British singer Julie Grant landed a record deal shortly before the beat boom hit. She moved with the times, but just as she was really coming into her own, her record label decided it had enough female stars. As a result, she suffered from a lack of promotion. She scored a few small hits but never quite became the star she should have been.
She was born Vivien Foreman on 12 July 1946 in the northern English coastal town of Blackpool. She was a keen performer even as a child – and made her British stage debut as one of the Siamese children in the original production of the King and I in London’s West End.
After winning a talent contest at Brighton’s Butlin’s holiday camp in 1960 (beating none other than Helen Shapiro, who within a year was riding high in the UK charts), Vivien began singing semi-professionally in working men’s clubs in Leeds, where she now lived.
Her father shared an accountant with established star Frankie Vaughan. The accountant, Julian Grant, arranged an audition for her with a manager in London and gave her a stage moniker – a variation of his own name. She quickly earned a contract with Pye Records.
Her debut single, Somebody tell him, for which Tony Hatch directed the accompaniment, was released in April 1962 but failed to sell. (Hatch kept his hand in Julie’s career but would go on to enjoy greater success with Petula Clark and others.)
Julie’s subsequent singles, So many ways and When you’re smiling, both issued later that year, met a similar fate.
Frustrated that her talent wasn’t translating into sales, Pye bosses turned to the songbook of up-and-coming writers Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and had Julie cut a version of The Drifters’ US hit Up on the roof. The ploy worked and Julie was rewarded with a UK top 40 hit in January 1963. The song also charted in Denmark and Sweden.
The follow up, the bouncy Count on me, made the top 30, as Julie hit the headlines over her friendship with The Beatles and rumoured romance with George Harrison. The B-side, Then, only then, has gone on to become a favourite amongst fans.
Her next single, That’s how heartaches are made, a cover of a song by US singer Baby Washington, was a sophisticated departure, but it confused fans and quickly ended up in the bargain bins. (Interestingly, the B-side, Cruel world, had been penned by Margo Quantrell of The Breakaways.)
A return to poppier fare with the 45s Don’t let me down and Hello love couldn’t recapture her previous success, despite a national tour with The Everly Brothers and The Rolling Stones.
Even the storming Every day I have to cry, released in the summer of 1964, didn’t change her run of bad luck at home, though it proved a hit in Israel.
The subtler Come to me – Julie’s favourite of her recordings – saw her back in the UK top 40 and in the Dutch charts in the autumn of the same year.
She became a familiar face on British TV screens, often appearing in shows such as Ready steady go!, Thank your lucky stars and The beat room.
However, by the time of Julie’s next release, a version of US girl group The Cinderellas’ Baby, baby (I still love you), in January 1965, record label Pye had begun to lose interest in her. Sandie Shaw had hit big and Downtown had given Petula Clark’s career a massive boost. Without promotion, Julie’s single died.
Similarly, subsequent singles Giving up (a more dramatic – and, arguably, better – version of a Gladys Knight and the Pips release) and the Tony Hatch-penned Lonely without you, weren’t given the attention they deserved. The latter included a great version of Motown group The Marvelettes’ As long as I know he’s mine on the flip, which many felt it would have also made a terrific A-side.
For her final single for Pye, in September 1965, Stop, a Moody Blues cover, was picked. But after it too failed to chart, Julie’s contract was not renewed.
Shortly afterwards, she joined Spanish group The Zaras as lead singer and began touring mainland Europe and the US. She ended up living in the States and in the mid-1970s she returned to the recording studios to cut a disco take on The Doors’ Light my fire, though it remained unreleased.
She has continued her career within the music industry, now running her own talent agency.