|Birth name||Michael William Sammes|
19 February 1928|
|Died||19 May 2001(aged 73)|
|Years active||1950s – 1980s|
|Associated acts||Mike Sammes Singers|
Born in Reigate, Surrey, Sammes was the son of pioneer photographer and film-maker Rowland Sammes. He began his interest in music by learning the cello and played in the school orchestra at Reigate Grammar School. He then worked briefly for the music publisher, Chappell & Co. in London. He returned to music after national service in the RAF in the late 1940s when he formed a male vocal group called the Coronets at the urging of fellow musician Bill Shepherd. The Coronets did back-up work for the Big Ben Banjo Band and recorded for Columbia Records, releasing some covers of current hits.
After Shepherd withdrew, Sammes persisted. By 1957, he had assembled the core group that would form the Mike Sammes Singers, finding them soon steadily employed, for singers, soundtrack and radio jingles, working sometimes as many as four sessions in a day and up to six days a week. Mike Sammes was Mr Sowerberry on the 1960 soundtrack (World Record Club) of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! and the Michael (sic) Sammes Singers also featured.
The Mike Sammes Singers performed the title themes for three of Gerry Anderson's shows, Supercar, Stingray, and The Secret Service. The group recorded seven albums between 1962 and 1988. In addition, they performed on numerous albums for Disneyland Records. Among the many hit singles featuring the Mike Sammes Singers are "No Other Love" (Ronnie Hilton), "A Handful of Songs" (Tommy Steele), "Why?" and "Strawberry Fair" (Anthony Newley), "Walkin' Back to Happiness" (Helen Shapiro), "The Last Waltz" (Engelbert Humperdinck), "Green Green Grass of Home" and "Delilah" (Tom Jones) and "Tears" by Ken Dodd.
The singers departed from their usual commercial style when they provided backing vocals for the Beatles' song "I Am the Walrus", which required them to do "all sorts of swoops and phonetic noises" and chant the phrases "ho ho ho, he he he, ha ha ha", "oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper" and "everybody's got one". They also sang on the Beatles' "Good Night", as well as on their last album, Let It Be, at the behest of Phil Spector. Sammes also provided the distinctive basso backing vocals on Olivia Newton-John's early country crossover hits, including "Banks of the Ohio", "Let Me Be There" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)". Despite this productivity, his group, the Mike Sammes Singers, have only one entry in The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, for "Somewhere My Love" in July 1967. Sammes rewrote the song, "Marianne", with Bill Owen to provide Cliff Richard with a minor hit in September 1968.
The Mike Sammes Singers remained very busy into the 1970s, doing recordings for television (The Secret Service) and appearing on the small screen (the Val Doonican Show, 1971). By the mid-1970s, though, the demand for backing vocals had faded considerably, due to the introduction of multi-tracking and synthesizers. On "The Last of the Summer Wine", the Mike Sammes Singers contributed the "Summer Wine" song over the opening credits of the Christmas 1983 episode "Getting Sam Home".
Sammes died at the age of 73 in May 2001, several months after a fall from which he never fully recovered. Johnny Trunk, of Trunk Records, was able to recover a number of reel-to-reel tapes from Sammes' house (despite it having been ransacked by house clearance), which he went on to compile as Music for Biscuits, so-named because it featured 1960s/1970s advertising jingles for Tuc biscuits, etc.