John Valmore Pearson (18 June 1925 – 20 March 2011), known as Johnny Pearson, was a British composer, orchestra leader and pianist. He led the Top of the Pops orchestra for sixteen years, wrote a catalogue of library music, and had many of his pieces used as the theme music to television series.
|Birth name||John Valmore Pearson|
|Born||18 June 1925|
|Origin||Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England|
|Died||20 March 2011 (aged 85)|
|Genres||Pop, jazz, easy listening|
|Occupation(s)||Arranger, songwriter, orchestra leader|
|Associated acts||Cilla Black|
Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Johnny Pearson showed talent with the piano at an early age. By nine, he had won a scholarship with the London Academy of Music. Here he spent four years under English pianist, Solomon. In his teens, he would give classical recitals, but his true love at the time was jazz. His first band was the Rhythm Makers. During the second world war, Johnny Pearson served in the famous Royal Artillery Band and Orchestra at Woolwich. After World War II, he signed up and became one of the founding members of the Malcolm Mitchell Trio, before leaving in 1954 after Malcolm Mitchell broke up the group to start a solo career. During his time with the trio, Johnny Pearson toured England and Europe, playing the West End and theatres. The early Malcolm Mitchell Trio consisted of Malcolm Mitchell, Teddy Broughton and Johnny Pearson.
After leaving the Malcolm Mitchell Trio, Pearson turned his talents to British radio, as well as performing in the Peter York Concert Orchestra. By 1960, he was conducting the Romance in Rhythm Orchestra. He recorded two singles for Parlophone, "Waterfall" in mid 1959, and "Theme from The L Shaped Room" in 1962. He was then offered a solo album deal with Oriole Records, which first teamed him up with John Schroeder. The Oriole album, Piano Sweet - Piano Wild was released in 1962 and was Johnny Pearson's first full vinyl album release. Also there was a 45 single released, "Ooh La La", in 1962 but this track and its b-side did not appear on the album. After the Oriole releases, Johnny Pearson continued to perform with various concert orchestras until 1964.
In early 1964, Johnny Pearson took part in helping launch the career of Cilla Black, a rising singer who had been spotted by The Beatles producer, George Martin. She had released her first 45 single, "Love of the Loved", in 1963, but it had charted only modestly despite having been written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A scout for George Martin had spotted the track "Anyone Who Had a Heart" after hearing the US singer Dionne Warwick's version. Originally the song was to have been recorded in the UK by Shirley Bassey, but George Martin saw the piece as being more suitable for Black's voice. Early in 1964, "Anyone Who Had a Heart" was recorded by Cilla Black at London's Abbey Road Studios, in an arrangement by Pearson which featured the use of bassoons. In February 1964, it entered the UK Singles Chart, eventually reaching number 1 in both the UK and Ireland and also charting in other parts of Europe. The Dionne Warwick version was also in the UK charts at the time (although it only managed to peak at Number 42), but Cilla Black's treatment used slightly different lyrics and a different arrangement.
Following the success of "Anyone Who Had a Heart", Pearson was invited to work on the next Cilla Black single, "You're My World", which was released in May 1964. This was also recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and again went to number 1 on the UK Singles Chart. Pearson also worked on other Cilla Black tracks, some of which featured on her album, Cilla Sings a Rainbow.
Sounds Orchestral was an idea by John Schroeder, who had moved from Oriole Records to become the label manager at Pye Records and was interested in producing an instrumental version of the US hit song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind". This had been suggested to him at the time by Pye staff member, Tony Reeves. As his project moved to fruition, Schroeder looked for a piano player. His efforts came about when he was reminded of Johnny Pearson from a few years earlier, after he heard him on Radio Luxembourg. Initially paid a session fee to record "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", Pearson was subsequently made a full partner in the Sounds Orchestral project. "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was a number 5 hit in the UK Singles Chart in early 1965. Sounds Orchestral would end up recording some seventeen albums between 1965 and 1977. Some have subsequently been reissued on CD.
Pearson first came into contact with the BBC's Top of the Pops, in early 1965. Sounds Orchestral had just charted with "Cast Your Fate To The Wind", which was featured on the first Top Of The Pops show. The following year, in 1966, Pearson took charge of the Top Of The Pops Orchestra. This would be a position he would fill for the next fifteen years, finally leaving the series in late 1981. Pearson's arrangement for the Top of the Pops Orchestra of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" was the theme tune to Top of the Pops for most of the 1970s.
During 1966, as well as Top Of The Pops, Johnny Pearson worked and directed the orchestra for the Dusty Springfield shows which were recorded by the BBC, for television. It featured Johnny Pearson directing a full 32 piece orchestra. There were a total of twelve episodes made, six in 1966 and six in 1967. In recent years, the surviving nine episodes have been remastered and released as "Dusty Springfield Live at the BBC", on DVD.
In 1966, Johnny Pearson also started his long association with the KPM library record label. KPM was originally known as Keith Prowse Music. KPM would later become part of the EMI Group of companies but was able to retain its independence due to its specialist nature. Pearson's involvement with KPM was to last many years until 1978, which is when he switched over his music library efforts to Bruton Music. Johnny Pearson would however again later return to KPM during 1988. That year's KPM 1000 Series double release Johnny Pearson Piano and Orchestra included several pieces featured in the second run of All Creatures Great and Small, which did not have the accompanying soundtrack release that the original run did.
Johnny Pearson's earliest contributions at KPM came in the form of contributing to KPM's in house orchestra, the Group-Forty Orchestra. KPM's Group-Forty Orchestra was an orchestra which existed between 1959 and 1966. Its role was to record background music for radio and television. From 1967, Johnny Pearson started appearing on many of KPM's music library recordings, in his own right.
In October 1971, Johnny Pearson helped produce the BBC Television special, Carpenters: Live at the BBC, featuring the American musical duo of Karen and Richard Carpenter. It was broadcast the following month on British TV and elsewhere. In early 1973, Pearson was again contacted by Richard Carpenter to ask permission to use one of his songs, on the then forthcoming Carpenters LP, Now & Then. This track, originally titled "Autumn Reverie", first appeared on the 1968 KPM album, Gentle Sounds, and was retitled "Heather" by producer John Bettis in the Carpenters' version. Richard Carpenter apparently first heard the track as background music for a commercial for the US health food supplement maker, Geritol, and loved it straight away. "Autumn Reverie" would also feature again on the 1974 Johnny Pearson LP Touch Me in the Morning, and as background music on the British television series, All Creatures Great and Small (1978–90).
As leader of the Johnny Pearson Orchestra, he reached number 8 in the United Kingdom chart in early 1972 with "Sleepy Shores", the theme from the television series Owen, M.D. (1971–73). The Johnny Pearson Orchestra, which as a musical project was begun in 1972, ran side by side with his other projects. At the time, these projects included working on albums with John Schroeder for Sounds Orchestral and also providing library music to Britain's KPM Records.
Instead of the slightly jazzy sounding, Sounds Orchestral albums, Pearson was offered a project for easy listening and romance music, based on the success of his "Sleepy Shores" hit. This time he teamed up with music executive Larry Page, who wanted to move his label Penny Farthing into the easy listening genre. The albums were released outside the UK in Europe, Australia, Canada and the US. In 1978, Larry Page decided to rename his Penny Farthing label to Rampage Records, to reflect a more modern outlook. One of the first singles and albums from the Rampage label, would be another of Pearson's international hits, the eponymous theme from All Creatures Great and Small.
Pearson was a successful composer of theme music for television series. Examples of his work included The Rat Catchers, All Creatures Great and Small, General Hospital, Captain Pugwash, Triangle, 3-2-1, Mary Mungo & Midge and ITN's News at Ten (the last of which formed part of "The Awakening", a piece otherwise known to American audiences as the main title theme to the 1974 animated film Journey Back to Oz). He also wrote the score to Michael Winner's swinging 60's comedy film The Jokers (1967), the Grampian Television start-up music "Sounds On", and the ATV startup theme "Midlands Montage", as well as music used during intervals between schools programmes on ITV.
In the United States, Pearson's best-known composition is "Heavy Action", originally used as the theme to the BBC sports show Superstars, and subsequently adopted by ABC's Monday Night Football (the NFL's weekly nationally televised showcase) and the SFM Holiday Network. In 1989, Edd Kalehoff composed and recorded a new arrangement of this music for later seasons of Monday Night Football. His piece "Graveyard" was used in The Ren and Stimpy Show. NFL Films has used many of his other compositions for its Super Bowl and other highlight films.
Pearson's "Power Drive" was known in the U.S. and Canada for use in some episodes of the 1967-70 cartoon series Spider-Man, as well as being the theme for Los Angeles station KNXT/KCBS-TV's afternoon movie series The Early Show for much of the 1970s and into the 1980s, as well as for their Saturday night movie show The Fabulous 52 from the late 1960s until the end of its run in 1974.
In Australia, his best-known library music piece was "Power Drive," which was used as the theme for the 1969-75 police drama Division 4. Some of Johnny Pearson's library music was also used as background scene music for the Ten Network series, Prisoner. Also during late 2011, another Johnny Pearson track, And a Very Good Morning to You, from 1970, was used as a piece of background music, on the Nine Network series, Underbelly. The track "Sleepy Shores" was also used as incidental music in some of the courting scenes from the 1970s ABC TV drama series, Certain Women.
In the 1970s, Johnny Pearson composed the music score for the Dutch TV series Sil de Strandjutter, performed by his orchestra. Pearson's composition "Heather", as performed by the Carpenters, has served as the background music to the "Plaat & zijn Verhaal"-section ("A record and its story") at Radio Veronica, in which a song's lyrics are translated into Dutch and read by the DJ.
In late 1981, Johnny Pearson's tenure at BBC's Top Of The Pops came to an end, as the show had itself undergone a major reorganisation. By that time he had been associated with the programme for sixteen years. He was credited on the milestone 900th Top Of The Pops episode, in July 1981; his last credit with the show, was in late August 1981. After this, Pearson continued to work on independent projects and in 1982, released the instrumental album On Golden Pond through Larry Page's Page One Records.
In 1984, Pearson assembled another orchestra, the Johnny Pearson Studio Orchestra, and contributed to John Paul Jones' motion picture soundtrack, Scream For Help. Following this, during 1985, he worked on producing music for the BBC TV production drama Maelstrom. Notable on the recordings for Maelstrom is the track "Camellia Waltz", which was treated to sound like an old 78rpm record. Other tracks by Pearson for the series came from his work with KPM. In 1987, together with business partner Adrian Kerridge, Pearson negotiated the purchase of CTS Studios, in Wembley. In 1988, he returned to the KPM record label and the recording of two new library CDs for the radio and television industry. Both were recorded at CTS Studios in Wembley, with Adrian Kerridge.
After the 1980s, Pearson made occasional live appearances as part of a quartet. During 1993, Johnny Pearson worked with Shirley Bassey on a new album recording. Titled "Shirley Bassey sings the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber", this was recorded at the CTS Studios. With Johnny Pearson mainly conducting, the album was subsequently released through EMI. More recently, it has now been reissued on compact disc.
In 1996, Johnny Pearson recorded a CD of library music, for the radio and television industry, titled Simply Piano. This was followed in 2005 by another CD, Simply Piano 2.
Johnny Pearson died at the age of 85, on 20 March 2011. He is survived by Alex, his wife of many years whom he married in 1963.
Johnny Pearson at one time had at least four different projects going at the same time: Sounds Orchestral, as pianist; Johnny Pearson and his Orchestra; work with KPM Records, with background music for radio and television; and as arranger with Top Of The Pops. Apart from his work with John Schroeder and Sounds Orchestral, at Pye during 1964-1975, his solo work included:
All the above were released on 12" vinyl, and from 1972 to the late 1970s, on the Penny Farthing Label, with Larry Page producing. In Australia, Sleepy Shores and Touch Me in the Morning are on Festival Records. In Australia from 1976 to 1980, Johnny Pearson and his Orchestra were on M7 Records. M7 Records was the offshoot of the ATN7 Television network of Australia. In Japan, Pearson was on JVC Victor. Around 1989, multiple releases occurred to coincide with the abandonment of vinyl records and cassettes by the global record industry. Titles to be found included Themes and Dreams.
The year 2011 in animation involved some animation-related events.Canadian Sunset
"Canadian Sunset" is a popular song with music by jazz pianist Eddie Heywood and lyrics by Norman Gimbel. An instrumental version by Heywood and Hugo Winterhalter reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 7 on the R&B chart in 1956. A version sung by Andy Williams was also popular that year, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard chart. The Sounds Orchestral, conducted by Johnny Pearson, hit the Easy Listening chart reaching No. 14 and the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 reaching No. 76.Crash Holly
Michael John Lockwood (August 25, 1971 – November 6, 2003) was an American professional wrestler. He was best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment from 1999 to 2003 under the ring names Crash Holly or simply Crash.Lockwood debuted in 1989 and spent a decade wrestling on the independent circuit before joining the World Wrestling Federation in 1999 as Crash Holly. He formed a tag team with his kayfabe cousin Hardcore Holly, with whom he won the WWF World Tag Team Championship. The Holly Cousins was expanded into a stable with the addition of Molly Holly in 2000. During his WWF/WWE career, Lockwood held the WWF/WWE Hardcore Championship on 22 occasions, with many of his reigns coming during a period when the title was defended "24/7". After being released from WWE in June 2003, Lockwood joined NWA Total Nonstop Action as Mad Mikey, where he remained until his death later that year.
In addition to his 22 reigns as WWF/WWE Hardcore Champion and single reign as WWF World Tag Team Champion, Lockwood was a one-time WWF European Champion, and one-time WWF Light Heavyweight Champion.Dusty Springfield
Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive sensual mezzo-soprano sound, she was an important singer of blue-eyed soul and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the UK Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of the Rock and Roll and UK Music Halls of Fame. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.Born in West Hampstead in London to a family that enjoyed music, Springfield learned to sing at home. In 1958 she joined her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, and two years later formed a pop-folk vocal trio, The Springfields, with her brother Tom Springfield and Tim Field. They became the UK's top selling act. Her solo career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, "I Only Want to Be with You". Among the hits that followed were "Wishin' and Hopin' " (1964), "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (1964), "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (1966), and "Son of a Preacher Man" (1968).
As a fan of US soul music, she brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience by hosting the first national TV performance of many top-selling Motown artists beginning in 1965. Partly owing to these efforts, a year later she eventually became the best-selling female singer in the world and topped a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker's Best International Vocalist. Although she was never considered a Northern Soul artist in her own right, her efforts contributed a great deal to the formation of the genre as a result. She was the first UK singer to top the New Musical Express readers' poll for Female Singer.
To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis, Tennessee, to record Dusty in Memphis, an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the US magazine Rolling Stone and in polls by VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and Channel 4 viewers. The album was also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Despite its current recognition, the album did not sell well. After its release, she relocated to America where she experienced a career slump for several years. However, in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, she returned to the Top 10 of the UK and US charts in 1987 with "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" Two years later, she had two other UK hits on her own with "Nothing Has Been Proved" and "In Private." Subsequently, in the mid-1990s, owing to the inclusion of "Son of a Preacher Man" on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, interest in her early output was revived.Foreign Exchange (1970 film)
Foreign Exchange is a 1970 American thriller drama spy television film originally aired on ABC and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Its teleplay, written by Jimmy Sangster, was based on his own 1968 novel of the same name. The film starred Robert Horton, Jill St. John, and Sebastian Cabot. It is a sequel to the television film The Spy Killer, which was released in the previous year.Heavy Action
"Heavy Action" is a piece of music composed by Johnny Pearson. Composed in 1970, and featuring a strong brass fanfare opening, "Heavy Action" soon became a well established sporting theme tune, most associated in the UK as the theme for Superstars, and in North America as the theme music for ABC and ESPN's Monday Night Football.Herman's Hermits (album)
Herman's Hermits (sometimes called Introducing Herman's Hermits) is the debut album of the band Herman's Hermits, first issued in 1965. As was typical of the time, the album's contents were different on the UK and US releases. UK albums did not have any singles included.Hermania
Hermania is the first EP by Herman's Hermits, released in 1965 in the United Kingdom by EMI/Columbia (catalogue number SEG 8440). The entire contents were included on the US version of the band's debut album Herman's Hermits.It's Academic (New Zealand game show)
It's Academic was a general knowledge quiz show for high school students in New Zealand, broadcast by TVNZ in the 1980s. It's Academic was hosted by Lockwood Smith, who later became a member of the New Zealand Parliament, eventually serving as its speaker. The show was produced and directed by Kevan Moore (creator of Mortimer's Patch) with Patrick Macaskill as adjudicator.School teams of three pupils competed for digital watches, handheld calculators and sets of the Encyclopædia Britannica for their school. The quiz followed the format of its long-running American counterpart. The theme tune, 'Piano Parchment', was written as library music in 1968 by Johnny Pearson and was well known in New Zealand living rooms about the same time as the theme for BBC drama series All Creatures Great and Small.Johnny Hawksworth
Johnny Hawksworth (2 February 1924 – 13 February 2009) was a British musician and composer who had lived and worked in Australia since 1984.
Hawksworth initially trained as a pianist, but also played double bass for Britain's leading big band the Ted Heath Orchestra during the early 1950s and through the 1960s. During this time he became one of the most popular jazz bassists in the UK, winning many polls and was often featured as a soloist on Heath concerts and recordings. He is probably best known, however, for his short compositions for television. These include Salute to Thames (the famous identity tune for Thames Television) and also the theme tunes for the 1960s pop music show Thank Your Lucky Stars and the 1970s series Roobarb, Man About the House and George and Mildred. He also contributed some of the incidental music used in the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon (although originating from the United States, Spider-Man had most of its incidental music supplied by Irish composers, such as Phil Coulter, who was Londonderry in Northern Ireland, and British including Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, David Lindup, Bill Martin and Johnny Pearson.) In addition to his television themes, he also worked on films, including the scores to The Naked World of Harrison Marks (1967), The Penthouse (1967), and Zeta One (1970).
"Er Indoors", one of his compositions, saw frequent use in the Nickelodeon TV Series SpongeBob SquarePants, in which it was generally associated with Avid Spongebob fan Patchy the Pirate.
Hawksworth has also written many pieces of stock music for the De Wolfe Music library. He also provided the hypnotic musical soundtrack to Geoffrey Jones' classic British Transport Film "Snow" (1963).Mary, Mungo and Midge
Mary, Mungo and Midge is a British animated children's television series, created by John Ryan and produced by the BBC in 1969.
The show featured the adventures of a girl called Mary, her dog Mungo, and her pet mouse Midge, who lived with Mary's parents in a tower block in a busy town. BBC newsreader Richard Baker narrated the episodes, with John Ryan's daughter Isabel playing Mary. The theme tune and other music for the series was provided by Johnny Pearson.
This show was one of the first children's shows in the UK to reflect urban living. The programme showed Mary having adventures in a busy town, as opposed to in a wood, forest or other rural setting, apart from in the 'Garage' episode, in which the family had a picnic in the countryside. The two featured animals were likely to be familiar to town dwellers, as opposed to the array of talking wildlife usually seen in children's television.
In each episode, the three of them would descend in the lift from their flat in the tower block. After their adventures they would return home, Midge would press the button for the lift back to the correct floor, by standing on Mungo's nose.
Mary, Mungo and Midge was a production of John Ryan Studios, who also produced the earlier Captain Pugwash and the later The Adventures of Sir Prancelot series, both with a similar drawing style.The Complete Mary, Mungo and Midge was released on DVD on 5 April 2004.Music in Manhattan
Music in Manhattan is a 1944 American musical film directed by John H. Auer. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording (Stephen Dunn).Owen, M.D.
Owen, M.D. was a BBC 1 television series that ran from 1971 to 1973. It centered around the eponymous lead character's new country practice, following his departure from The Doctors, which had been set in north London.Two-part stories aired in the 7 p.m. slot every Wednesday and Thursday for six months, "a strange mixture of corn and ham", according to TV critic Patrick Campbell, "intended to catch the Crossroads audience that thrives on cliches and stock situations". The second series, in 1973, consisted of nine 50-minute episodes broadcast on Sunday evenings.The theme music to the programme - "Sleepy Shores" by the Johnny Pearson Orchestra - spent 15 weeks in the UK charts between late 1971 and early 1972, peaking at No.8. Of the run, 50 episodes have not survived, and five of the remainder only exist as monochrome Telerecordings.Penny Farthing Records
Penny Farthing Records was a British independent record label, established by the British record producer Larry Page as a progression from his mildly successful 1960s record label, Page One Records. It did not repeat the top 20 hits of his earlier venture, but signed some artists of note.SFM Holiday Network
The SFM Holiday Network was an 'occasional' network from SFM Media which aired on holiday weekends (such as the 4th of July, Christmas, etc.) from 1978 until 1991.
The network would usually clear 88% of the U.S.San Diego Seals
The San Diego Seals are a box lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League. They play their home games at the Pechanga Arena San Diego in San Diego, California. The 2018-2019 season is their inaugural season.Sounds Orchestral
Sounds Orchestral was a British studio-based easy listening group, assembled by John Schroeder with Johnny Pearson in 1964.Triangle (1981 TV series)
Triangle is a BBC Television soap opera broadcast in the early 1980s, set aboard a North Sea ferry which sailed from Felixstowe to Gothenburg and Gothenburg to Amsterdam. A third imaginary leg existed between Amsterdam and Felixstowe to justify the programme's title, but this was not operated by the ferry company. The show ran for three series before being cancelled, but is still generally remembered as "some of the most mockable British television ever produced". The scripts involved clichéd relationships and stilted dialogue, making the show the butt of several jokes—particularly on Terry Wogan's morning Radio 2 programme—which caused some embarrassment to the BBC.In 1992, the BBC screened TV Hell, an evening of programming devoted to the worst television had to offer, and the first episode of Triangle was broadcast as part of the line-up.
The ferry used in the first series was the Tor Line's MS Tor Scandinavia. This was replaced in the second and third series by the DFDS vessel Dana Anglia (DFDS having acquired Tor Line by this time), probably because she had a less intensive schedule, and the longer time she spent in port made on-board filming easier.