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Freddie Garrity 5/2006

freddie-the-dreamersMay 19, 2006 – Frederick “Freddie” Garrity (Freddie and the Dreamers) was born on November 14, 1936 in Crumpsall, Manchester, England. The son of a miner, Garrity was educated locally. A talented schoolboy footballer, he was also steeped in his city’s popular entertainment tradition. After leaving school in 1956, he signed on for an engineering apprenticeship that would have lasted seven years had his musical talent not begun to emerge. He started to practice his guitar skills on the shopfloor of the Turbine factory, and show them off at staff dances. A fanatical Manchester United fan, he began to get pub gigs. Then, during the first year of his apprenticeship, he won a local talent contest with an Al Jolson impression.

He then worked as a milkman while playing in local skiffle groups: the Red Sox, the John Norman Four and, finally, the Kingfishers, who became Freddie and the Dreamers in 1959. The band itself consisted of Garrity on vocals, Roy Crewsdon, guitar, Derek Quinn, guitar, Pete Birrell, bass and Bernie Dwyer, on drums. In the early years of the band, Garrity’s official birth-date was given as 14 November 1940 to make him appear younger and, therefore, more appealing to the youth market who bought the majority of records sold in the UK.

Garrity’s trademark was his habit of leaping up and down during performances. This, combined with his almost skeletal appearance and horn-rimmed glasses, made him an eccentric figure in the UK pop scene of the early 1960s. The comic capers that became their trademark were developed during a club residency in Hamburg. Though Freddie was the front man, the Dreamers did not just skulk behind him, but engaged too in trouser-dropping, slapstick and other clowning. For aspiring pop stars, they were an odd bunch; a podgy bass player, a drummer who resembled a door-to-door salesman, one guitarist sporting curious sunglasses and the other prematurely bald.

“The Dreamers and I have always been daft. You couldn’t call me a sex-idol, could you? Collectively, we’re no glamour boys.“

Although seldom taken seriously as musicians, Freddie and The Dreamers were none the less, a part of “The British Invasion” of rock and roll acts in the mid 1960’s.

In the early sixties, the band found work during the summer at various British seaside resorts and became much more than just a singing group. The inclusion of comedy in their stage act had become their trademark. The individual members held day jobs and the group remained semi-professional until they passed a BBC audition in 1963. Their first release, a cover version of James Ray’s, “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” climbed the U.K. record charts to the number 3 position and led to a series of TV appearances, where audiences quickly remembered the band for their offbeat humor and stage antics.

They turned to Mitch Murray (writer of some of Gerry and The Pacemakers’ early hits) for their next two single releases – “I’m Telling You Now”, which went to number 2 in England and “You Were Made For Me”, that reached number 3. Their first album also sold well, peaking at No 5 on the UK album chart.

In 1964, they enjoyed more chart success with “Over You”, a cover of Paul Anka’s “I Love You Baby” and a revival of the G. Clefs, “I Understand”, which was to be their final U.K. Top Ten hit. An earlier release, “Just For You”, had already missed the Top 20.

As the group’s appeal started to decline in the UK however, they made a startling breakthrough in America, where audiences were eager for anything British. Tower Records released “I’m Telling You Now” and the tune quickly reached the number One on the top 10 of the U.S. charts. The Dreamers soon found themselves appearing on major U.S. televisions shows like, “Shindig”, “Hullabaloo” and “The Ed Sullivan Show”. American audiences were amused by Garrity’s zany stage antics and wanted to know more about the dance he seemed to do, swinging his arms and legs out to his sides. “It’s called the Freddie”, he innocently replied.

A song of the same name was quickly written and released and resulted in a U.S. Top 20 hit called “Do The Freddie”. For a week or two, it seemed like everyone was doing “The Freddie”, even Chubby Checker, who recorded a cover version. Despite the success of the song in the United States, it was never issued in Great Britain. The shear silliness of the song completely undermined the group as serious musicians and they were quickly dismissed by most of the record buying public.

Back home in the UK, the group enjoyed a couple of minor hits with “A Little You” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and appeared in the low budget musical film ‘Everyday’s A Holiday’, as singing chefs at a holiday camp.

In 1966, they recorded a whole album’s worth of Disney film songs and their final album release, “Oliver In The Underworld” was really a kiddies album. When they finally bowed out with Graham Gouldman’s “Susan Tuba” in 1970, Freddie went on to star in the successful British children’s series ‘Little Big Time’.

In 1976, Garrity put the band back on the road with a new line-up. It was short-lived, but they did oldies tours in England, the US and in Australia. Twelve years later, in 1988, he got his first serious acting role in a production of The Tempest.

Freddie also appeared in several British theatre productions. After his television career ended, Garrity formed a new version of Freddie and the Dreamers and toured regularly for the next two decades, but no further records or chart success came their way. He continued to perform until 2001, when he was diagnosed with emphysema after collapsing during a flight, thus forcing him into retirement. The original members of the band all retired from the music business. Pete Birrell became a taxi driver, Roy Crewsdon bought a bar in the Canary Isles, Derek Quinn went to work for a soft drink company and Bernie Dwyer died on December 4th 2002 at the age of 62.

Sadly, by 2004, Freddie Garrity’s health began to fail and following an American tour, he had a heart attack. He suffered from systemic sclerosis and had trouble breathing, spending much of his time in a wheelchair. With his health in decline, Garrity settled in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Moreton Avenue, in a bungalow aptly -and sadly- called “Dreamers End.”

Freddie died on May 19th, 2006, at the age of 65.

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