First Picture: Dylan and Donovan
Second Picture: 1960’s poster
Born Donovan Philips Leitch in Glasgow on May 10, 1946, Donovan was part of the British folk scene and the British Music Invasion in America. As a child, Donovan was vaccinated with the polio vaccine and contracted polio the disease and treatment left Donovan with a limp but the public never knew this. In 1956, his family moved to Little Berkhamsted and here influenced by his family's love for Scottish and English folk music he began playing guitar at 14. He enrolled in art school but dropped out soon afterwards, determined to live as a beatnik he went on the road. In 1963 after a trip to St Ives he spent several months playing in local clubs, learning the cross-picking guitar technique and writing his first songs.
In 1964, he spent the summer in Torquay where he took up busking. In late 1964, he was offered a contract by Pye Records, and recorded a 10-track demo tape which included the original recording of “Catch the Wind”. While recording the demo, Donovan befriended Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones who was recording in a nearby studio. He also met Brian Jones's ex-girlfriend Linda Lawrence and this on-off romantic relationship lasted for the next five years. She exerted a huge influence on Donovan's music but refused to marry him and moved to the US for several years in the late 1960s but eventually did marry him on 2nd Oct 1970 at Windsor registry office.
In the first week of May 1965, Donovan met Bob Dylan, then touring the UK, in Dylan's suite at the Savoy Hotel. The music press had made much of Donovan's alleged copying of Dylan and the supposed rivalry between the two of them. They actually liked each other and Dylan mentioned Donovan in his song “Talking World War Three Blues”. In an interview for the BBC in 2001 to mark Bob Dylan's 60th birthday, Donovan acknowledged Dylan as an important influence early in his career whilst distancing himself from the "Dylan clone" allegations.
In late 1965, Donovan signed with Brian Epstein. Mickie Most was the nominal producer of all Donovan's recordings in this period, although some of the recordings were self-produced.
By 1966, Donovan had shed the Dylan influences and become one of the first British musicians to adopt a flower power image. “Sunshine Superman” being one of the first psychedlic pop records, the arrangement included a harpsichord and sitar and also contained unmistakable references to LSD.
By late 1966, after American contractual problems had been resolved, Donovan signed a $100,000 deal with Epic Records and started recording in the CBS studios. Although folk elements were still prominent, the album showed the increasing influence of jazz and American psychedelia.
On 9 February 1967, Donovan was among the select group of guests invited by The Beatles to join them at Abbey Road Studios for the final orchestral overdub session for the Lennon-McCartney collaboration “ A Day in the Life “, the grand finale to “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
In mid-1966, Donovan became the first high-profile British pop star to be arrested for possession of marijuana and his use of LSD is referred to in many of his lyrics. Public attention was drawn to his marijuana use by the TV documentary, A Boy Called Donovan, broadcast in early 1966, which showed the singer and friends smoking cannabis at a party thrown by the film crew. However, it appears that the Drug Squad were already planning to target many British pop stars, and Donovan's arrest proved to be the first in a long series of busts. The arrest got a great deal of publicity, and in early 1967 he was the subject of an exposé by the News of the World. Although Donovan's was not as sensational as the later arrests of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, because of the charges he was refused entry to the US until late 1967.
Donovan developed a strong interest in eastern mysticism. In early 1968 he was part of the group that travelled to India to spend several weeks with the Maharishi Yogi. The visit gained worldwide attention thanks to the presence of the Beatles.
Donovan's next single, released in May 1968, was the psychedelic “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. Donovan actually tried to get Jimmy Hendrix to play on the recording, but he was on tour and unavailable.
After another US tour he again collaborated with Paul McCartney, who was producing Post Card, the debut LP by the Welsh singer Mary Hopkin who covered three Donovan songs. Paul McCartney returned the favour by playing tambourine and singing backing vocals on Donovan's next single, “Atlantis” which was released in late November that year.
After a split with Mickey Most Donovan disappeared, to Greece, re-emerging six months later to begin work on his next LP which came out in late 1970 and was a marked departure from his earlier work. Stripping the sound back to a rock trio format, he dubbed the sound, "Celtic rock".
The punk era (1977–1980) had provoked a backlash in Britain against the optimism of the hippie era, of which Donovan was considered a prime example and his fortunes with the public and the media suffered.
In November 2003, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters and in May 2004, he played "Sunshine Superman" at the pre-wedding concert for the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark. In 2005, his autobiography The Hurdy Gurdy Man was published and in the following year he played a series of British festivals and two dates at Camden's Jazz Café, London.
In January 2007, there were concerts in the US and here at home and a planned release of a new album. However, he subsequently announced that the tour had been cancelled and the album release delayed. He indicated that he is in good health but gave no reason for the cancellation but later in the year he opened a Transcendental Meditation University in Scotland.
Donovan and Linda have two children Astrella Celeste and Oriole Nebula and he had two children with his 1960s American girlfriend Enid Stulberger, and both have entered the acting profession: his son, Donovan Leitch Jnr and his daughter lone Skye.
Stay in touch
Some time ago, through some quirk of the Internet I managed to contact the 1960’s American star Bobby Rydell. We have corresponded for some time and he is now happy to pass on news about his activities.
Bobby has returned from a successful tour of Australia. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from UNICO (Unity, Neighbourliness, Integrity, Charity, and Opportunity.) at the organization's national convention July 31 in Hershey, Pennsylvania
News and Views:
The Lubbock, Texas city council was informed that an estimated $155,000 has been raised to renovate the home of Crickets drummer Jerry Allison where the group's hit, "That'll Be the Day" was written. The home had been moved from its original location and there are now plans are to move it again to the car park of the Buddy Holly Centre. The idea, if approved, could begin early this year.
On this day 30th January 1960-1965
On 30/01/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was North by Northwest. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 30/01/1961 the number one single was Are you Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Oral contraceptive made available in UK.
On 30/01/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions
On 30/01/1963 the number one single was Dance On - The Shadows and the number one album was Out of the Shadows - Shadows. he top rated TV show was The Prime Minister (All channels) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Composer Poulenc dies.
On 30/01/1964 the number one single was Needles & Pins - Searchers and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 30/01/1965 the number one single was Go Now! - Moody Blues and the number one album was Beatles For Sale - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Sir Winston Churchill's funeral.