GARRITY (1936 - 2006)
With his band, the Dreamers, the minor British pop legend Freddie
Garrity, who has died aged 69, enjoyed a chart run on both sides
of the Atlantic during the Merseybeat boom of the early 1960s. But
Garrity, who had suffered from emphysema in recent years, never
made it to the top of the UK pop charts, though he did have two
No 2s. The group's success began with a cover of an American rhythm
and blues track, "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody"
(1963) and concluded with "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (1965).
Their 1963 British hit, "I'm Telling You Now", got to
No 1 in the US two years later, and for a few months Garrity was
omnipresent on American TV pop shows and packed out concerts.
Diminutive, with large, horn-rimmed spectacles and a geek-like
public persona, Garrity was blessed with on-stage vitality, a catchphrase
("Just a minute!") and a dash of lip-trembling pathos
that some found endearing. During his US success, his lively stage
antics, which he described as "a dance called the Freddie",
inspired the sometime king of the twist craze, Chubby Checker, to
record "Do The Freddie", which Garrity covered, and took
into the US charts. He was also an adept if limited composer, co-writing
"I'm Telling You Now", the second of his three British
singles hits, the third being "You Were Made For Me".
During 1964 the band's chart success faded until the sentimental
"I Understand" became a Christmas hit.
Born in Sale, Manchester, 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. During the skiffle era, he and his
brother Derek formed a band called the Red Sox, which, in 1958,
were runners-up in a northwest skiffle competition. Subsequent bookings
in Greater Manchester kept them busy, but Garrity's fiancée
prevailed upon him to leave the group to sing with the less demanding
John Norman Four. Within weeks, he had joined the Kingfishers, who
by 1961 had mutated into Freddie and the Dreamers.
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
Garrity's film appearances, in low budget musicals, included the
Joe Brown vehicle What A Crazy World (1963) - in which the band
covered the Royal Teens' "Short Shorts" - and Every Day's
A Holiday (1965), with Mike Sarne and John Leyton. Garrity's short
feature, Cuckoo Patrol (1966), was banned in some US states for
purportedly belittling the boy-scout movement. By the end of the
decade, singles success was largely gone, though "Susan's Tuba"
was a hit in France. The Dreamers recorded an album of Disney film
themes, and moved into cabaret and pantomime, more their natural
element. Garrity also compered an ITV children's show, Little Big
Time. Later he featured on 1960s revival shows, played Ariel in
a 1988 production of The Tempest and a drug-dealing disc jockey
in ITV's Heartbeat series. He continued to release records, including
his own composition, "I'm A Singer In A Sixties Band".
Though he disbanded the original Dreamers in 1969, Garrity reformed
the group in 1976, and they continued touring until 2001 when, after
an engagement in New York, he was taken ill on the flight home.
Emphysema was diagnosed and, though incapacitated, he continued
to work on his autobiography. He leaves a wife, Christine, four
children from two previous marriages and three stepchildren.
Clayson, The Guardian)