Born in London, the Heather brothers, John and Lea, grew up in Salisbury in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) where they attended Cranbourne and Mount Pleasant Junior schools before progressing to Courteney Selous and, ultimately, Churchill High. When Elvis arrived on the scene, the boys pleaded with their parents to buy then guitars. Their wishes were granted and they set about teaching themselves how to play the instrument.
Whilst at Churchill High School the brothers were founder members of THE CHEQUERS, a band which became very popular on the local circuit, so much so that they relocated to South Africa in 1965 to pursue a professional career. When that adventure had run its course in December, 1965, the brothers decided to return to England to continue to develop their music ambitions. Apart from Lea having worked at Radio Limited for time, neither of them had ever had “proper” jobs in between leaving school and forming The Chequers.
Soon after arriving in London, the brothers wandered past EMI House in Manchester Square. Parlophone, the label the Beatles recorded on, was part of EMI, so they thought they’d try their luck. Taking the “bull by the horns”, they walked and asked the receptionist if they could speak to a record producer. The receptionist asked if they had an appointment and, when they said they hadn’t, they were shown the door.
Ever alert to opportunities, on their way out they noticed a board listing A & R men, the fancy title for record producers. For some reason the name Tony Palmer jumped out. They waited a week or so and then returned to EMI House clutching their guitars. At the reception they advised that they were late for an appointment with Tony Palmer and were directed up to his office. Having knocked on his door, it was opened by a guy who asked who we were and what we wanted. The boys told him they were the “Split Image” – a name they had come up with that morning – and that they had come to see Tony Palmer about making a record…adding we were quite big in Rhodesia.
It turned out the guy was Tony Palmer who thought they were party to a departmental wind-up! The brothers, however, assured him that they were no joke (that was debatable) and came clean as to how they came to be there. Palmer, fortunately, thought it was hilarious and to his credit didn’t sling them out, instead taking down to the audition room in the basement, auditioning them there and then. He liked what he heard and signed them to Columbia. A month later the Heather duo were in Abbey Road recording a Cook and Greenway song, “You Can’t Hurt Me No More”, to an arrangement by Auther Greenslade with vocal backing by the Ladybirds and thirty piece orchestra. The Beatles were in the studio next door. The brothers’ record, incidentally, was a flop.
In 1967, the brothers auditioned for a record company, Delysee Records, who were looking for musos to back a girl named Helen Wyn. Having passed the audition, it was decided soon after that, instead of their backing Helen, the three would form a group, “The Three People” which they duly changed to “The Gentle People” after being told that there was an existing band in the USA called “The Three People”. . During a rehearsal Ken East, the then head of EMI, heard the trio and made a deal with Delysee to take over their contract, releasing their first single on Columbia, “It’s Too Late/Sea Of Heartbreak”. Juke Box Jury reckoned the song would be a hit, however, they were wrong. A second single penned by the brothers, “God’s Own Garden”, did not achieve success, either. The group then went on the road playing the cabaret circuit ending with a three month contract playing the clubs in Germany – Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Cologne…where they met up with and became good mates with ‘”he Ivies” who later changed their name to “Bad Finger”.
After breaking up with Helen she changed her name to Tammy Jones and had a number 1 UK hit with “It Must Be Him”.
After the demise of “The Gentle People”, the brothers decided to concentrate on their songwriting attributes and, in 1968, were signed to the PYE label for an elpee and three singles under the name “The Quiet World of Lea and John”. They released a single called “Miss Whittington” before deciding to form a band for a concept album which they had written called “The Road”. They named the band, “The Quiet World”. It was at this time that they were joined by Steve Hackett, Phil Henderson, Dick Driver, Ernie O’Malley and Eddie Thompson. It was an experimental album which came out in 1969 on PYE’s progressive Dawn label. The album was re-released in 1999 on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.
They recorded a number of singles under the Quiet World title, including “Children Of The World”, “Take Your Shoes Off Sam”, “The Visitor” and, under the name of Greenwich Village, “In Somebody’s Memory”.
When Quiet World broke up, the Heather brothers moved into theatre whilst Steve Hackett joined the legendary British band, Genesis. The brothers then wrote a number of theatre musicals, including “Big Sin City” and “The Comeback”, both of which toured nationally. Their next production was “A Slice Of Saturday Night” which is about a group of teenagers in a club in the 1960’s. Although it was set in provincial England, it was really based on the Heathers’ experiences in Salisbury and South Africa whilst playing with THE CHEQUERS. This particular musical resonated with audiences and it ran for over two years in London’s West End at the Arts Theatre and the Strand Theatre and has been produced throughout the world, having been translated into nine languages. The show also played a limited season Off-Broadway under the American title, “Cafe A Go-Go”. Further productions of “Cafe A Go-Go” are scheduled to soon be staged in Detroit and Toronto.
A subsequent production, “Lust”, played at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End. When this show opened, it meant the brothers had two shows running simultaneously in London’s West End.
They are presently working on a new musical, “Teen Scream”, which is scheduled to go on tour in 2016.
In addition to their musicals, a thriller, “Blood Money”, premiered at the Derby Playhouse and received its American premiere at The Walnut Street Theatre.
Keep current with the Heather brothers’ activities via their website at: http://www.philipcrammond.com/heather_brothers/index.htm