Personalities | Hank Marvin | Out of the Shadows | Guitar Heroes

Britain’s first home-grown guitar hero, Hank Marvin was born Brian Rankin in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1941. His first instruments were piano and banjo, but he switched to guitar upon discovering Buddy Holly.

Marvin formed a skiffle band, The Railroaders, with school friend Bruce Welch, and they travelled to London in 1958 to compete, unsuccessfully, in a talent contest. Welch and Marvin opted to remain in London and gravitated to the legendary 2i’s coffee bar, where they were recruited to play in The Drifters, the backing band for singer Cliff Richard.

In addition to working with Richard, the band recorded in its own right. After a change of name to The Shadows, their fourth single, ‘Apache’, reached No. 1 in 1960, the first of a string of instrumental hits characterized by Marvin’s echoing lead lines and manipulation of the tremolo arm. He was the first British guitarist to play a Fender Stratocaster (owned by Cliff Richard) and did so much to popularize the model that in 1961, the company supplied the group with matching red fiesta Stratocasters. Richard and the Shadows’ combined output dominated the British pop charts in the period immediately prior to The Beatles, and while The Shadows survived the arrival of Merseybeat, their popularity began to wane in the mid-1960s.

After The Shadows split up in 1968, Marvin made a self-titled solo album in 1969, and then formed the vocal-harmony trio Marvin, Welch & Farrar, which developed into a revived version of The Shadows. The new line-up’s debut, Rocking With Curly Leads (1973), saw Marvin experimenting with a vocoder. By the 1980s, The Shadows’ output consisted mainly of cover versions. In 1990, Marvin resumed his occasional solo career, and The Shadows reunited for a farewell tour in 2004–05.

Marvin is a melodic guitarist and a tunesmith whose approach remained consistent throughout his career. In addition to his Fender Stratocaster, he worked with Burns of London to develop his signature brand, the Burns Marvin, which he played from 1964 until The Shadows’ final tour. Marvin inspired countless guitarists, including Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler.

Essential Recordings

The Shadows: The Shadows

The Shadows: Rocking With Curly Leads

The Shadows: String Of Hits

Solo: Guitar Player

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