How Fishponds taught the world to sing

June 02 2017

ROGER Cook and Roger Greenaway were born and grew up in Fishponds, becoming professional musicians around 1958. Each had reasonably successful careers without making the big time.

ROGER Cook and Roger Greenaway were born and grew up in Fishponds, becoming professional musicians around 1958. Each had reasonably successful careers without making the big time. Roger Cook played in the Sapphires (a band that won a national talent contest), the Londons and John & Julie before becoming an in-demand pantomime actor! 

Roger Greenaway was in a vocal group, the Kestrels, that toured constantly and came close to having a hit record. They played with the likes of Billy Fury and Lonnie Donegan and even appeared higher on the same bill as the Beatles in 1963. 

When lead singer Tony Burrows left at the end of 1964, Roger Greenaway suggested his friend Roger Cook as a replacement, and although the band split up a few weeks later, a great partnership was born. During that short time, in a dressing room in Cleethorpes, they wrote their first song together, 'You've Got Your Troubles', and it went on to become a huge hit for The Fortunes.

Cook & Greenaway then came to the attention of Beatles' producer George Martin after he heard their demos and was impressed. He suggested that they become a recording duo and his wife came up with the name David & Jonathan. They had their first hit with a Beatles cover, 'Michelle' and their biggest hit with their own song, 'Lovers Of The World Unite' in 1966. 

This partnership lasted until 1968, during which time they wrote many songs for themselves as well as continuing to write for others. Their songs were covered by some of the big names of the day and many were top ten hits, including 'I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman' (Whistling Jack Smith), 'Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart' (Gene Pitney), 'The Way It Used To Be' (Engelbert Humperdink) and 'Good Times Better Times' (Cliff Richard).

David & Jonathan came to an end in order to allow them more time to write, but they also became in-demand session singers (they sang on early Elton John albums, and Elton once spent a night at Cook's house in Fishponds). Around the turn of the 1970s, Greenaway was in ad hoc bands with various session musicians and had hits such as 'United We Stand' (Brotherhood Of Man), 'My Baby Loves Lovin' (White Plains) and 'Gimme Dat Ding' (Pipkins). Meanwhile, Cook had been asked to join a new band called Blue Mink, that went on to have a string of hits such as 'Melting Pot' and 'The Banner Man'. Many of the hits for these acts were written by Cook & Greenaway.

As early as 1966, they had been asked to write jingles for Coca-Cola and it was a relationship that lasted well into the 1970s. A Cook/Greenaway song, 'True Love And Apple Pie' was transformed into a jingle in 1970 and went on to become their biggest hit. 'I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke', and its famous TV advert showing a multi-racial crowd of young people singing the song became an iconic image. A few lyric changes turned the song into 'I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing' and a huge hit for the New Seekers.

There were more hits for others in the early 1970s, 'Home Lovin’ Man' (Andy Williams), 'Something Old Something New' (Fantastics), 'Something Tells Me Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight' (Cilla Black), 'Softly Whispering I Love You' (Congregation), 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' (The Hollies).

In 1975 Cook decided to move to the USA, ending the songwriting partnership, although they remain friends to this day. Greenaway continued to write with others and had a string of hits with the Drifters as well as others such as 'It’s Gonna Be A Cold, Cold Christmas' (Dana) and 'Jeans On' (David Dundas). He then moved to the administration side of the music business and held top positions with both British and American royalty collection agencies. In 1998 he was awarded an OBE.

Cook settled in Nashville and moved into the country music market. His biggest success came with 'Talking In Your Sleep' for Crystal Gayle, but he has had many country hits, including two number ones for Don Williams. He is the only British person to enter the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

With over 40 top ten hits as songwriters, a few more as performers as well as many jingles for Coca-Cola and others, and acting as session singers and producers on many records, Fishponds can be proud of its two famous sons! Roger Cook even wrote a song about the house he grew up in. It's called, '3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol' and appears on his 1970 solo album, 'Study'.