Wayne Fontana is a Manchester-born British singer of the rock and pop vein, and a founder and leader of the group called the Mindbenders. It was a funny coincidence that he signed himself and his band to a label with the same name – Fontana Records. He and the Mindbenders would later achieve respectable pop hits including their Major Lance cover “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” and two Top Tens – “A Groovy Kind of Love” and the band’s bestseller “The Game Of Love”. Even as Fontana parted ways with the Mindbenders, he remained with the Fontana label. He found some success as a solo artist when his single “Come On Home” went to the Top 20 UK singles chart in 1966, with his new backing band The Opposition (sometimes still referred to as the Mindbenders or The Wayne Fontana Band). He had an otherwise erratic career which was even aggravated with bankruptcy problems as well as indiscretions with the law.
Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
Wayne Fontana is mostly remembered as the leader of his group The Mindbenders, who churned out a chart-topping hit “The Game of Love” in 1965.
Fontana was born Glyn Geoffrey Ellis on October 28, 1945 Manchester, England. He derived his stage name from D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley’s drummer. Funnily enough, he and his backing band the Mindbenders signed their first contract with Fontana Records — an appropriate coincidence.
The Mindbenders themselves composed of talented and proficient musicians. The original reincarnation of the group composed of bassist Bob Lang, drummer Ric Rothwell, guitarist/vocalist Eric Stewart and guitarist Grahame Foote. The band got their name from a 1963 UK horror film of the same title. The group’s first charting single was a pretty mediocre rendition of Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” in 1963. It was billed under the name Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.
In 1964 Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders scored their first major British hit with their version of Curtis Mayfields’ “Um Um Um Um Um Um,” which reached #5 on the national chart.
The group’s biggest hit with “The Game of Love”
The band followed this with their biggest chart hit, “The Game of Love.” Written by Clint Ballard, Jr., “The Game of Love” peaked at #2 on the UK singles chart and even topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. Following their US tour and a handful of less successful singles, Fontana left the band in 1965. The group, now without their former leader, still managed to churn out one more top 10 hit with “A Groovy Kind of Love” in 1966.
Wayne Fontana’s checkered solo career
But because of his still-existing contract with Fontana, Wayne Fontana decided to go it alone. He worked with several musicians such as lead guitarist Frank Renshaw, drummer Bernie Burns, bassist Roy “Rossi” Henshall, former Herman’s Hermits guitarist Rod Gerrard, and many others.
Fontana had only minor hits on his own. Among his most successful singles (at least in the UK) were “Come on Home” (#117 US, #16 UK), “Can’t Live With You (Can’t Live Without You)” (#28 UK), “Ashes to Ashes” (#55 US, #14 UK) and “Pamela, Pamela” (#11 UK). Beyond those homegrown hits, the entirety of his career remained erratic at best, beset by bankruptcy problems and run-ins with the law. Fontana continued to perform occasionally, mostly in the revivalist circuit.