Cliff Richard was one of the founding members of The Drifters (not to be confused with the American group of the same name), who later changed their name to Cliff Richard and the Drifters and then Cliff Richard and the Shadows.
Cliff was a guitarist and lead singer in the band. It was suggested to the group that they put a name out in front of the group's title, as this was the common thing at the time, and hence 'Cliff Richard and the Drifters' came about. The group gained a contract and went into Abbey Road Studios to record their first record in 1958. They were given a non-rocking number called 'Schoolboy Crush' to record, but were allowed to record one of their own for the B-side. This was "Move It", written by Ian "Sammy" Samwell, who was the first new member of the group. There are a number of stories about why the A-side song was replaced by the B-side. One of these stories says that their producer Norrie Paramor, played the record to his daughter, and she raved about the B-side song instead of the A-side. Another possible reason for the flip was that influential tv producer Jack Good, who grabbed the act for his tv show "Oh Boy!", said the song to be sung on his show had to be "Move It!" The single was flipped and went to number 2 in the charts.
After some more songs, the band's line up changed considerably, though it wasn't a new band. Often mistaken, people say that the Drifters/Shadows were just a backing band which played on their own and also 'backed' Cliff. In fact, it was simply a gradual change in the line up that eventually left Cliff as the only remaining original member. As Jet Harris, Tony Meehan, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch gradually emerged in the band, some very significant 'lucky events' happened, for the band, and also for the world. Popular music could have been totally changed if certain events did not happen, especially in one single day in Soho. On that day, Cliff's manager, John Foster, was looking for a new lead guitarist. He went back to the 2I's where the Drifters and various other later members had played. He was looking for someone, whom if he had been found, the Beatles would never have been known of.
The man being looked for was Tony Sheridan, who the Drifters knew, and who later played with the Beatles in Hamburg and led them to getting a recording contract in Britain. Strangely, Tony wasn't there when Foster arrived, and Foster was in a hurry and couldn't wait long. Foster was then told of a guy who was a brilliant guitarist, and so Foster met Hank Marvin. Hank then said he teamed with Bruce Welch, and so Foster on that day brought in two new members to the Drifters.
Tony Meehan and Jet Harris eventually left the group and teamed up very successfully in the charts. One member of Jet and Tony's band was John Paul Jones, later member of Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page also recorded with them.
The Shadows had a few more bass players and also took in Brian Bennett on drums.
In the period between 1958-1963, Cliff Richard and the Shadows stood as the biggest thing in Britain. They toured the United States and stole the show even over all of the accompanying American acts of the time. The problem was that the record company didn't get behind them strongly enough with distributing albums etc. and so the chances were lost. It was the same with their appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show (which was responsible for much of the Beatles success, but didn't really help Cliff and the Shadows). Cliff and the Shadows basically re-wrote convention in British recording companies and opened EMI up to the importance and strength of rock n roll. It was due to them that Parlophone were looking for a 'second' Cliff and the Shadows, and eventually took the Beatles.
Most well known groups of the 1960's and 1970's started off as imitators of Cliff and the Shadows, singing and playing only Cliff and the Shadows' material, and groups were trained by following how they did things. The Beatles were taken to Cliff and the Shadows concerts and instructed about clothes/ stage presence and various other things, and being of the same fold at Abbey Road, were good friends with the band.
Cliff and the Shadows appeared in a number of films, most notably in The Young Ones (which would give its name to 1980s TV sitcom The Young Ones), Summer Holiday, Wonderful Life and Finders Keepers. Cliff's best lead role took place in the mid-late 60's film "Two a Penny", which saw Cliff as a young man who gets involved in drug dealing while questioning his life after his girlfriend changes in her attitudes. He also represented the UK twice in the Eurovision Song Contest, both times unsuccessfully, though his first attempt, Congratulations, was a massive hit in Britain and has become a standard, still sung on suitable occasions.
Cliff was led to record sometimes without the Shadows, mainly to cater for other styles i.e. strings, and this helped to give people the incorrect view that Cliff was now separate and the Shadows merely backed HIS songs. In fact, a great number of the songs sung by Cliff and the Shadows were written by the Shadows and Cliff.
In 1960, the Shadows (though having previously recorded as the Drifters without Cliff) released 'Apache', which saw the birth of British rock guitar instrumental music. Again, although people claim the distinction between Cliff and the Shadows, it was still Cliff and the Shadows, as Cliff still played on the recording, but didn't put his name to it. The record set the Shadows on a path of their own, and soon became the greatest instrumental group of all time.
Throughout the 60's, Cliff stayed at the top, even at the height of Mersey music, however he did not have the advantage the new acts had of being able to release music and having it go directly to the USA as well. The Beatles had became huge once America took to them, and this in turn opened up the path across the Atlantic.
During the 1970s, Cliff became heavily involved in tv shows, like 'It's Cliff Richard', many of which also starred Hank Marvin. The tv shows made Cliff into a tv personality and not necessarily primarily a recording singer. He was in everyone's homes, and gave enjoyment to all the family, and although still recording and being successful, Cliff and others like his former Shadow Bruce Welch decided that they would once again bring Cliff out as a "rock" artist again. The collaboration produced the landmark Cliff album "I'm Nearly Famous", which brought about the classic rock guitar driven track "Devil Woman" and the haunting "Miss You Nights",. It wasn't just Cliff and the fans who were excited that the man who had begun and led British rock from the start, was back in strength, but also a host of big music names. People like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Elton John began being seen sporting big "I'm Nearly Famous" badges on their clothes, so pleased that their icon was getting heavily back into the heavy rock that he began his career in.
A number of other strong albums were produced, and in 1979 he went to number one with We Don't Talk Anymore. A true Cliff revival was happening. In the next years into and through the 80's, Cliff was the biggest pop star in the country, and he became a magnet for other music greats. In the space of a few years he had worked with Elton John, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Julian Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Phil Everly, Janet Jackson and Van Morrison, to name a few. He also did more work with Olivia Newton-John, and to cap the decade off, filled the Wembley Stadium for a few nights with a spectacular simply titled "The Event".
Another important aspect of Cliff's life was his conversion to Christianity in about 1966. To stand up publically as a new Christian was a big and brave decision which affected his career in various ways. First of all Richard believed that he should quit rock n roll, as he thought he could no longer be the rocker who had in the early years been called a 'crude exhibitionist' and 'too sexy for tv' and a threat to parents' daughters. Although his image had already become tamer due to his film roles and well spoken voice on radio and tv, he still rocked on stage. After intending to become a teacher instead, Christian friends told him that he didn't have to give his career up just because he had become a Christian. Soon after, Cliff re-emerged and performed with Christian groups and recorded some Christian material. He still recorded secular songs with the Shadows, some of which introduced revolutionary recording techniques which influenced the Beatles and other groups, but he gave a lot of his time to Christian work. As time progressed, he balanced his life and work out, enabling him to still be the most popular singer in Britain while also one of the best known Christians.
After the Shadows split in 1968, resulting also in the split of Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Richard had to record without his band. Cliff had already become used to not having his Shadows with him in recording sessions, and was able to record in any setting. Although many fans, such as John Lennon, had in the early 60s regretted Cliff trying out songs which were not strictly in the rock n roll area, this process of slowly getting used to recording with the Shadows as the "rock group", while at other times singing with other musicians, without a doubt is at least partly responsible for Cliff becoming what he has become. He has become an artist who has not been categorised in one single mould, but has been a wild rock n roller, a ballad singer, a heavy rock singer, who even found it natural to move into dance beats. Strangely enough, those who were initially sceptical of his move into other types of songs, later changed in their own beliefs and did similarly on their own records.
The Shadows later re-formed (and later again split), and recorded on their own, but reunited with Cliff in 1978 and 1984 for some concerts.
In 1974 he denied the rumor that he had asked his good friend Olivia Newton-John for her hand in marriage. Later, his relationship with Sue Barker was the subject of much gossip, but they disappointed those who expected them to marry. Cliff remained a tennis fan, however, delighting Wimbledon crowds with an impromptu singalong on one rainy afternoon in the 1990s.
He reached the pinnacle of his career when he was knighted.
Sir Cliff appears in the 2002 list of 100 Great Britons (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public).
The Ultimate Pop Star, a Channel 4 programme screened in 2004, revealed that Cliff Richard had sold more singles in the UK than any other music artist, ahead of the Beatles in second place and Elvis Presley in third.
Sir Cliff has become joint owner of the Arora International Hotel in Manchester, which opens in June 2004.
After having not performed as Cliff and the Shadows since 1989/1990, Cliff joined the Shadows on stage on June 14, 2004, at the London Palladium. The Shadows had decided to re-form for one final tour of the U.K., with this concert heralded as their final ever concert as the Shadows.