#24: Lucky Lips by Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard was born Harry Roger Webb on October 14, 1940, in the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India. In 1940 Lucknow was part of the British Raj, as India was not yet an independent country. Webb’s father worked on as a catering manager for the Indian Railways. His mother raised Harry and his three sisters. In 1948, when India had become independent, the Webb family took a boat to Essex, England, and began a new chapter. At the age of 16 Harry Webb was given a guitar by his father. Harry then formed a vocal group called the Quintones. Webb was interested in skiffle music, a type of jug band music, popularized by “The King of Skiffle,” Scottish singer Lonnie Donegan who had an international hit in 1955 called “Rock Island Line”.
In 1958 Webb became the lead singer of a British rock group named the Drifters. It was during this time that Harry Greatorex, who was promoting the band, gave Harry Webb the stage name, “Cliff Richard.”As rock and roll made some people think of rocks, Greatorex reasoned that “Cliff” would be a rock solid name for the young 18 year old Harry Webb. Cliff Richard would go on to record nearly 150 singles that made it onto the UK charts. While his popularity in the USA was erratic, he was a big seller in Vancouver. On this survey of 1,410 songs he appears on 22 occasions.
Bruce Welch was born in 1941 in Bognor Regis, a seaside resort 55 miles southwest of London. He formed The Railroaders while he was still fourteen (before he turned 15 on November 2, 1956). His friend, Hank Marvin was one of the other three bandmates in The Drifters. Another member of The Drifters was Terrance “Jet” Harris, who was born in North West London in 1939. It was Harris who suggested to Cliff Richard that the band change their name to The Shadows in order to avoid confusion with the American R&B group, The Drifters, who were had a string of hit records beginning with “Money Honey” in 1953 and most recently with “There Goes My Baby” in 1959.
Cliff Richard had his first single on the Vancouver charts peak at number one in the fall of 1959. “Living Doll” became an auspicious beginning for a recording artist. Fans in Vancouver were wild about Richards. He had a string of hits between 1959 and 1966, and again in the late 70s onward. Of 26 singles that charted on the Vancouver pop charts, only two didn’t climb into the Top 20.
In March 1961, Cliff Richard had his second number one hit record in Vancouver with “‘D’ In Love”. And in the spring of ’61 Richard was back in the Top Ten with “Theme For A Dream“. Eleven months later he was back in the Top Ten in Vancouver with “The Young Ones“.
And a year later Cliff Richard was roaring up the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY in early spring 1963 with “Bachelor Boy”. From March 1963 to May 1966 Cliff Richard had 15 hit singles in the Top 20 on CFUN. Of these 12 made the Top Ten and three peaked at #1. After “Bachelor Boy”, Richard’s sixth Top Ten charting song in Vancouver was “Summer Holiday”, in May ’63. The songs overlapped with “Summer Holiday” entering the Top Ten on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY on April 27th at #10, while “Bachelor Boy” peaked at #5 that week. And with “Bachelor Boy”, Cliff Richard began charting for 81 of 85 consecutive weeks on the CFUNTASTIC FIFTY between March 9, 1963, and October 17, 1964.
In 1963 Richard won the Best UK Male Singer in the NME (New Musical Express) Reader Poll. In Vancouver, Cliff Richard’s follow up hit to “Summer Holiday” was “Lucky Lips”.
“Lucky Lips” is a song that was written by the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. It was recorded in 1956 by Ruth Brown and became his 18th of 21 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B chart, and her second charting single on the Billboard Pop chart. Her first crossover hit was in 1953 with “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. The song was covered in 1957 by Gale Storm, and in the UK by singer Alma Colgan.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were both born on Atlantic coast to Jewish families in 1933. This was the year Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany. Leiber left Baltimore and Stoller left Long Island. They met in Los Angeles in 1950 when they were each seventeen years old. The duo wrote over 70 songs that made the pop charts across three decades. Their first song was in 1952, “Hard Times,” Charles Brown’s final Top Ten R&B hit. Lieber and Stoller’s last hit record was “I Keep Forgettin’” recorded by Michael McDonald in 1982. In between they collaborated with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to compose “On Broadway” for The Drifters. They also co-wrote “There Goes My Baby” for The Drifters with Ben. E. King. When Ben E. King went solo, Lieber and Stoller co-wrote “Stand By Me”. Leiber and Stoller had one of their best successes with The Coasters who recorded the duo’s “Searchin’” “Yakety-Yak,” “Charlie Brown”, “Love Potion No. 9” and “Poison Ivy” among others.
But Leiber and Stoller struck gold writing songs that are now part of Elvis Presley’s most memorable tunes. These include “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t,” “King Creole”, “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” and “She’s Not You.” They also wrote “Trouble” for Elvis from the 1958 film King Creole. Other notable hits they wrote include “Kansas City”, a hit for Wilbert Harrison in 1959; “Black Denim Trousers And Motor Cycle Boots” for The Cheers in 1955; And “The Rev. Mr. Black” for The Kingston Trio in 1963. In addition to being a successful songwriting team, Leiber and Stoller founded Red Bird Records in 1963. The label released “The Leader Of The Pack” and “Remember Walking In The Sand” for The Shangri-Las, “Chapel Of Love” for The Dixie Cups and “I Wanna Love Him So Bad” by The Jelly Beans.
“Lucky Lips” is a song about someone who is a great kisser. They “don’t need a four-leaf clover, rabbit’s foot or a good look charm.” Because they’ve got “lucky lips,” they’ll always be in a relationship with someone.
“When they spin that wheel of fortune, all I do is kiss my chips…” Because they are so popular and desirable in the game of romance, it’s clear they’ll always be a winner. In the original version of the song for Ruth Brown, the lyrics opened with this verse:
When I was just a little girl with long and silky curls,
my mama told me: “Honey, you got more than other girls!
Now you may not be good looking, but you’ll soon wear diamond clips.
And you’ll never have to worry, ’cause you’ve got lucky lips!
As Cliff Richard was a male singer, the opening verse was altered to these lyrics:
When I was just a little baby I didn’t have many toys,
but my mama used to say, son, you’ve got more than other boys.
Now you may not be good looking, and you may not be too rich.
But you’ll never ever be alone, ’cause you’ve got lucky lips.
“Lucky Lips” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC), Calgary (AB), Kingston (ON), Ottawa (ON), and San Antonio (TX), #6 in Duluth (MN), #7 in Wausau (WI) and Endicott (NY), and #8 in Toronto and Worcester (MA).
Of the next nine singles after “Lucky Lips”, eight made the Top Ten in Vancouver. This included “It’ll Be Me”, “The Next Time”, “Dancing Shoes”, “It’s All In The Game”, “Don’t Talk To Him”, “Constantly [L’Edera]“/”True True Lovin'” and “On The Beach”. Another release among his string of hits, “I’m The Lonely One“, stalled at #12 on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY.
Cliff Richard also had a Top Ten hit in Vancouver in 1965 with “Just Another Guy“, while the B-side “The Minute You’re Gone” stalled at #11. Then in 1966 Richard was back in the Top Ten with a cover of the Rolling Stones “Blue Turns To Grey“. While “I Don’t Wanna Love You” stalled at #14 in 1965.
In the UK Cliff Richard had 26 of his first 28 singles, from 1958 reach the Top Ten, which included a record of 23 Top Ten singles in a row, ending in the middle of 1965. Of these 15 singles were non-album singles. It would seem with the coming of the British Invasion that Cliff Richard would be discovered by the American record-buying public. However, it was not to be. He remained almost completely off the radar in the USA until his Top Ten hit in 1976 on the Billboard Hot 100 called “Devil Woman.”
He scored again in 1979 with “We Don’t Talk Anymore”. That same year he had a #4 hit in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa with “Carrie”. And in 1980, Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton-John recorded “Suddenly”, a Top Ten hit in Ireland. At the end of the year Cliff Richard charted “Dreamin'”.
Richard’s next single was “A Little In Love”. In the fall of 1981 Cliff Richard had a Top Ten hit in Vancouver titled “Wired For Sound”. In 1982, he covered the 1961 doo-wop classic “Daddy’s Home” by Shep and the Limelights. The single was a Top Ten hit in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK.
In 1982 Richard released a contemporary/Christian album Now You See Me, Now You Don’t. The debut single, “The Only Way Out”, was a Top Ten hit in the Belgium, Ireland and the UK. In 1983 Cliff Richard and Phil Everly recorded a duet, “She Means Nothing To Me”, which was a Top Ten hit in Ireland and the UK. Richard also enjoyed a second Top Ten hit in both nations that year with his cover of the Buddy Holly tune “True Love Ways”. And an album marking his 25 years as a recording artist, Silver, featured a third Top Ten hit in Ireland and the UK in 1983 titled Please Don’t Fall in Love”.
In 1986, Cliff Richard released a new recording of his 1959 hit “Living Doll”. It became a number-one hit this time in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK. As well, it made the Top Ten in Switzerland and Norway. And in 1986, Richard recorded a duet with Sarah Brightman titled “All I Ask of You”. It was a chart-topper in Ireland and South Africa, and a #3 hit in the UK.
During the 1980s, Cliff Richard had three number-one hits and 17 Top Ten hits in Ireland, and two number-one hits and 14 Top Ten hits in the UK. He had six Top Ten hits in Belgium and five Top Ten hits in Australia, with a #1 hit in each nation across the ’80s. And in the 1990s, Cliff Richard had 7 more Top Ten hits in the UK with “Savior’s Day” and “The Millennium Prayer” both topping the UK charts. And in the 2000s, the singer had five more Top Ten hits in the UK.
Cliff Richard was among the performers at the Diamond Jubilee concert held outside Buckingham Palace in June 2012. Then, on June 30, 2012, he helped to carry the Olympic torch from Derby to Birmingham as part of the torch relay for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Cliff Richard has also been active as a philanthropist. In October 2015 he went on tour at the age of 75. Over the course of his recording career, Cliff Richard has had 68 singles reach the Top Ten on the UK singles chart between 1958 and 2008.
In late June and early July, 2019, Cliff Richard celebrated his 60th year as a recording artist with his Diamond Encore Tour. He performed in the village of Cartmel in Cumbria, just south of Scotland. He gave a concert in Scarborough by the North Sea, and in Greenwich, London.
May 15, 2023
“Cliff’s Career,” Cliff Richard.org.
“Cliff Richard UK Singles chart discography,” official charts.com.
William Grimes, “Jerry Leiber, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyricist, Dies at 78,” New York Times, August 22, 2011.
David Fricke,”Leiber and Stoller: Rolling Stone’s 1990 Interview With the Songwriting Legends,” Rolling Stone, August 22, 2011.
Leiber and Stoller – About, Leiber Stoller.com.
Ruth Brown, “Lucky Lips“, Atlantic Records, 1957.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, August 10, 1963.
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