hudson
You may not have heard the name but you will most certainly have heard his voice, because Mike Redway spent more than 30 years as a backing singer for the likes of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, The Beatles and many more.
In his own words, he’s made a career out of “oo-ing and aa-ing”. He wasn’t always in the background, however, and was once called upon to provide a song for Casino Royale (1967), starring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and David Niven, albeit on the end credits.
The 76-year-old recalls: “It was a great honour and I went to see the film with my wife but my song wasn’t on until the credits began rolling, so, while everyone else was getting up to leave, we just sat there. I was thinking, ‘don’t go!’”
If he was a little let down by that, it doesn’t show. The father-of-three remains incredibly upbeat, not to say inventive, having just realised one of his long held dreams - to write a musical.
Seriously Dead, which begins touring this month and will have a second run in February, will be at Wakefield’s Theatre Royal on November 2 and 3.
“It is something I always wanted to do, something I always dreamed of and it came about after I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, [theatre producer] Leah Bell, and we were just chatting about songs I’d written and I told her I had one called Seriously Dead and she just loved the title. I showed her the other songs and Leah went away and wrote the musical.”
The show will also star Frazer Hines from Emmerdale and Crissy Rock, who starred in the sitcom Benedorm.
But Mike is no stranger to celebrity. Indeed, he’s even had a number one hit abroad and created some of the most memorable jingles in advertising.
For years, he made his living working alongside some of the greatest names in pop but his career started out right here in Leeds.
When we competed to be the UK’s Eurovision entry, we got more airplay than the winning songMike Redway talks about his long career in the music industry
“I grew up Hunlset and went to All Saints School. Mum [Margery] and dad [Leonard] had a pub called The Mulberry, then they moved to The Prospect. My mum was a baker and dad a landlord, although he also baked when times were hard. I grew up with my brother Barry [who passed away, aged 56, some 20 years ago].”
Mike, whose real surname is Reddyhoff, came from a music family where “everyone either played an instrument or sang” and he was no different, touring the local working mens’ clubs with his late brother, who was known as ‘Johnny Leeds’.
He also spent time with the John Fearnley Singers, the Demi Jeans and featured regularly on the Albert Modley Radio Show when Shirley Bassey was a young singer. Aged 20, he struck out on his own as a ‘plugger’ (a backing singer), moving to London.
“When I first went there, I had to go round all the radio stations and introduce myself to band leaders and give them the latest song I was plugging. I worked for a man call Sid Green and he said you cannot go about introducing yourself as Reddyhoff. When you say Reddyhoff, the first thing people ask is how do you spell it? So, he came up with Redway. But 12 months later there was Inglebert Humperdink, so what did he know?
“There were a lot of people who were ‘stars’ but who couldn’t sing and so pluggers got a lot of work that way. There were those ‘stars’ and then there were the real stars, like Tom Jones, which is when I would ooo and aaa.”
He went on: “I was big friends with [the late] Ken Barrie, [the voice of Postman Pat] and he was always joking around and doing impressions and one day I got a phone call and the voice on the other end said, ‘Hello, this is Burt Bacharach here’ and I thought ‘oh yeah...’ and so he went on for a bit and eventually he said something which made me think twice, that this actually was Burt Bacharach, at which point I had to rewind a bit.”
It turned out Burt had asked him to sing a track for the closing credits of Casino Royale. “I sang ‘Beware, Beware, There’s Danger In The Air...’ I went to the premiere of the film with my wife, Marjorie and as everyone else was getting up to leave, we just stayed there. I was quite proud of it actually. It got a lot of hits on Youtube and it’s since been remixed.”
But Mike spread his wings even wider and even formed his own production company, Redrock Music Ltd, producing ‘library music’, used by advertising companies to find jingles.
“I’ve done jingles for Tetley’s Tea, Kelloggs, the Co-op, John Smiths... I was once sat watching TV and an advert came for Kleenex tissues and I heard the jingle they were using and I thought, I know that song from somewhere, I know it... then a bit later on I said, ‘I think I wrote it!’
“I did lots of jingles and because of the way royalties work, every time they use something like that, you get a little bit back, it all comes back. At the end of the day, it comes down to being able to put bread on the table.”
Mike and Marjorie had two daughters (Suzanne and Caroline) and a son Mark but sadly lost Caroline to Chrone’s Disease about five years ago. They also have six grandchildren and now live in Middlesex.
Mike also produced Terry Wogan’s version of The Floral Dance in 1978, which reached number 21 in the charts and which Mike revealed could soon be re-released by the BBC as part of the events to mark the broadcasters recent death and to raise money for Children In Need.
But Mike has also had hit songs in the charts himself, reaching the top slot in Germany in 1974 with Du Kannst Nicht Immer Siebszehn and his entry into the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest, So Do I, while coming last in the UK vote, somehow ended up gaining more airplay than that year’s official entry. That, together with several other songs by Mike, are available now on Youtube, including a version of Windmills of Your Mind. Mike added: “I’ve never been one for boasting but I’m really proud about the musical and at my age I think I’m allowed to boast a little.”
Mike learned piano from his grandmother and singing from his father and uncle
He toured Leeds clubs with his big brother Barry
He produced Terry Wogan’s 1978 hit The Floral Dance
He sang the theme song for 1967’s Casino Royale
He had a Number One hit in Germany and wrote countless well known advertising jingles
The musical, Seriously Dead, is on tour and will play at Wakefield’s Theatre Royal on November 2 and 3.
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