About Harry Rodger Webb
Inspired by the music of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard dominated the pre-Beatles British pop scene in the late '50s and early '60s. His 1958 hit single "Move It" is often described as Britain's first authentic rock and roll song. Over a 52-year career, Richard has become a fixture of the British entertainment world. Selling over 260 million records worldwide, he holds the record (with Elvis Presley) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades (1950s–2000s).
He was born Harry Rodger Webb on October 14, 1940 at the King George Hospital, Victoria Street, in Lucknow, India, to Rodger Oscar Webb, a manager for a catering contractor that serviced the Indian Railways, and Dorothy Marie Webb (née Bhattacharjee). Rodger Webb was 17 years senior to his Anglo-Indian wife, Dorothy. Dorothy's mother served as the dormitory matron at the La Martinier Girls' School.
Richard spent some of his childhood years in India and was educated in Howrah until his family moved to England in 1948 following Home Rule in India.
After a privileged life in India, the Webbs faced poverty, and were forced to sleep on mattresses at the houses of various relatives. In 1951 they were given a council house in Chesthunt, and after just failing the eleven-plus exam, Richard was enrolled in the newly built Cheshunt County Secondary School.
Inspired by the music of Elvis, Harry and a group of school friends formed a group, 'The Quintones', and performed at their local Youth Club. From there, he became lead singer of a rock and roll group, The Drifters (not to be confused with the U.S. group of the same name).
After recording their first hit single, ‘Schoolboy Crush/Move It’, they were quickly signed by Columbia. The song hit No.2 in the British charts, and went on to sell over a million copies.
1950s entrepreneur Harry Greatorex wanted the up and coming Rock 'n' Roll singer to change from his real name of Harry Webb. The name "Cliff" was adopted as it sounded like cliff face, which suggested "Rock." It was "Move It" writer Ian Samwell who suggested that the former Harry Webb be surnamed Richard as a tribute to Webb's musical hero Little Richard. Before their first large-scale appearance, at the Regal Ballroom in Ripley, Derbyshire in 1958, they adopted the name "Cliff Richard and the Drifters". The four members were Harry Webb (now going under the stage name "Cliff Richard"), Ian "Sammy" Samwell on guitar, Terry Smart on drums and Norman Mitham on guitar.
Now going under the name Cliff Richard, an appearance on the TV show ‘Oh Boy!’ catapulted Cliff to sex symbol status.
In 1958, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch joined 'The Drifters', and by 1959 the band changed their name to ‘The Shadows’. It was also around this time that Cliff made his film debut in ‘Serious Charge’. The film produced the hit ‘Living Doll’, Cliff’s first number one hit.
Cliff's second movie, ‘Expresso Bongo’, was more successful and critically acclaimed. As the albums and hit singles rolled out, Cliff Richard was building a devoted fan base that would secure his chart success some 40 years later.
In 1961, Cliff starred in ‘The Young Ones’, and the accompanying single shot straight into number one in the charts. The second film with Cliff in the leading role was another musical, ‘Summer Holiday’, which saw him star alongside Una Stubbs.
1968 saw the last album recorded by Cliff with 'The Shadows', and Cliff went on to tour with his own gospel album. In 1970, Cliff launched his first television show, featuring a mix of music and comedy. In the same year, he made his stage debut in Peter Shaffer's ‘Five Finger Exercise’, a play focusing on a 'deep friendship' between a student and his tutor. The play was originally considered controversial for its veiled homosexual themes but despite this, reviews were favourable.
One of the most talked about aspects of Cliff's life is his relationships. A much publicised relationship with tennis star Sue Barker in 1981 ended within a year. Cliff has also been linked with actress Una Stubbs.
In 1986 Cliff and The Young Ones re-recorded ‘Living Doll’ and made it to the top of the charts. In the same year he appeared in the West End musical ‘Time’, and by the end of the decade he had released his highest selling album of all time, 'Private Collection', which went on to be certified four-times platinum in the UK alone!
‘Mistletoe & Wine’ become Cliff's first Christmas-themed No.1 in 1988 and by 1989 Cliff became the first British artist to release 100 singles. Cliff continued to tour and break records throughout the 1990’s, and in 1995 he became Sir Cliff Richard - the first pop star to be honoured with a full Knighthood.
Despite selling records by the lorry load, Cliff ran into trouble getting airplay from various radio stations, including a ban by the BBC for his track ‘Misunderstood Man’, which was deemed “too raucous” for listeners.
Perhaps the most significant project for Cliff in the nineties was the fulfilment of his lifelong dream to play the character of Heathcliff in Emily Bronte's masterpiece, 'Wuthering Heights'. The show was a runaway success, and gave Cliff his highest selling video ever, topping the UK video charts for two months upon its 1998 release.
In 1999 ‘The Millennium Prayer’ reached number one, regardless of no airplay and scathing reviews. Despite a lack of support in the press, Cliff continues to make music and his recent album and DVD release cracked the top twenty.
Cliff now divides his time between his homes in the UK, Barbados and Portugal, where he has taken to making his own wine.
Cliff Richard's Timeline
October 14, 1940
Lucknow, United Provinces, British India
November 2, 1940
Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England
October 25, 1995