Timeline

1935
1935

Les Was Born

Les was born to Beatrice and Ralph Henry Reed, on July 24th 1935, at 21 Granville Road, Westfield, Woking, Surrey.

1941
1941

At The Age Of 6

At the age of 6, Les attended his very first piano lesson with Rita.C.Row, who lived just across the allotment from Les’s house. Rita took Les through all of his grades over the next few years, including his London College of Music exams, of which he passed with flying colours.

1945
1945

Les’s Father

Les’s father, Ralph Henry, started a local troupe of child entertainers, called “The Westfield Kids”, including singers, comedians and dancers, who entertained troops in hospitals and working men’s clubs. Les accompanied the acts on piano and accordion. It was at this time that he wrote his very first songs, both lyrically and melodically. Because of the closeness to his mother, his very first song was called “Oh Mother Dear”. The second song was called “Nirvana”. Strange because the song was about a paradise island. Les didn’t know at the time that Nirvana meant exactly that – a paradise island.

1946
1946

Les Was 11 Years Old

Les was 11 years old, and his interest in show business was growing fast. He decided to create a personality wall in his bedroom and, over the next few years, collected photographs and news articles of his all-time favourite singers/stars, including Glenn Miller; Stan Kenton; Sammy Davis Jr and a host of others. As he progressed through the years as a successful musician, songwriter and conductor. Les was to become friendly with and, indeed, work with every star that featured on his wall. If you take a look at the discography section in this website, you will see the relationship and the songs between Les and these artists.

1949
1949

The First Professional Gig

Les's first professional gig was at the Nab Club, Hayling Island, for a season. Playing piano in a trio, and accompanying many artists, including one of his Mother’s favourite artists, Les Allen, who Les was named after!

1950
1950

The Les Reed Trio Was Born

The Les Reed trio was born.... Consisting of Les on piano, Bob Wooler on bass and Johnny King on drums. The trio were booked for nightclubs, weddings and parties.

1954
1954

The National Service

National Service was now imminent. Les joined the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) and served in Germany, The Balkans and Denmark.

1956
1956

Last 6 Months In The Army

His last 6 months in the army were spent in the military band of The Buffs, where Les became proficient on the clarinet, taught to him by his bandmaster, Colonel Trevor Sharpe OBE. Les was responsible for most of the musical arrangements for the military dance band.

1956

After His Demob

After his demob, Les’s friends took him to the local working men’s club to celebrate. There was a featured cabaret that evening and a photographer, working for the Woking Opinion, was taking photographs of the performers. At the end of the evening, Les was at the bar and overheard the photographer, June, ask the bartender if she could hire a taxi to get home. The bartender said it was too late for a taxi and, in jest, suggested that she could use his butcher’s bike, which was parked outside. Always the gentleman, Les offered to take June home, to Knaphill, Surrey, on the bike and, much to his surprise, she agreed. It was a horrendous journey but they finally made it to her home. Les and June agreed to meet the following day at a restaurant in Woking. Whilst having tea and cakes, Les was explaining his desire to go back into the army. June fixed him with her wonderful smile and said: “Please don’t go”. From those three words and her beautiful expression, his decision was made.... No more army!

1958
1958

Up And Down The Country

By this time, Les was playing with many bands as a pianist, up and down the country. One day a very well known guitarist, Vic Flick, rang to ask if Les would like to play at Butlins for a summer season, which Les accepted. Vic became a life long friend and colleague from then on. Also appearing for the season was a new band, Cliff Richard and The Drifters, playing in the room below Les and Vic. This event was their very first excursion into show business. Before the season at Butlins, Les was the resident pianist at the Park Ballroom in Southampton, with the Frank Joynson Orchestra.

1959
1959

The Lido Restaurant

Les was a resident pianist at the Lido Restaurant in London’s West End under the musical direction of Harry Singleton. One very important factor of Les’s role within the club was to audition artists on a Sunday, to appear the following week in the cabaret spot. He remembers a young singer called Barry Mason, who turned up for an audition. This was the first time Les had come across Barry Mason, and he duly conducted the audition but turned him down, instead favouring a specialty act called Fluffles Malone! She had tassels tied to her backside and breasts, which rotated in time to the music! She fascinated Les, as he was playing piano behind her for all to see!!    

A couple of years later, Barry came into Les’s office and told Les off for turning him down at that particular time! However, he did present Les with some beautiful lyrics and a new partnership was born.

It was about this time that Vic Flick invited John Barry along to the Lido nightclub to see Les play, as John was keen to add piano to the up and coming ‘John Barry Seven’. John was dutifully impressed, and Les attended an audition the following day. His future with the John Barry Seven was sealed.

Les Reed Fig 11
1960
1960

The Very First Booking

The very first booking was for BBC Television series, “Drumbeat”, which ran for over a year on prime-time TV. Whilst on tour with the John Barry Seven,  Les was fortunate enough to meet two men, also on tour, who were to become a very important part of his life and career. Gerry Dorsey (later to become Engelbert Humperdinck) and Gordon Mills (playing harmonica). All three became inseparable friends and, as we all know, the partnership evolved into something very special.

Les Reed Fig 13A
1960

June & Les Were Married

June and Les were married at Caxton Hall in London. Adam Faith was Les’s best man and remained a great friend to Les and June for many years.

1961
1961

Donna

The birth of their darling daughter, Donna, in Wimbledon Hospital.

1962
1962

Les Left The John Barry 7

Les left the John Barry Seven to concentrate on his musical direction and arrangements for artists that he was being offered. His first label was Pye Piccadilly, and his very first artist was Joe Brown. Between them, they produced three hits over the next year or so.  Les formed his own orchestra, the Les Reed Orchestra - their first single being “The Saint”, backed with “Doctor Finlay’s Case Book Theme” for the label, and recorded many singles and albums, which were very well received throughout the world.

Les also produced The Countrymen and Emile Ford for the same label.

1963
1963

Donna Music / Tony Hiller

Les hadn’t really thought about the songwriting side of the business but one day he ventured down to Denmark Street, home of songwriters and publishers. The first man he met was Tony Hiller, who was a successful songwriter/publisher. They spent many hours together, and Tony introduced Les to many people, not least of all the great wartime writers, Michael Carr, Jimmy Kennedy and Tommy Connor. He realized that Denmark Street would become his second home and, within a few months, Les had set up offices and a publishing company, Donna Music, named after his daughter.

1964
1964

The Wonderful Geoff Stephens

Jimmy Duncan was Les’s first lyricist. They wrote a song called “Everybody Knows (I Love You)” for Steve Lawrence, which became a hit in America. His next partner was the wonderful Geoff Stephens, a highly talented lyricist - without a doubt, one of the finest this country has ever produced. Their first song was “Tell Me When”, which became a big hit for The Applejacks. Many hits have evolved from this partnership, not least of all, “There’s a Kind of Hush”, “Daughter of Darkness” and many others.

1965
1965

The Great Artist Tom Jones

In 1965, Gordon Mills rang Les to see if he would like to see an act called Tommy Woodward performing at a cinema in Slough. Les wasn’t impressed to begin with – Tommy was dressed in tight black trousers and silk shirt, with medallions around his neck and a rabbit’s foot around his waist! But, when he opened his mouth to sing, Les was in awe! Tom Jones was discovered that day, managed by Gordon Mills. Tom recorded many titles with Les as a composer, MD and arranger. One of the songs being “It's Not Unusual” (Reed/Mills). It was not only the making of Tom Jones, but the recording became a hit in virtually every country in the world. Many hits emanated from then on, not least of all, “Delilah”, “I’m Coming Home”, “Daughter Of Darkness” and “Green, Green Grass Of Home” (the latter was not written by Les, but he was responsible for the arrangement and was pianist and co-producer on the recording).

Les Reed Fig 19A
1966
1966

“Kiss Me Goodbye”

Gordon Mills was so delighted with the success of Tom Jones and, looking for other artists to manage, he signed Gerry Dorsey and renamed him Engelbert Humperdinck. Again, Les was asked to compose, conduct, arrange and co-produce Engelbert’s recordings. Les took over after “Release Me” became a huge hit.   “The Last Waltz”; “Winter World Of Love”; “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize” and “When There’s No You” were provided by Les and his team of lyricists over the next few years.

It was at this time that Les came across a new artist, Malcolm Roberts, and was asked to produce recordings for Malcolm. In the next few years, they made many recordings together, not least of all “Love Is All” which, as we all know, took Brazil by storm.

Throughout 1967, Les was offered many important artists/singers including Petula Clark, The Dave Clark 5, The Fortunes and Des O’Connor, each of whom took Les’s songs high in the charts, not least of all “Kiss Me Goodbye” (Pet Clark); “Here It Comes Again” (The Fortunes); “I Pretend” (Des O’Connor) and “Everybody Knows” (The Dave Clark 5).

Les Reed Fig 20A Les Reed Fig 20B Les Reed Fig 20C
1967
1967

The Maquila

At this time, Les was approached by an original member of the French Resistance, the Maquila. He was presented with a beautiful swordstick and certificate in appreciation of his work with many French artists throughout the world. The swordstick was signed by former President of France, General De Gaulle, and presented by Johnny Stark (Manager to Mireille Mathieu). Les is now a life-long member of the French Maquila.

 
1968
1968

Les Bicyclettes De Belsize

After writing many hits for the likes of Tom Jones; Engelbert Humperdinck; Petula Clark and The Dave Clark 5, amongst many others at this time, Les was approached by a couple of film companies who were interested in his writing music for films. In this regard, Les was offered two or three films and he chose “The Girl on a Motorcycle”, featuring Marianne Faithfull and Alain Delon, which appealed to him greatly on his first viewing. Les completed the score and the film became a huge hit. A few months after completing “Girl on a Motorcycle”, Les and Barry Mason were asked to provide the music and songs for a new film called “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize”. Again, the film was very successful and brought forth two hits from the score, namely, “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize” recorded by Engelbert, and “Julie”, recorded by many artists, including the late, great Frank Sinatra.

Later in 1968 - Chapter One Records was started by Les. The label (distributed by Decca Records) became very successful, with such artists as Gerry Monroe; Episode 6 (later to become Deep Purple); Russ Conway and The Les Reed Orchestra, plus many others.

 
1969
1969

Rio, Brazil

Les and Barry decided to write a big ballad for Malcolm Roberts to sing in the 1969 musical festival in Rio, Brazil. The song was “Love Is All”. Malcolm's performance was pure magic, and the Brazilian audience absolutely loved him, giving him a 20-minute standing ovation! The song and artist went on to become a top favourite in Brazil and, to this day, people are still talking about Malcolm’s particular performance in that festival.

1969

MGM Records USA

Les was invited by Arnold Maxim (MGM Records USA) to write and produce an album for the legendary singer, Connie Francis. Les collated ten songs for the album, for which he scored the musical arrangements, played piano, produced and was musical director. The album, “Connie Francis Sings the Songs of Les Reed” was a huge success, and is still a favourite recording for her many fans. Connie also recorded many other Les Reed songs, and they became lifelong friends. A partnership made in heaven.

1970
1970

Early 70’s

In the early ‘70s, Les was still providing hit songs for artists, not least of all Engelbert, P.J Proby and many others, including “Delilah” for The Alex Harvey Soul Band, and “Hello Happiness” for The Drifters. A particular favourite was “That’s What Life Is All About” written with, and recorded by, Bing Crosby, which became a hit in the UK and USA. Les also worked with Sammy Davis Jr and Peter Lawford on a film called “One More Time”, produced by Jerry Lewis.

1975
1975

Johnnie Hamp

Johnnie Hamp, Executive Producer, Granada TV, asked Les to become Musical Director, Conductor and Arranger of a new TV series called “The International Pop Proms”, the nucleus of the orchestra being the wonderful Halle Orchestra. Guests included Johnny Mathis; Roy Orbison; Buddy Greco; Brook Benton and Caterina Valente. The show was a huge success and was a joy to work on.

1976
1976

New Faces

A very popular weekly TV show called “New Faces” was launched by ITV Les was asked to become a judge along with Tony Hatch, Mickey Most and others. BBC Radio 2 ran a weekly radio show, “The Musical World of Les Reed”, featuring the Les Reed Orchestra, which ran for 11 weeks.

Also in 1976,  “There’s A Kind Of Hush” was released by The Carpenters. (It had previously been a hit for Herman’s Hermits in the ‘60s) The Carpenter’s version of the song was beautiful and became a top 20 hit.

1977
1977

F.I.D.O.F

Les became President of F.I.D.O.F, an organisation that hosted song festivals throughout the world. Pictured here with Armando Moreno, Founder and Vice President of F.I.D.O.F

1979
1979

The Lady Vanishes

The original classic film, “The Lady Vanishes”, produced in the 1940’s, was remade in 1979, featuring Elliot Gould, Cybill Shepherd and Angela Lansbury. Les was asked to write the main theme to the film. A very successful project.

1980
1980

George & Mildred

“George & Mildred”, staring Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy was a very successful TV series. Les composed the score for the film version of the TV series.

Between 1983 and 1987, Les scored four other films, namely “Broken Love”; “Street Kid”; “My Mother’s Lovers” and “Creepshow 2”.

Les was awarded the BASCA Gold Badge Award, which honours those who have worked tirelessly for British Songwriting.

1983
1983

County Sound Radio

Rebecca Music is a publishing company started in 1983, to house all Les Reed compositions from 1983 to the present day.

This same year saw the birth of a new radio station, “County Sound Radio”, broadcasting to Surrey and Hampshire. Les was a founder Director, along with Frank Muir. Apart from being a Director, Les also provided the original jingle package. County Sound was to become a very successful ILR station and now broadcasts under the name of Eagle Radio.

1984
1984

Tin Pan Alley

“Tin Pan Alley”, a musical about the music industry, was written by Les and Ben Nisbet, and ran at a beautiful theatre, The Mill in Sonning. It featured the wonderful John Judd, Craig Douglas and many others, including Les as a budding songwriter and pianist.

1985
1985

The Niagara Suite

In 1985, Les wrote one of his first classical pieces, “The Niagara Suite”, for his favourite harmonicist, Tommy Reilly. This composition, in three movements, depicted the enormity and beauty of the Niagara Falls. At certain times, the suite can be heard playing near the falls, featuring Tommy and The Munchner Rundfunk Orchester, Conducted by Heinz Geese.

Les worked on a musical, “The Magic Touch”, featuring Illusionist, Johnny Hart. Les and his co-writers provided the musical score for this wonderful magic show, which ran at the Cambridge Theatre, Seven Dials, in London. The title song from the show, “The Magic Touch” was recorded by Tom Jones and released in America.

1989
1989

The Grand National Anthem

“The Grand National Anthem” is a movement within the “Mersey Suite” written by Les. This piece was featured in a beautiful film, highlighting the Grand National at Aintree, which was produced by Jonathan Hamp. The film and the music bought forth great acclaim from the racing fraternity and the sporting media.

“That Woman” (originally “The Windsors”), premiered at Buxton Opera House, to launch the Buxton Festival of Musicals.

1990
1990

Alex

Les’s first Grandson, Alex, was born in November. Alex pursued his passion for cooking and is now a Cordon Bleu Chef, running his own catering business.

1993
1993

Jimmy Kennedy Award

In 1993, Les was presented with the Jimmy Kennedy Award at the Ivor Novello Awards ceremony in London. The award was presented to Les by Dave Clark of the Dave Clark 5, of whom Les produced and arranged many hits for.

1994
1994

Freedom of The City

Les was awarded the Freedom of The City of London, for services to Music, in 1994. Amongst other privileges, the title allows Les to herd his sheep across London Bridge!!

1995
1995

Dominic

Les’s second Grandson, Dominic, was born in September and has followed his Grandfather into the music industry, working in the family business and managing various artists.

Les and Roger Cook were approached by The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, to compose a song for her charity “Children In Crisis”. The song, “Shine a Light”, was recorded by ex-Blue Mink members, Madeline Bell and Roger Cook, and performed at the launch of the Shine a Light/Children In Crisis charity, in the presence of The Duchess of York and other luminaries.

1998
1998

This Perfect Day

When Les’s daughter, Donna, was married to Nick in 1988, Les wrote a beautiful musical suite for Donna to walk down the aisle to. Within the suite was a song, “This Perfect Day”, which Les wrote with Norman Newell. It was performed at the ceremony by fellow songwriter Roger Greenaway. Many years later. when the Duchess of Cambridge married Prince William in 2011, this same suite was encompassed within a lovely video of the Duchess, depicting her wonderful presence and beautiful nature.

1998

A Title From Prince Charles

November 1998, Les was honoured to receive the very prestigious title, Officer of the Order of The British Empire, for Services to Music, from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

Also in 1998, Les wrote the score for a film called “Parting Shots”, which featured singer Chris Rea and was produced by Michael Winner.

2001
2001

Betty Shine

At this time, Les was contacted by Betty Shine, (psychic, medium and spiritual healer). Betty was a wonderful healer, and was a great help to Les in later years. Betty and Eddie Seago wrote some beautiful lyrics on spiritual themes, and Les added the melodies. There is an album of these songs, but Betty sadly passed away and the album has never been released. One day perhaps!

2003
2003

Beautiful & Damned

Les and Roger Cook wrote a musical, “Beautiful & Damned”, based on the lives of Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald. The show was launched in June 2003, at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, starring John Barrowman as Scott, and Helen Anker as Zelda. The show then transferred to the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End, this time with Michael Praed playing F.Scott Fitzgerald and, again, Helen Anker playing Zelda. The musical became very popular and ran for 16 weeks.

2005
2005

The Music Heritage Gold Award

Les was awarded the prestigious Music Heritage Gold Award, for Services to Music, at a Heritage Foundation Dinner in London.

2007
2007

BMI Awards

At a BMI Awards dinner in London, Les and Gordon Mills Jr. were presented with an award celebrating over 4 million performances of “It’s Not Unusual” in the USA alone. This song has been hugely successful worldwide, with covers by Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Cher, to name but a few. According to the BMI website, 3 million plays represents 17 years continued plays, meaning that 4 million would represent over 20 years of continued plays… A mind-boggling thought!

Les provided the songs and musical score for the pilot of a new children’s animation series, called “The Pink Professor Rabbit”, written by Hazel A. Speed.

2010
2010

Luciano Pavarotti

Les has always been a huge fan of Luciano Pavarotti. Imagine his surprise when the great man joined forces with Tom Jones on a televised concert, and sang the most beautiful duet of the Reed/Mason song, “Delilah”. As we all know, the song is a universal hit, and is used in sports stadiums throughout the world, but this version by Pavarotti and Tom will remain Les’s favourite recording of all time.

2013
2013

BNR Radio

BNR Radio, Baltimore, began broadcasting regular hour-long programmes dedicated to Les’s musical career. These programmes are still running and have created a lot of interest from listeners.

2016
2016

Covers & BBC Radio 2

There were a number of hit versions on some of Les’s songs. Motown Records released Marvin Gaye’s version of “It’s Not Unusual”. Diane Shaw secured a number 1 slot in the Soul charts with “Leave a Little Love”. The classical group, Il Volo, had huge success with their version of “Delilah”.

Ken Bruce, one of the most successful presenters on BBC Radio 2, invited Les to feature on “The Tracks of My Years” for a week on his excellent programme.

 
2017
2017

An Autobiography?

As a part of the Chapter One Records/Cherry Red Records partnership, the first CD boxset release was Gerry Monroe ,“Sally – Pride of Our Alley, The Complete Chapter One Recordings”, released in February 2017.

Les is currently working on his “Erin Symphony”, a classical piece based on his love of Ireland. One of America’s greatest living Poets, John Gracen Brown, has written the most beautiful piece about the Erin Isle. Anthony Hopkins has been approached to read the poem on a future recording.

Les has also started to write his autobiography, which we consider will take him 50 years to complete….. poor old codger!!!!