February 28, 1985 – David Byron (Uriah Heep) was born David Garrick on January 29, 1947 in Essex, England. His entire family had music in the veins. His mother was singing in a Jazzband and everybody played a instrument or was tap dancing. Early on he tried to get famous through a children’s TV show and his first band had no name, did no gig’s and lasted exactly 2 weeks. When he was 16 a local band offered him a job. He did one gig with them, but then joined the Epping based semi-pro band of Mick Box which was called The Stalkers. They had fired their vocalist and at the audition he had to sing Johnny B. Goode. He was hired right away.
Byron and Box worked well together and teamed up to form the band Spice which also featured Paul Newton on bass and Alex Napier on drums. The band gigged extensively locally under the management of Paul Newtons father and they secured a recording deal with United Artists who issued the bands one and only single “What About The Music/In Love” copies of which now fetch around $50 to $100 on the collectors market.
Although Spice regularly played venues like the Marquee it wasn’t until they met up with manager Gerry Bron that things began to happen. Deciding that the Spice sound would require keyboards they recuited keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Ken Hensley who was Paul Newton’s bandmate in The Gods. The band rehearsed and played diligently and during this time Bron redubbed the band Uriah Heep from the Charles Dickens classic David Copperfield. Shortly afterward the band’s career really took off, first in Germany, England and finally the States.
Uriah Heep recorded between 1969 to 1976 ten albums and Byron was their frontman on all of them. Gifted with a phenomenal vocal range, paired with an unparalleled sense of dynamics & charismatic stage presence, he became one of rock’s premier frontman.
Their first (which had originally been slated as a Spice release which becomes apparent after listening to “The Lansdowne Tapes”, “Very ‘eavy Very ‘Umble”, “Salisbury”, “Look At Yourself”, “Demons And Wizards”, “The Magician’s Birthday”, “Live” (also known amongst fans as “Friday Night In Birmingham”, “Sweet Freedom”, “Wonderworld”, “Return To Fantasy”, “High And Mighty”. During these six years David Byron gained a reputation with his operatic vocals and harmonies as one of the best rock vocalists and frontmen in the world.
In 1975 Byron released his first solo album, “Take No Prisoners” which also featured fellow heep members Mick Box, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake. But unfortunatly for Byron and sadly for the fans, he’d also gained a reputation for hard drinking which eventually led to him being asked to leave the band because of his increasingly erratic behavior due to alcohol abuse. This happened at the end of a Spanish tour in July 1976. Fellow band member Ken Hensley said at that time, “David was one of those classic people who couldn’t face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle.”
Determined to get his career going again Byron teamed up with former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and former Wings drummer Geoff Britton to form Rough Diamond. They recorded one self titled LP in March 1977. Unfortunately the album sold poorly and Byron split.
Teaming up with multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Daniel Boone and recruiting some in-demand session musicians (including famed drummer Stuart Elliot), Byron secured a deal with Arista Records and released his second solo album “Baby Faced Killer” and the single “Rich Mans Lady/ All In Your Mind”. Again, neither gained commercial success.
In 1980 Uriah Heep invited him back in the band, but he refused.
Next Byron got together with wonderkid guitarist Robin George and formed The Byron Band. They were signed to Creole Records and debuted with the single “Every Inch Of The Way/Routine”. This was followed by the single “Never Say Die/Tired Eyes” before the release of the 1981 LP “On The Rocks”. But like his previous band Rough Diamond, neither critical nor commercial acclaim was forthcoming. The Byron Band recorded 3 albums, 2 of which were not released till the 2000s, “Lost And Found” released 2003 and “One Minute More” released 2008.
Sadly, Byron never recovered from his alcoholism which steadily grew worse and after one too many unprofessional stage disappointments (he collapsed drunk on stage at the Marquee shortly into his set) and he was pretty much left washed up. Alcohol eventually overcame David Byron. He was found dead on February 28th 1985 and like all great stars of his magnitude, he was taken from us too soon. However, he left behind a vast catalog of material of both Uriah Heep and his own solo material which will ensure that the memory and music of David Byron lives on.