Harry Rodger Webb was born on 14 October 1940 in Lucknow India where his father worked for a catering company. The family returned to England in 1948.
Harry was a fan of the early rock & rollers like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and, early in 1958, decided to form his own group called the Planets, after Bill Haley's Comets. Harry formed the group with Norman Mitham and himself on guitars and Terry Smart on drums but they soon decided that they did not like the name and changed it to Cliff Richard and the Drifters. Norman Mitham was soon replaced by Ian Samwell and the group cut a demo record. The recording was heard by Norrie Paramor who arranged for them to record a single. The record, Move It, written by Ian Samwell and recorded with session musicians, is regarded as Britain's first rock record and reached number 2.
With the success of Move It, the group was booked on a national tour with the Kalin Twins who pointed out that the name, The Drifters, would cause confusion with the American doo-wop group of that name. After the tour, the group was reformed as The Shadows, with Brian Marvin (who "americanised" his name to Hank B. Marvin) and Bruce Welch (both on guitar) being added, Jet Harris replacing Ian Samwell on bass guitar and Tony Meehan replacing Terry Smart on drums.
Cliff and the Shadows appeared in several movies, beginning with Serious Charge in 1959 and, more successfully, Expresso Bongo in the same year. Cliff decided to buy out his own movie contract in order to retain control over the content of his movies. This was followed by a string of hit movies including The Young Ones and Summer Holiday.
Following the advice of Norrie Paramour, Cliff progressively moved away from rock music to middle-of-the-road "family entertainment". Regardless of the artistic merits of the move, it did not decrease his popularity. By 1966, Cliff Richard had had 43 hit singles including 8 number ones and the Shadows had had 24 hit singles including 5 number ones.
By 1966, Cliff was discussing quitting music to become a teacher when he attended a Billy Graham rally and became a "born-again" Christian. Although the change led him to make several religiously oriented recordings and a religious film (Two a Penny) and to lose some contact with the youth audience, Cliff continued to have chart success, including Congratulations, one of the biggest hits of 1968.
1969 saw the break-up of the Shadows (although they later re-formed several times) and Cliff starring in his own TV series.
By the late-seventies, it seemed that Cliff, who was focusing more of performing in support of religious causes and writing his autobiography, might soon retire. Then, in 1979, he had two hits, We Don't Talk Anymore, which was hist first UK number one for more than a decade, and Devil Woman, which was his first major hit in the US. Hit records and successful tours continued through 1980, when he was awarded an OBE, to 1986, when he stopped touring to star in the stage musical Time. This was followed by more touring and hit records, including Mistletoe and Wine, the top selling British single of 1988.
Tours and hit records continued until 1995, when Cliff was knighted for services to charity. The following year, Sir Cliff began work on the stage musical "Heathcliff" which ran through most of 1997. He ended the decade with Millenium Prayer which becoming a huge, number one hit despite his record company of 40 years, EMI, refusing to release it and many radio stations refusing to play it. (He also revealed that he has injections of Botox to prevent wrinkles by weakening the facial muscles that allow you to frown.)
Cliff Richard's backing group started to record independently from 1959. With almost completely arranged music and neat, matching mohair suits, they both inspired a generation of British musicians and caused them to react against neatness. Nevertheless, the Shadows have had more U.K. hit records than any other group, including the Beatles.
Their first hit came in 1960 with Apache. A tune written by Jerry Lordan, a fellow performer on tour with Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Jerry Lordan wrote several more of the Shadow's later hits including Wonderful Land and Atlantis.
The original group of Hank B. Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, underwent several changes: Tony Meehen was replaced by Brian Bennett in 1961. Jet Harris left in 1962 to be replaced briefly by Brian "Liquorice" Locking and then John Rostill. After 1968, the Shadows disbanded as a regular group but came together periodically to perform and record. From 1973, John Rostill was replaced by John Farrah, an Australian who was "discovered" by Hank B Marvin and Bruce Welch when playing with the Melbourne group The Strangers.
After leaving the Shadows, Tony Meehan teamed up with Jet Harris and produced three top ten singles. In 1963, Jet Harris retired due to ill health. Tony Meehan became a record producer at Decca.
Hank B. Marvin went on to a career as a solo guitarist and has released several albums.
Bruce Welch continued to write and produce records for Cliff Richard.
Brian Bennett became a session drummer and wrote music for television.
Brian Locking left the Shadows to focus on religious work with the Jehovah's Witnesses and worked in a men's wear shop.
John Rostill wrote music for The Shadows and Olivia Newton-John. He died in 1973.
John Farrah has produced and written songs for Olivia Newton-John (notably for the films Xanadu and Grease) and for Cliff Richard's stage show Heathcliff.
The Shadows in 1963