The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #42 – Engelbert Humperdinck

Engelbert Humperdinck is the definition of what it means to be an iconic singer. The youngest boy in a large family with ten children, Engelbert Humperdinck, from Leicester, England, he grew up in Madras, India. In his career as a performing and recording artist, Humperdinck has sold approximately 150 million records, including 64 million gold and 24 million platinum records.   Know as “the King of Romance,” his most recent album, “The Man I Want to Be” is dedicated to his wife Patricia, who is battling Alzheimer’s and features an eclectic  collection of songs including originals as well as covers of hits from Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran.

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Les Reed: Songwriter

Les Reed O.B.E., is one of the greatest contributors to popular music and the songs he co-wrote are all of the evidence you need.  “It’s Not Unusual” is the signature song of Tom Jones, and “Delilah,” recorded by Jones is one of Tom Jones’ most beloved songs.  Les Reed had a hand in both of these.  “There’s a Kind of Hush,” is one of the songs most associated with Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits, but there’s more.  Les Reed has written songs recorded by the likes of Englebert Humperdinck, the Dave Clark Five, Connie Francis, Petula Clark, The Carpenters, Barry Manilow and too many others to list.  On top of all of this, Les Reed is a very open-hearted man and one with great gratitude for those who enjoy his work.  This interview will take you into the musical heart and mind of a truly great composer.


It is a great pleasure to welcome hit songwriter, Les Reed. I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?


Well, I was born in 1935 so I saw most of the war – well, all of the war years, actually. And at five years old my mother and father put me to piano lessons, and I used to walk across the allotment to a little old lady called Rita (?) who taught me how to play piano and, indeed, for the next 15 or so years. And she got me right through London College of Music and I passed all the exams, et cetera, and when I was 15, I finished with her and carried on in a professional mode. But during the war we had a little troupe called the Westfield Kids, which was a troupe where I played accordion and piano, and we had local tap dancers and singers, and we used to entertain all the wives – all the men were away at war. And one little story comes to mind that in my early youth, when I was about – oh, I don’t know, eight or so during the war – my mother used to go to a little dance hop, just across the allotment, to a little hut and dance with all the women every Thursday night. And I used to – could hear the music from my house, or our house, and I would know that when the last waltz was playing she’d be home to get my supper. And this stayed with me all my years and many years later, when I was talking to Barry Mason, um, I mentioned this story and so that’s how The Last Waltz was born – which is a nice little story, I think. So really, I had no sport. I just had music from the age of five, basically. It was a wonderful, wonderful street that I lived in but there were many casualties, of course. Some of the men just didn’t come back. So it was sad but very happy. Really, that’s, that’s about it apart from, uh, you know, the normal school things and, uh, playing the odd concert with the Westfield Kids, and entertaining the troops that came home, that were injured, in the war hospital. And ironically (laughs), strangely enough, I was out one day pinching apples and a doodlebug came over, which was a flying bomb, and the engine stopped. And I knew that within five minutes or at least five seconds, I guess, I would be dead because they just came straight down and blew everything to smithereens. So I fell from the tree and in doing so I landed on a chicken run, and there was some corrugated iron and it cut my leg from bottom to top, and I had to be taken by the butcher into the hospital, which was the war hospital. And so, again (laughs), I met all the people that only a week before I was entertaining with the Westfield Kids. And it was a rather sad time but we became matey and, uh, it was a lovely environment. And I was in there for three weeks. So, that was what I was doing when I was growing up.


What music do you remember hearing from childhood?


Well, indeed, when I was born my mother told me that, uh, they were playing Jimmy Dorsey, a song called That’s A-Plenty, on the radio and it stayed with me all of my life. A few years later when I went to a wedding, they were playing this record and it, it just stemmed the memory and I thought ‘That’s my kind of music’. So, really, I was brought up on American big bands – Tommy, Jimmy Dorsey; Benny Goodman, Glen Miller – oh, all those kind of people. So I, I loved jazz from a very early age and indeed, when I was 16, I started playing jazz clubs and played with people like Dizzy Reece, Roy Willox, Bruce Gaylord and Victor Feldman in London jazz clubs. So it was a lovely time. When I was a boy, I had a wall in my bedroom which was full of pictures of all the people I loved, including all the big bands like Glen Miller, etc., etc., and Benny Goodman’s band and Jimmy Dorsey, but I also had pictures of Bing Crosby, oooh, Ella Fitzgerald, Vic Damone, Sammy Davis and others. And it’s a strange thing but throughout my life in the recording business I got to meet each and every one of them or they actually did one of our songs on their records. We even had a Glenn Miller recording on a, on a song called Hot Line which was not the Glen Miller because by this time he’d got killed in the war, but the band was taken over by Ray McKinley and it was Ray McKinley that recorded the song. Bing Crosby, we wrote a song together called That’s What Life Is All About and I had a nice hit with it. It was his very last hit. And now the Goodman brothers, Benny Goodman I stayed with in Duchess County. And it’s a funny story because it was Benny’s house and his two brothers, Gene and Harry, were my publishers in a company called Regent Sound, which Benny also had an interest in. And I was actually doing some arrangements at Benny’s piano over the weekend – I had some stuff to do for P.J. Proby –  and the charlady came in and she said ‘Hey Les, do you want me to stoke the fire up because it’s cold?’ And I said ‘Oh yes, please.’ She said ‘I’ll bring you a cup of tea.’ But onthe end of the piano was Benny’s clarinet which I kept looking at as such a revered thing in my mind. You know, he appeared in all those films and, oh, Carnegie Hall and everything with the, with the clarinet. And she came and gave me my cup of tea and then took the clarinet and stoked the fire up with it (laughs) and I nearly fell off my chair. But she laughed. She said ‘We do that on everyone, Les. They all think it’s Benny’s clarinet. It’s not. It’s just a cheap plastic copy.’ So it was a joke but, you know, it, it’s, it’s one of those wonderful things. And I still love jazz but, of course, I got into the popular business and that’s been my life for, oh, 60 years or so.


Tell us about the first song you ever wrote.


Oooh, you’re going back now. I was about 10 years old and I just kept dreaming, I guess, about this wonderful paradise isle, just on my own (laughs) with nature around me. And I didn’t know what it meant but I came up with a site called Nirvana. And, uh, in later years I found out this is exactly what nirvana means – it means paradise, or paradise isle. And so I wrote a little song about that which my sister, Celia, to this day still sings that song. It’s never been recorded. It’s just a, a family thing. And she was five years old when I wrote it and she’s oh, well, she’s in her seventies now, so I guess it must have had an influence on, on Celia. There was another song I called Mother Dear. I just loved my mother so much and I wrote a song about her. And another one called In Vain which the sentiment being I couldn’t get the girlfriend I wanted and everything was in vain (laughs). So really, yes, those were the three songs that I wrote when I was a young boy.


Are you more affected by the lyrics or the melody of a song?


Good lyrics do affect me and songs like Vincent – and there are many songs that really bring me to tears sometimes. And I wish I had written them, you know, but being a composer, I think the melody has to appeal to the general public, too. And, uh, I was always influenced by the classical composers like Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, who greatly sparked my imagination when I was a young boy to actually pursue a classical path. In some, uh, cases I have, having written four suites and nearly finished my very first symphony. Well, I guess this comes when you’re older but certainly, uh, I was very lucky to work with the best lyric writers, not least of all Sammy Cahn, who’s probably one of the best ever. Bing Crosby, of course. Don Black, who’s one of our big writers, as well as Tim Rice. And Barry Mason, my long-time partner, and Geoff Stephens, almost as long as Barry. So I’ve been blessed with wonderful lyric writers and I must say that with all of their songs, I know their lyrics back to front. So, uh, it certainly had an impression on me when we first wrote them and I hope it had an impression on the public as well.



What was the first song you wrote that you heard on the radio? How did it make you feel?


Well, I guess when I was with the John Barry Seven – oooh, we’re gong back now 1959, 1960 – I guess this was the first popular song I wrote, even though I had written some jazz pieces before that for Danny Boyce and his orchestra which were broadcast, but actual song was a little thing called Donna’s Theme which I wrote in respect of her being born. And the John Barry Orchestra and Seven recorded it on a album called String Beat, which is very popular still to this day, that particular album. Uh, that was in 1960 when Donna was born. And when I heard it on the radio I was, I had an incredible feeling because, you know, it’s just not a thing that happens to everybody and I, I just felt ‘That’s my music they’re playing!’ But the first actual song I heard was Everybody Knows by Steve Lawrence in America, which did very, very well. And he was one of my favorite singers anyway, and it was lovely to hear that. And, but in this country we had a song called Tell Me When by the Applejacks and it was played day-in, day-out and that was a wonderful feeling. So (laughs), it’s going back a bit but – and you probably won’t remember all of those songs (laughs) – but it was an incredible feeling.

What kinds of things inspire you to write songs?


I guess everyday life, really, Paul. Every song really tells a story and, you know, you, you can look at somebody in a tube train and you can more or less see their emotions, what they’re going through, in their eyes. And this is, really, what we look for. But one very strange story about Kind of Hush was that I used to take an actor up to town called Tony Phillips, in the early days, and he was quite a nice actor and he had small parts but not very busy. And I said to him on the way up, up to London one day, I said ‘Tony, how’s your business going?’ He said ‘You know, Les,’ he said ‘there’s a kind of a hush all over the world at the moment.’ I stopped the car and I looked at him. I said ‘Would you mind if I use that title for a new song?’ He said ‘No, no. Be my guest.’ And that’s how There’s a Kind of Hush was born and, as you know, it was a massive hit for Herman’s Hermits. Uh, Geoff Stephens did a lovely, lovely lyric on it. The Carpenters, of course; uh, Barry Manilow; oh, Johnny Mathis – they all did the song. But there was another one, really, when my dear old dad died. His name was Ralph Henry, Ralph Henry Reed. And I wrote this instrumental just the day after he died. It was called Ralph Henry. I put it over to Acker Bilk who is a very big clarinet player here on record, and he recorded the song. And people used to say that the melody is so beautiful, why don’t you put a lyric to it? So in the early days, when I was working with Malcolm Roberts and we were doing all these, these festivals together, on one particular time in, uh, San Remo, he said ‘Les, I’ve just listened to that melody and I’ve immediately come up with and alternative title but it’s nothing to do with breaking the family up.’ he said, ‘I want to call it My Son. In other words, it’s your dad talking about you in the lyric.’ He read it aloud to me and, of course, the old tears started to come. And that’s how My Son was born, with the original Ralph Henry melody. And J.J. Barry, Eddie Arnold – quite a few country singers sang the song. Now it’s just been recorded by Julie Rogers and there is a chance that we might get a Christmas release on it with a very, very big artist but I can’t really let that go at the moment. They’re trying to keep it secret (laughs). So this is, it’s, it’s just everyday life, basically. That’s how we, uh, that’s how we work.

Connie Francis recorded an entire album of your songs. How did you feel about that?


Oh, well it was a fantastic experience. You know, even from the early ‘50s, I was a great fan of Connie Francis. I think we all were. And she came (laughs) – when I was with the John Barry Seven, she came to see Adam Faith, who was my best man but he was singing on tour with us. And I shall never forget coming off the stage with Adam, sweating like nothing, and she had two gin and tonics and – one each for Adam and myself – and I thought to myself, ‘I know that face.’ And, of course, it was Connie. She’d come to see Adam, basically, but we struck up a nice friendship and many years later, when I was working with MGM in America, Arnold? Maxime said ‘Do you know Connie Francis?’ and I said ‘Well, yes. We have met.’ He said ‘What would you – would you like to do an album with her for MGM?’ I said ‘Of course! What songs do you want me to do?’ And he said ‘All yours.’ (laughs). So I had to get together ten songs for the album, which was, and then recorded it in America, and she came over to England to put some of her voice tracks on, and we put the back-up choir here at Wessex Sound, my studio. And also, even outside of that album, which actually is a bit of a collector’s item, I wrote some new songs for her with Barry and Geoff Stephens. She recorded those, too, in Italian, Spanish and English, and she was just so wonderful. We’re very good friends. So I guess we’ve had about 20 songs with Connie over the years. It’s one of those things. You, you, you know, you get a feeling about someone and we more or less had a – not an actual love affair but a love affair in admiration for each other, and to this day we still keep in touch. So, yes, it was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.


So many of your songs have been recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck. In your opinion, what makes him the great artist that he is?


It’s very hard to talk about my friend, Engelbert, because at the same time we were making his records Tom was also around – Tom Jones – and we made a load of records with him, too. But Engelbert was always something special to me. We’ve always been very close. He was psychic. He was spiritual. He was just a wonderful man and, uh, of course, the public demand is incredible still, to this day, to see him on stage. He always picks good songs. I mean, he loves everybody. He’s got good looks, a great voice, and I guess we’ve been friends since 1958. But I loved all my, my time in the studios with him for – it must have been four or five years – and we cut many, many songs that we wrote for him. And to this day, I still figure he’s one of the best artists that’s around. Wonderful man.


What inspired your song, It’s Not Unusual, that was recorded by Tom Jones?


Well, It’s Not Unusual was actually written before Tom Jones came on the scene. And Gordon and I were just finishing it off when he rang one night and said ‘Would you like to see Tom Jones – who was then Thomas Woodward – sing at the Top Rank Theater in Slough. I said ‘Of course.’ And I went over there and saw him sing. I thought he was a bit strange in certain, in certain ways but on the other hand, he had a, a very good voice. So we decided – Gordon decided to sign him and we then played him the song It’s Not Unusual for him to do the demonstration disc of because the following day we were due to see Sandie Shaw and her manager, Evie Taylor, because we were interested in Sandie Shaw recording the song. Anyway, I took Tom into Regent Sound and we did the demonstration and the three of us, after we’d finished, the three of us trooped up to, uh, Evie Taylor’s office and played her the song and she wasn’t very impressed. And she’d had a, a guy the called Des Lane, the Penny Whistle Man, who she was more interested in. And the three of us sat there, listening to this Penny Whistle being played in her office. So eventually I knocked on the door and she said ‘What do you want, Les?’ I said ‘Well, I want you to – I want to play this new song for Sandie.’ She said ‘Well, you know I’ve got a very important customer here. Quickly play it.’ So we played it for about, I don’t know, eight, ten bars or so, and she took it off. She said ‘It will never be a hit for Sandie Shaw. Now stop wasting my time.’ And Tom was there and so was Gordon and so was I, and we were quite broke between the lot of us and she could have taken us on (laughs) for little or no money but she sort of pushed us out in lieu of a Penny Whistle Man called Des Lane. Anyway, it worked out to good things because we took him to Decca the following day and they loved the song up at Decca. And that’s when we decided to record It’s Not Unusual with Tom. And I did two arrangements of it. The first one has only been released recently on an album, from an archive album, but the actual one – when I did the first one, Peter Sullivan said ‘Les, it needs a lot more brass.’ So back to the drawing board and I wrote the arrangement as you hear it today. So it was a massive, massive hit for us. And that’s how It’s Not Unusual came about and, of course, Tom should have sang it from the very first. It was always his song. But you know, as I said, songs always tell a story. But on that particular song we’ve been very lucky to have artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Otis Retting, Marvin Gaye, Stan Kenton Orchestra, The Four Freshman, Sammy Davis, Jr., and many others do the song over the years, so it has been a great song.

What did you think about the singer, Tom Jones, when you first became exposed to him?


Well, Gordon Mills rang me up one night – as you know, we were writing at the time, together – and he said ‘I’ve got this new singer called Tommy Woodward and I’d like you to see him.’ So I went over to the Top Rank Cinema in Slough, and we sat there in the audience, just the two of us, and waited for Tom to come on. Eventually, him with The Squires came onto the stage and they started to sing all Jerry Lee Lewis songs, which were great, but he had a rabbit’s foot on himself, for luck I guess, he had all kinds of medallions, tight leather trousers and he just looked a mess! I thought ‘I’m not going to like this guy.’ But when he opened his mouth, oh, that was a different story. I realized then there was an international star in the making here. And really, that was my first exposure to Tom. You know the story from then on. We, we went on and Gordon managed him, and we went on for quite a few years in the studio and made a lot of hits together. A good one. Nice one.

Our special guest is songwriter, Les Reed. Another song of yours that Tom Jones recorded is Delilah, which has been recorded by many artists. In your opinion, who recorded the best version?


Well, I always think Tom did the ultimate version of that song. To this day, it’s still played everywhere and, of course, it is Tom that the people like the Welsh International Rugby Team went for to sing at their final a few years ago, and they’ve been singing it in Wales ever since. But apart from Tom, I mean we’ve had wonderful people record it like Pavarotti, the classical singer, did a wonderful version of it; Ray Conniff and The Russian Red Army Choir. Of course, Alex Harvey brought it back in the ‘70s with a version of his own and it went into the charts. It was a lovely version. But one thing is that I was making an album with P.J. Proby around about that time, and before Tom actually recorded it I asked Jim Proby if he’d like to listen to a new song Barry and I had written – Barry Mason and I – called Delilah and he said ‘Well, let’s do it on the session.’ He’d heard the original demo and he quite liked it. But it was about 2 o’clock, when after the whole album had been recorded, there was just this one song to do and I’d laid the track down with the orchestra in the daytime. And he went to sing it and he sang it in such a strange voice. It sounded like Bob Dylan and I said ‘Well, it’s not meant to be like that P.J. It’s meant to be as you would sing it.’ And he said ‘Well, I don’t like the song.’ And I said ‘Well, why didn’t you tell me that before I recorded it and did the arrangement?’ He said ‘Well, you know, I really don’t think it’s me.’ So I said ‘Okay.’ So we ended up with an eleven-track album, and Delilah was going to be the twelfthtrack on the album. I ended up with an eleven-track album but the album still did well. And I think P.J. curses himself to this day for turning down that song. But it turned out for the best, you know? Tom was around the corner and Delilah was born.

Delilah was also recorded by the sensational Alex Harvey Band. What did you think of their interpretation of your song?


Well, in the ‘70s it was, it was great. We had quite a few hits in the ‘70s but this was a record that we didn’t even know was going to happen. And I heard it on the radio one day and I thought ‘That’s our song!’ And of course, it was being done by a group, quite a rock version of it, and apparently Alex did it on stage everywhere he went and brought the house down. He absolutely loved the song, which is (laughs), which is different but very, very commercial. And to this day we were, we were delighted when it entered the charts and got quite high on the charts, too. So, um, I thought it was great. And you know a few years, uh, quite a few years – oh, five or six – after Tom’s version, it was nice to hear the song again in a different way. I love the record. 


Our special guest is songwriter, Les Reed. In my humble opinion, one of the best songs out there is There’s a Kind of Hush. I just think it’s one of the finest songs out there. I had the opportunity to hear Peter Noone perform it in concert but it wasn’t that many years ago that Barry Manilow recorded it on the album, Greatest Songs of the Sixties. What is it like for you, all these years later, when you hear something you wrote reinterpreted?


Well, I’ve told you the story of There’s a Kind of Hush but I think subsequently, after Peter Noone did the record with Herman’s Hermits, um, I think some of the great singers, especially in America, realized that there was more to it than just a simple little commercial song. And some people took it slowly, like Barry Manilow and Johnny Mathis. Perry Como put it in his own way, as did Matt Monro. And James Last Orchestra saw it in a different way. And of course, The Carpenters – they did it their way and had another hit with it, which was wonderful, a few years later. But I’m pleased to say that the song is now a standard and well, what can you say? It was, uh, from that original story in the car, which I told you about before, that it emanated from which was lovely for us.


Could it be possible to pick a song of yours that is a favorite composition?


Oh, that’s a hard one because (laughs), you know, over the years we’ve had many, many songs – it goes into the many hundreds – and we’ve been so lucky to get them recorded by really good artists. But one particular song always sticks out and it’s a song called I’ve Got My Eyes on You which I originally wrote with Jackie Rae, who is another one of my partners, for an artist we managed and recorded called Jason Cord. And he sang it beautifully but the fact that he was a new artist, it really didn’t get him a lot of air play. But some people heard it and The Vogues, in America, did the most wonderful, wonderful version of it and so it started being heard in America. And then people like Jackie Wilson who is a wonderful, wonderful singer, got hold of the song and did a fantastic version of it. I did it with Pet Clark in the studio for one of our albums. And people like Ray Conniff and Percy Faith and a few American orchestras did it, too. It was so sad for me because Jackie rang me not long after The Vogues had recorded the song and he had just lost his wife and, not long after that, he succumbed and he was gone. And he was a fine, fine lyric writer. And I think that’s one of the nicest lyrics ever on one of my songs.


Our special guest is songwriter, Les Reed. What songwriters have influenced you the most?


Well, I think it’s got to be Irving Berlin. He’s (laughs), he’s just about handled everything, Irving Berlin, and he was just a genius. But on the popular side, I love Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I just think they are wonderful. And of course, Jimmy Webb came up with some wonderful stories. And we were in Brazil with Jimmy and he was a wonderful person. Of course, I’ve always liked Sammy Cahn who became one of my lyric writers in his later age. It was wonderful. But I shall never forget with Henry Mancini, who was also a fine writer, telling me the story of Moon River. And he rang Johnny – he sent Johnny Mercer the melody on disc and, like a demo disc, and Johnny said ‘Hey, this is quite nice.’ He said ‘What’s it for?’ He said ‘Well, it’s for a film.’ Johnny said ‘Well, I’ve got to be off abroad tonight.’ He said ‘Listen, I’ll do something quickly now and, uh, get it to you’ – you know, they didn’t live too far from each other in California – he said ‘I’ll get it to you tonight.’ So, um, at about 9 o’clock that evening the, uh, the door went and it was Johnny Mercer with a little envelope in his hand which he gave to Hank. He said ‘Gotta go. I’m sorry. I’m gonna miss my plane.’ And, uh, Henry took it into his, uh, kitchen and looked at it and thought ‘My God, this is beautiful.’ And that’s how the lyric of Moon River came about and possibly one of the greatest songs of all time. That about sums Johnny Mercer up. He was of such a commercial mind and he had songs and music at heart. And between the two of them, they, they were two geniuses. So, uh, what a lovely song that was. Yep, I’ve got some wonderful influences, uh, mainly American (laughs).


Are there any younger songwriters that have gotten your attention?


Oh yes, there’s a few. I like very much a, a man called Wayne Hector. He wrote for Weslife, a very, very important group here. Songs like World of Our Own, Flying without Wings and he also wrote for other groups like JLS, and he’s a very fine writer. I like very much Danny O’Donoghue who writes for The Script, which is a group in this country, and he’s also a television personality now. And, uh, I’ve always loved the group Hobo, which is my favorite group of all time. They do some wonderful commercial records. Outside of that, I like Gary Barlow, who is a friend. He’s a – he belongs to our society and, uh, he’s a fine writer. And the girl singer, Adele, I think she’s out of this world. So, yeah, these are nice. They’re my favorites.


Who would you like to record a Les Reed song that never did?


Well, there’s one person on this planet and she has been so elusive, as far as I’m concerned – or my lyric writers – but I’ll get her one day and her name is Barbra Streisand. She recorded one of Geoff Stephens’ songs, which is my lyric writer, and she recorded one of Barry Mason’s songs, who is the other lyric writer, but she’s never done one of my songs (laughs)! So I will, uh, I will chase her until she does. But we have had some wonderful artists including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Nancy Wilson, Perry Como, Aretha Franklin, Four Tops, Diana Ross, Otis Retting, Marvin Gaye – so we’ve been very lucky with, with artists. But I will get Streisand one of these days. I’ll write something that she will not be able to refuse. In fact, there’s a song called You Bring Out the Woman in Me. I think I might send her that one (laughs).


Our special guest is songwriter, Les Reed. How did you feel about Frank Sinatra recording one of your songs?


Oh dear. I’ve always wanted Frank to do our songs. I knew all of his mates, like Sammy and Peter Lawford and Jerry Lewis. We worked on films together, One More Time. But never – only once did I ever meet Frank and that was at one of his concerts when he was introduced to me by Harold Davidson, who was his British agent. And we had a couple of words together. Then he moved on, which was a shame. I’d loved to have got to know him. But when Barry and I did a film called Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, Engelbert did that particular song from the film and had a nice big hit with it. But there was another song called Julie within the score which, strangely enough, I recorded with three people – Simon Dee, Tony Brandon and Ken Dodd, who is a very fine comedian here. One of my friends was making an album with Frank Sinatra in America for his label, and he said ‘Listen, have you got any songs for Frank? I can pitch them to him.’ I said ‘Well, I do have one. The only sort of demos I can give you are by three unknown singers, i.e., Simon Dee, Tony Brandon and Ken Dodd.’ He said ‘Well, send me the Tony Brandon one.’ And it was a nice recording with Tony Brandon. So he duly played it to Frank at the recording studio and to this day, Tony Brandon will never, ever forget the fact that Frank Sinatra actually listened to one of his recordings (laughs). But Frank liked the song and they laid it down, and apparently it was a very nice recording. It ended up on Frank’s Reprise label and it was about this time that he was selling it to Universal or somebody else – selling the actual catalog – and to this day that track is lying on the shelf somewhere and has never been released, to my chagrin. So, one day they may release it but it would be lovely because apparently he did a wonderful job on the song.

When someone listens to one of your songs, what do you hope they get out of the experience?


Well, we’ve had strange things happen over the years with our songs. There was one song called Valley of Tears which I wrote with Johnny Worth, who was a very fine artist-songwriter over here in Britain, and he wrote all of the Adam Faith songs, for which I was pianist on, on the record. And he came up with this wonderful, wonderful lyric about the valley of tears and I put a classical-type melody to it. And people started to want it played at their funeral (laughs), which was strange but very true. And that, along with Love Is All, we get requests for all the time – for burials, weddings, all kinds of things, which is lovely. And so, they do get experience. They do get, I don’t know, some kind of joy out of our songs, which is very lovely. I think The Last Waltz touches a lot of people, too, because it reminds a lot of people of their first meeting in the ballroom. And so, it’s songs – songs do have an affect on people, which pleases us very much. You know, it becomes a big part of their lives and they can relate personally. And, strangely, I often get many, many kinds of fan letters. Literally, people wanting to know the story of songs. We always answer and tell them, and they’re delighted when we answer. So I think, as I said, every song ahs a story.


What is the best thing about being Les Reed?


Oh, that’s really a hard question, Paul. I think the best thing, really is, is my love of life, my love for my friends, and my love for music and everything connected with it. You know, as a back-room boy, I’m lucky to get any kind of adoration at all and I think most writers are for their work because it’s purely a job to them. But I think it’s so nice to be accepted, and in some cases admired, by the general public. It’s not easy to say because we are, generally, not stars. We are not the Sinatras of this world. We are like his writers and arrangers that always take the back seat but are an integral part of their, their music. I often think that possibly what it’s like being me is, is to be able to provide some kind of musical backing to all of these people I’ve worked with that would enhance their own performances. So that’s really the best thing about being me. I don’t know – I guess other people feel like that, too. But I just love being a bit of a recluse at times but, on the other hand, I do love to meet the real people of this world.


Our special guest is songwriter, Les Reed. What would you like to say to anyone who is listening in, wherever they are in the world?


Well, I can only say a massive thank you for being part of our lives for the last 60 years or so. It really is a wonderful feeling and gives us great satisfaction. To be in this business is lucky anyway. One could have ended up a builder or whatever but we chose the music business and it has paid us back a million times. And a lot of it is due to the wonderful public that have gone out, bought our records, listened to our songs, and made sure that (laughing) we’re still working after 60 years, which is lovely. So there’s such a closeness with the public and that I will never forget, so I do thank you. 


My last question. Who is Les Reed?


Oh, dear. I’m just an ordinary guy, Paul, who’s passion is to please and be accepted through his music. I won’t embellish on that because I’ll get embarrassed talking about it but I – one story. When I was in the army, I met a clarinet player. His name was Joe and from the very first meeting, I knew that the man was spiritual and very psychic. And the next two years, when we were in Germany and the Balkans together, he would always called me Gus. And on my de-mob, he took me to the station in Germany to come home, and I said ‘One thing, Joe.’ I said ‘Why did you always call me Gus?’ He said ‘Because you’re not Les Reed.’ And he looked at me very strangely. He said ‘I’ve always thought you were Gustav Holst.’ (Laughs) ‘A reincarnation of Gustav Holst.’ (Laughs) And I said ‘Well, I – that’s impossible.’ And he said ‘No. Check it out.’ He said ‘It does happen.’ And he was into all of that. So I don’t know who Les Reed is. I must say that I have made a study with Gustav Holst over the years and certainly have a great closeness with his work. There are times when I’ve felt that what he had written I could have written at some time or another. I know it sounds a bit strange but that’s how it is. And it was very strange when my wife and I went to see a spiritual healer who was also very, very psychic. She did a healing on my wife, June. But she did say to me ‘I would love to sit you down.’ She said ‘You are such an interesting person.’ And I said ‘Why is that?’ And she said ‘Because I think you are another composer.’ And I grinned at her. I said ‘don’t mention one name, please.’ She said ‘Gustav Holst.’ and this coldness went right through me. So I don’t know. And it’s a strange old life and life is very, very – oh, I don’t know. It’s got me going. Anyway, I’ll say bye-bye to you all and thanks for listening, and hope to do it again one day, Paul.

And Mr. Reed, I thank you very much for making the time to sit down and talk with us. It has been a great, great pleasure.


Thank you very much, indeed, for inviting me.

Thank you, sir.