Singer/songwriter/guitarist Kris Ife is probably best known for his time as a member of the 60′s pop group The Quiet Five as well as his solo rendition of Joe South’s “Hush”. But as you’ll see in what follows, Kris is more than meets the eye and ears as it were.
To begin with it’s very interesting that you’ve done research into your namesake, “Ife”. Have you always had an interest in geneology?
Yes, in a way. Obviously with such an unusual name it was easier to research than others, but I was in London when I had it done & I never thought I’d end up living in Suffolk – where the name came from.
Your dad was in the RAF and you were born in Aylesbury Bucks. Whereabouts is this?
It’s in Buckinghamshire – about 45 miles North West of London.
That’s funny what you say on your website about things so long ago they must be in black and white. I’ve often imagined the same thing – hey! I’ve never seen colored photos from my childhood either.
It seems that then – everything was in Black & White.
What was life like growing up?
Good – a real country existance. My Dad was away in Italy so we didn’t see too much of him, except when he came home on leave.
I have one older sister.
Can you recall the first 45 or LP that you bought or was given to you?
We had 78 RPM records at home.
The first song to make a big impression on me was “It’s Almost Tomorrow” by The Dream Weavers. The first 78 I bought was “Why do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, but the first 45 I bought was Lonnie Donegan’s “Rock Island Line”.
When I went to get it – it was out of stock, so I bought a 78 of “Zambesi” by Lou Busch for my Mum.
When did you first take an interest in singing and being in a band?
My sister was an excellent singer (she sung opera), but my interest started when I was at school.
My sister taught me the Aria (One Fine Day) from Madam Butterfly when I was about 5, & I can still remember most of it now.
I stupidly managed to talk my Mother out of sending me to Piano lessons – I wish she had now!
What was the name of the first group you performed with?
That was The Gravediggers – a Skiffle group at school.
I suppose you could say skiffle was sort of a precursor to rock’n’roll, especially in Great Britain?
Yes – it was, & it had the same impact as Rock & Roll did.
Of course everyone wanted to play both!
Talk about your days with the Gravediggers and who came up with the name.
As I said it was at school. Myself & my friend Alfie Grant (he sadly drowned when he was 18. He was a very talented musician) started the band & we jointly decided on the name. The thing about Skiffle was that it was the type of music that everyone can play – which helped with it’s popularity.I talked my Dad into buying me a Guitar for my Birthday, but I started as a Washboard player while I was learning the necessary 3 chords! LOL
Did you attend a regular public school or private?
I went to Private School in Aylesbury, but after that State schools & finally St. Clement Danes Grammar School.
Were there other musical groups that were your contemporaries?
My favourite skiffle group were The Vipers . I always wanted to sing like their lead singer Wally Whyton.
I met him on a Television show when I was in the Quiet 5.
I told him that & he was pleased.
He told me the verse they weren’t allowed to sing on Maggie May. I sing it on The Beaver St Hat Band’s CD “Beaver St.”
Times have changed!
After leaving school you helped form The Vikings. Who else was in the group? Relate the story behind “Space Walk” and the song reappearing years later under a different name.
We went to see a Record producer called Curly Clayton. he had a studio in Highbury London, as was a great rival of Joe Meek’s – who had a studio just up the road.
We recorded the song with him – augmented with a Paraguayan guy playing Harp. A lot of people thought that we were The Tornados who were Joe Meek’s band.
Some years later it was released with Chris Blackwell listed as Producer & the band name “Gemini”. I guess Curly must have got his money back! Good luck to him!
In 1964, John Smith, your manager with The Vikings, decided to change the name to The Quiet Five. Now I know you must have heard this question a lot, but was John bad at math or was there another explanation for the name since there were six of you?
John Smith had two bands. We were The Vikings & Patrick Dane & The Quiet 5. He decided to amalgamate the two of us.
He got rid of our Bass player, Phil Leavesley (who was older than us) – & we took Richard Barnes on Bass & Patrick Dane – the singer from the Quiet 5. He insisted on keeping their name although we hated it! I still do!! LOL
How was the overall chemistry in the group? Talk about the songwriting and recording sessions.
Patrick Dane didn’t work out, so we started singing leads ourselves. We turned out quite reasonable harmonies together. Surprising enough – all the surviving members (Satch – our Sax player unfortunately died) live up here in East Anglia – so we meet up occasionally.
You wrote the biggest hit with The Quiet Five, “When The Morning Sun Dries The Dew”. Where did the inspiration come from for this song and was it just about the early morning hours?
I wrote it when I was fishing one early morning, & watching a Barn Owl hunting on the opposite bank as the Sun came up. Beautiful! It was a philosophical song but I had to change the lyric to put in female interest. I’d have changed anything for a Recording contract! LOL
Whose decision was it to record a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”?
It was given to us by our Producer – Ron Richards at EMI.
Paul Simon contacted us to say how much he liked our record. We’d met them on a TV Show in Bristol.
1966 must have been a fairly eventful year. You played at Windsor Castle as part of an 18th birthday gift for Prince Charles. Was the prince a big Quiet Five fan?
I don’t think Prince Charles is interested in our stuff. He likes The Three Degrees! LOL
We worked for Lady Elizabeth Anson ( the Queens cousin) who arranged parties & Social Functions.
It was in Windsor Castle & we were presented to The Queen.
Also the same year you played the “Society Circuit”. Explain.
That came through the same set-up. We did the Debs ball, played for King Constantine in Greece, The Venice Film Festival & the Royal Hunt Ball to name but a few.
We could tell good Champagne from bad, by the time we finished.
In 1967 you quit the band to pursue a solo career. What led you to this decision?
I fell out with the Drummer that we had then, so decided enough was enough!
You wasted little time in recording a rendition of Joe South’s “Hush”. And some say this was inspiration for Deep Purple to have a go at releasing their own version.
A guy called Freddie Lloyd (who was in The Vipers) brought
me the song “Hush” & said he’d like to record me with it.
I made it a bit more “Soully” & we went ahead.
Deep Purple admitted themselves in an interview for Mojo Magazine that a DJ friend of theirs recommended my version to them & they did it.
Enter record producer Mark Wirtz. How did you two meet and form a working relationship?
Mark was a House Producer at EMI. He was working with a friend of mine Chas Mills and was looking for a singer & Chas suggested me.
We started writing together later on when Mark split with Chas.
What did you think about singing the song “Imagination”?
This was Mark’s brainchild. He’s a crazy genius!!
It wasn’t my sort of stuff – but I was just a voice.
I never believed it would be released in my name.
I’m pleased that I did manage to hit the last note – & double-track it – but I don’t know how!!
You put together a group of studio musicians to record for Mark. Anyone else that we might know in the Matchmakers?
We had a group of friends that were great musicians. There were various combinations that we used.
Roger Mckew (Quiet 5) is in the band.
Who were J. Vincent Edwards and Michael Derrick?
We met at Schroeder Music in London. We were members of their “Writers Workshop”. Chas Mills was also in it.
We got together & started writing songs under the name of Miki Antony, with mild success. Mark Wirtz recorded some of our songs. Unfortunately Micheal Derrick changed his name by deed poll to Miki Antony – so you can guess the rest.
Vince & I are both in The Beaver St Hat Band & had previously recorded as Jackson & Jones.
In 1970 you co-wrote songs with Mr. Wirtz as Judd on the album “Snarling Mumma Lion”. What a name!
I originally wrote it as Mummalion, but Larry Page said there was a Reggae song with that name, so he changed it – & changed mine to Judd!! LOL
Roger Mckew & Richard Barnes from the Q5 are both on the album.
Elaborate on the “swamp pop feel” of the Judd songs.
I’d been writing little stories about the Deep South for a number of years (although I’ve never been there), so that’s where the ideas stemmed from. I’d obviously read too many books & seen too many films! LOL
You and J. Vincent Edwards worked together again in the early 70′s, this time as Jackson and Jones on a couple of singles. On your website they are described as “more heavily orchestrated…Righteous Brothers style” songs. So you were going for more of the Phil Spector “wall of sound” effect?
Yes – I mentioned this before. We wrote the songs & the feel we wanted was like a British Righteous Bros.
Bill Medley’s voice is much better than mine! We didn’t copy Spector’s style – though we both like him, but obviously he produced them – so that’s where the similarity lies.
Around the same time period you put together a concept album to teach American history through popular music. Interesting approach. Why was this album never released?
I was disappointed that nothing came of this. I had the idea in 1968 – that it should be a teaching aid for schools of American History. If the kids learned the choruses – that gave them events & dates that they could remember easily.
Eventually David Frost got hold of it & wanted to keep it until the Bi-Centenniel Events. There were loads of them & the idea got lost.
Shame!! several years research down the pan!! C’est la vie!! LOL
In the mid 70′s you moved into the publishing side of the music industry. Did you feel at the time that you had run your course in songwriting and recording?
Not at the time – but that inevitably happened. I neglected my writing to promote other people’s. I enjoyed that side of the business – but now I’m back writing & recording again, I realise that this is what I love the most.
I’m glad to see you’re still active in writing and recording as evidenced by your trip to Philadelphia in 2008 to record a CD of Skiffle songs. Once again with Mr. Edwards and a certain Wayne Newton as The Beaver St. Hat Band . Is this the same Wayne Newton of “Danke Schoen” fame?
No – same Vince, but Wayne is English although he’s married & lives in PA. He’s Wayne Scott Newton.
Incidentally – his parents ran a restuarant in Barnes in England called the Heads & Tails – hence the HAT in the Beavers St Hat Band. Vince & I would sing for our supper sometimes there, after a good night in the Bulls Head!
With the soon to be released CD of Skiffle material, do you feel your music career has sort of come full circle?
Yes – that’s exactly right! Right back to our roots.
I suppose it’s a form of second childhood! LOL
Mind you – if you love what your doing & who you’re doing it with – why shouldn’t you!?
That applies to everything.
Now Kris, you’re not just a musical “artist”, you are also quite the painter. Really nice artwork on your website as well. I’m especially fond of the lighthouses. Talk about how this has been a creative outlet for you.
Thank you kindly. I got “A” Level Art at school & should have gone to Art School, but circumstances didn’t permit.
It’s something that I love doing – but I can listen to music & paint, but I can’t write songs & paint – so either one has to go on the back-burner for a while!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?
Nice to know there was a record company like RPM out there to release The Quiet Five material as well as your solo output.
Yes – many thanks are owed to Mark Stratford.
And with all the talk of the negative side of the internet, there is a plethora of information out there to help connect artists and fans and to share likeminded interests. I’m a proponent – if it weren’t for Rosemarie Edwards posting a comment on my YouTube channel, we most likely would not be having this QA. So thank you Rosemarie!
I’ll second that – she’s wonderful & really talented in her own right.
Kris, any other thoughts to share on where you’ve been, where you’ve come and where you’re going?
Well – it’s been a long time getting here!
As W C Fields said – I’m still looking for a loophole!!
I think I’ve been very lucky (I could have been better-off-lucky though! LOL)
I have some wonderful friends, seen some beautiful places & met some amazing people – so I’d definitely do it again!
Thanks Greg for your time & patience.
I hope I haven’t waffled too much!
Be sure to check out Kris Ife’s official website here http://www.craftweb.org/web/kris/index.html