Marvin, Welch & Farrar (aka MWF) were a 1970s British and Australian popular music group formed by two members of The Shadows as a change of direction manoeuvre by The Shadows during 1970–73 . The distinction was that while The Shadows were famous for their instrumental work, Marvin Welch & Farrar were a (trio) vocal harmony group. They have been favourably compared to USA folk close harmony group Crosby Stills Nash and Young (aka CSNY) or The Hollies.

Their second album Second Opinion produced by Peter Vince, in a private poll during the 1970s by EMI record's Abbey Road's sound engineers, was voted as one of the best ever sounding albums recorded at these studios.


 [hide*1 History


The group comprised Hank Marvin (b: 28 October 1941), on vocals and lead guitar, Bruce Welch (b: 2 November 1941) on vocals and rhythm guitar, and John Farrar (b: 8 November 1946) on vocals and guitar (both lead and rhythm). Reports were appearing in the UK music press in late summer 1970 that Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch were forming a new group.

Marvin: "I thought at the time that, as the Shadows weren't working regularly, it would be nice to do something new – singing rather than instrumental, though with instrumentals as well, of course. I was talking to Bruce about it and I thought about forming a five-piece. He wasn't keen on a big group so we shelved the idea and started writing songs together. He suggested the two of us should record the songs together. I suggested adding one more person – I wanted the extra strength of a third voice and the scope it would offer'.[1]

The third member of the new group was an unknown on the British 'pop' music scene. John Farrar was a member of The Strangers, who had once shared a bill with The Shadows. Bruce Welch had watched the Australian group from the wings of the theatre and was impressed by the young singer-guitarist. When Olivia Newton-John reminded Bruce and Hank about John – who was by then married to Pat Carroll, Olivia's ex-singing partner – the duo invited him to send over some tapes, and then to join them.

Farrar:"... Bruce had tried to phone me earlier and had left a message at my mother's house. I had been out working, and had gone home with my wife and we were both fast asleep around 1.30 am when the 'phone rang. When I picked up the 'phone and Bruce told me what he was planning, I couldn't believe it. Pat wanted me to drop everything and fly to London on the next plane, but I was desperately planning to be cool... Pat and I didn't go back to bed until the following morning. We spent the whole night smoking cigarettes, drinking cups of coffee and talking... I was trying so hard to be cool, but if the truth be known I wanted to get on the next plane, too"[2]

The Strangers had been formed in 1961. When founder member Laurie Arthur decided to leave the band in early 1964, he was replaced by the 18-year-old John Farrar. In 1968 they were support act for a Shadows appearance at the Menzies Hotel. The Strangers visited Vietnam in 1970 to play for Australian and U. S. troops, and Farrar spent some time in the United States studying recording techniques in West Coast studios. Then came the invitation to join Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch in London. Three months after the phone call from Bruce, John and Pat were in London and Marvin, Welch and Farrar had begun rehearsing.

'Originally, we planned just to record. But the enormity of John's move across the world and the good reception our album received changed that'. [3]

A 13-week Cliff Richard BBC TV series began in January 1971, and Marvin, Welch and Farrar appeared in five of the shows. It was also announced that the new group would be participating in Cliff Richard's European tour, scheduled for the spring. They would be billed as 'The Shadows – featuring Marvin, Welch and Farrar'. This was apparently for the benefit of audiences on the continent, who might be less familiar with the new vocal group.

During 1971 and 1972 Marvin Welch & Farrar performed live sessions at the BBC for radio1 broadcasting on the Dave Lee Travis Show.[citation needed]

The Brian Bennett Orchestra would be accompanying Cliff's set and both Brian and Shadows bassist John Rostill were to play in the Shadows/Marvin, Welch and Farrar set. In fact session bassist Dave Richmond – who played on the Marvin, Welch and Farrar debut album – replaced Rostill for the tour. The Marvin, Welch and Farrar element in the show was confined to three numbers out of ten.

Although the two ex-Shadows were anxious to emphasise their commitment to the new venture, the public were not so sure. Despite an almost total lack of concert and record appearances, the Shadows were voted Top Instrumental Group in the 1971 New Musical Express poll. Live appearances by the new trio still brought demands from the audience for old Shadows numbers.

Marvin: "... we lost out both ways. We lost out on the old Shadows, and we lost out by not getting through to the people we thought we'd get through to. They just wouldn't accept us."[4] As musicians and songwriters, the group were well respected.

Cliff: "The music was good. Excellent in fact. The engineers and EMI who produced all the Beatles things voted 'Second Opinion' the best album to come out of the company".[5]

Second Opinion, the trio's second LP, was released in the U. S. on the Sire label, which later released albums by artists such as the Ramones. Marvin, Welch and Farrar records, although well received, did not set the charts alight. The group remained unconcerned, working in the studios or on tour. At other times, they were individually or collectively writing songs, some of which were recorded by Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton-John as well as by the trio. John and Bruce were arranging and producing Olivia's recordings, until she broke off her engagement to the latter, when Farrar alone became responsible for her recording career.

By 1972, however, Bruce Welch had dropped out of the group. The group had perhaps not lived up to his expectations, and some sections of the music press were critical of the Cliff- Shadows- Olivia stable generally. Adverse criticisms, though, did not seem to affect the box-office, and the autumn 1971 Palladium season had been a great success. When Cliff Richard toured in 1972, it was Marvin and Farrar, with the assistance of Brian Bennett (musician) (Cliff's musical director again) who joined him. Also involved were ex-Shadow Alan HawkshawOlivia Newton-John and Pat Carroll. The Marvin/Farrar set mixed Shadows favourites with new material.

Marvin and Farrar recorded one LP as a duo with one track also featuring Bruce Welch, which was presumably originally recorded for a planned Marvin, Welch and Farrar LP. The album track "Music makes my day" features Olivia Newton-John playing a recorder as an accompanment. Hank Marvin, on reflection, was less than enthusiastic about that joint album. "it lacked something in direction. It was a bit like Frankenstein meets the Beach Boys".[6]

The album Hank Marvin and John Farrar was also released in the United States, on the Capitol label. Cliff Richard's second appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1973, and John Farrar was a member of Cliffs backing group. When Cliff toured Australia in the same year, John was musical director for both the gospel and secular segments of the tour. Backing Cliff was John's former group, the Strangers, and the vocal accompaniment was provided by the Pat Carroll Singers.

MW&F gigs[edit]Edit

Stage appearances by Marvin, Welch and Farrar, and latterly by Marvin and Farrar always resulted in demands for 'old' Shadows numbers e.g. "FBI", "Apache" etc. So in 1973, Hank and Bruce bowed to the inevitable and announced that the Shadows would come together once or twice a year for recording purposes only. Hank and John would still be working together, and would join with Bruce and Brian as the Shadows. The first LP by the new line-up was due for release in late 1973, and would be entitled Rocking with Curly Leads.

Almost all the tracks recorded by the group were written by its members, with occasional contributions from co-writers.

Discography (MW&F)[edit]Edit

  • Live at the BBC – Unissued – BBCcopywrite – 1970–73. Various sessions.
  • Marvin Welch & Farrar – LP/CD – Regal Zonophone/see4Miles/BGO – 1970.
  • Second Opinion – LP/CD – Regal Zonophone/See4Miles/BGO – 1971.
  • Second Opinion – QuadraphonicLP – Regal Zonophone – 1971.
  • Step from the Shadows – LP/CD – See4Miles – 199?.
  • Very best of MW&F – LP/CD – EMI – 199?.
  • Marvin Welch & Farrar/Second Opinion(Remastered) – CD – BGO – 2006
  • Cliff Richard live in Japan 1972 – 2LP/8CDBoxSet – ToshibaEMI/EMI – 1971
  • Live in Japan 1972 – album by Cliff Richard, CD – EMI (in 2009) features M&F track "Backscratcher".
  • Live at the Paris Olympia 1975 – album by the Shadows, CD – EMI (in 1992) features 10 songs from their MW&F era.
  • Live at the Paris Olympia 1975/Live in Japan 1969 – dble album by the Shadows, 2CD – Magic Records of France (in 2006) features 10 songs from their MW&F era.
  • Lady of the morning/Tiny Robin – 7" – Regal Zonophone – 1972..
  • Marmaduke/strike a light – 7" – Regal Zonophone – 1971.
  • Mr Sun/Faithful – 7" – Regal Zonophone – 1971.
  • Brownie Kentuckie/... – 7" – (NewZealand) Regal Zonophone – 1971.

Discography (M&F)[edit]Edit

  • Hank Marvin and John Farrar – LP/CD – EMI/See4Miles/BGO – 1973.
  • Hank Marvin and John Farrar(remastered) – CD – BGO.
  • Music Makes My Day/Skin Deep – 7" – EMI – EMI2044.
  • Small & Lonely Light/Galadriel – 7" – EMI – EMI2335.

Guitars used by MW&F/M&F[edit]Edit

  • Marvin.(acoustic): Gibson(6+12 sts); Martin D-45, D-28, Yamaha.
  • Marvin.(electric): Burns Marvin; Fender Strat'- Sunburst & Black.
  • Welch.(acoustic): Martin D-28.
  • Farrar.(acoustic): Martin D-28.
  • Farrar.(electric): Fender Telecaster thin-line w/3 bigsby pedals.

Line ups[edit]Edit

Studio album(s)[edit]Edit

MW&F "MW&F"/"2nd Opinion"
  • 1970–72: Marvin(g)+Welch(g)+Farrar(g) && Alan Hawkshaw(kb)+Clem Cattini(d)+Dave Richmond(b)
MW&F BBC radio1 sessions(unissued)
  • 1970–72: Marvin(g)+Welch(g)+Farrar(g) && Brian Bennett(d)+Geoff Atherton(b)
  • 1973: Marvin(g)+Farrar(g) && Alan Tarney(b)+Trevor Spencer(d)+OliviaNJ(recorder)+BBennett(perc)

Live concerts[edit]Edit

MW&F (w/Gene Pitney or w/Cliff Richard)
  • 1970–71: Marvin(g)+Welch(g)+Farrar(g)
M&F (Japan Tour – Cliff Richard/Olivia Newton-john/Pat Carroll)
  • 1972: Marvin(g)+Farrar(g) && Rostill(b)+Hawkshaw(kb)+Bennett(d)
M&F (Ronnie Scott's jazz club)
  • 1973: Marvin(g)+Farrar(g) && Dave Olney(b)+Andrew Steele(d)
M&F (Batleys Night club)
  • 1973: Marvin(g)+Farrar(g) && Geoff Atherton(b)+Andrew Steele(d)

Session musicians[edit]Edit

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