Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beatle People: Dick James

Dick James (born Reginald Leon Isaac Vapnick, 12 December 1920, East End, London — died 1 February 1986) was a music publisher and the founder of the DJM record label and recording studios, as well as (with Brian Epstein) The Beatles' publisher Northern Songs.

Early days

James sang with North London dance bands in his early teens, and was a regular vocalist at the Cricklewood Palais by the age of seventeen. He joined the Henry Hall band, and made first radio broadcast in 1940. Joining the Army in 1942, after World War II he continued to sing with top post-war bands, including Geraldo's. Later still, James was also a part time member of The Stargazers, a popular early 1950s vocal group.

He was the singer of the Robin Hood and The Buccaneers theme songs, from British television in the 1950s, and was a friend and associate of renowned record producer George Martin.

Switch to publishing

James entered the music publishing business as his singing career tapered off, and in 1963 established Northern Songs Ltd., with Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney, to publish Lennon and McCartney's original songs. (Fellow Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr were also signed to Northern Songs as songwriters, but did not renew their contracts in 1968). James's company, Dick James Music, administered Northern Songs.

What initially began as an amicable working relationship between the Beatles and James disintegrated by the late 1960s; the Beatles considered that James had betrayed and taken advantage of them when he sold Northern Songs in 1969 without offering the band an opportunity to buy control of the publishing company. James profited handsomely from the sale of Northern Songs, but the Beatles never again had the rights to their own songs.

During the 1960s he also handled Billy J. Kramer and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Later days

James signed Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin as untried unknowns in 1967, and formed DJM Records in '69. Indeed, all of John's early releases (up to 1976) were issued on the DJM record label. The label also carried Jasper Carrott, RAH Band and even John Inman.

John formed his own Rocket label in 1976, but in 1982, John was involved in a long court case with James about royalties.


James died of an heart attack in early 1986, at the age of 65.

British chart hits

* "Robin Hood" / "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" - (1956) - Number 14
* "Garden of Eden" - (1957) - Number 18


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