The Story and Music of Geoffrey Turton aka Jefferson

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Introduction to Jefferson

Geoffrey Turton is a Birmingham-born British singer who recorded under the stage name Jefferson during the 60s music era A former toolmaker, he started as a lead singer and guitarist of The Rockin’ Berries, whose popular material consisted of covers.  He started his solo career after the Rockin’ Berries dissolved in 1968. After his first released single failed to chart, Turton decided to change his name to Jefferson, at the suggestion of Piccadilly Records head John Schroeder.  He achieved fame through follow-up release “Colour of My Love”, which became a hit in his homeland and also in the US.  Jefferson was finding some more success in his career when he figured in a car accident, and from them on he was out of the spotlight and went on a hiatus.  He reunited with the Rockin’ Berries in the late 1970s, still using the name Jefferson, and in the 90s the group performed and toured together.

Early life of Jefferson and as one of the Rockin’ Berries

British singer Jefferson was born on March 11, 1944 in Birmingham, England. In some of his recordings, Jefferson also used his real name Geoffrey Turton. In 1961, young Turton became a member of the pop band The Rockin’ Berries where he was the lead singer and lead guitarist. The Rockin Berries had hits across the U.K. and Europe and were best remembered by doing covers which Turton did much of the picking of songs to be played. Nonetheless, the band split in 1968.

Pursuing solo career as Jefferson

After Rockin’ Berries’ dissolution, Turton subsequently began pursuing a solo career. In early 1968, he was signed to Piccadilly Records and issued his debut single “Don’t You Believe It” b/w “I’ve Got to Tell Her.” Unfortunately, it failed to sell. John Schroeder (supervisor of Piccadilly Records) advised Turton to change his name to Jefferson.

On October 1968, he released his first single as Jefferson called “Montage.” But it had the same fate as “Don’t You Believe It.” The follow-up single “Colour of My Love” was released the following year. It made no significant impression in the US, however it ranked considerably well in the U.K. peaking at #22. After its success, it was followed with an LP and his third single “Baby Take Me in Your Arms” which this time did not become a hit in the U.K. However, it registered on the US charts, reaching #23.

In the midst of the single’s success, Turton figured in a car accident where he was severely hurt. As a result, he was confined in the hospital for six months, thus he was not able to do any live appearances. He was later discharged and recorded his second album which was never released. He went on hiatus in the U.K. but started being active in the US with his tour dates, thanks to the success “Baby Take Me in Your Arms.” Turton later signed with Polygram Records which he issued an album and a single “I Love You This Much.” The song was later redone by Mouth & MacNeal, a pop duo from the Netherlands. The remake became a hit across Europe.

The Rockin Berries

The Rockin’ Berries is an original beat group from Birmingham, England. It enjoyed success in the U.K in the 1960s with a number of its singles. The Rockin’ Berries was first created in the 1950s when Bryan “Chuck” Botfield and Geoff Turton were both students at Turves Green Secondary Boys School. They are both clarinet players in the school band. The band’s initial name was “The Bobcats.” Still, because they frequently sang Chuck Berry songs, they later adopted the name “The Rockin’ Berries.” The Cofton Community Center in Longbridge hosted The Rockin’ Berries’ first appearance as a group. However, at the height of the British Invasion, the Rockin’ Berries had little success in the U.S.market despite a few Top Ten British achievements in 1964–1965. Many of the Berries’ songs mirrored the pop/rock side of the British beat that was lighter and focused more on catchy, meticulously crafted tracks written by British and American artists with Beach Boys-like harmony.

The Rockin’ Berries were allowed to have a three-month engagement in Hamburg in November 1961, the city where the then-unknown Liverpool band “The Beatles” was playing to raucous German crowds. The band spent long hours on stage in Germany, so when they returned to Birmingham, they were well-rehearsed and had an excellent stage show, which instantly attracted notice. During that time, the Beatles had already taken the nation by storm, which prompted the major London record labels to travel north searching for talented “beat groups.”

Decca Records got in touch with the band and quickly scheduled them to record their first single at the Decca Studios. The tracks “Wah Wah Wah Woo” for the A-side and “Rockin’ Berry Stomp” for the B-side were both collectively written and released in July 1963. They covered James Ray’s U.S.U.S. smash “Itty Bitty Pieces” for their second A-side, allowing them to perform the song on the prestigious T.V.pop music program “Ready Steady Go.” However, neither single was considered a hit.

Despite not having any chart success, they remained a well-liked beat group. The Rockin’ Berries tried comedy during their performances to break up extended periods of boredom. This approach worked effectively, especially when performing for an elderly crowd. Decca dropped the Rockin’ Berries after a year. They were then signed to the subsidiary label “Piccadilly” of Pye Records. I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You, a rendition of The Shirelles’ song, was The Rockin’ Berries’ first record on the Piccadilly Records label. Although it did not become a big hit, it became the band’s trademark due to Geoff Turton’s distinctive falsetto. 

The Rockin’ Berries album, released with the catchy title “The Rockin’ Berries In Town,” received favorable reviews. The Rockin’ Berries across England in 1965 to capitalize on their chart success. Their efforts paid off because their single A-side, “Poor Man’s Son,” was a hit. Piccadilly published the Rockin’ Berries’ next single three months after Poor Man’s Son’s breakthrough. Another Goffin & King cover, “You’re My Girl,” peaked at Number 40 on the charts. One of The Rockin’ Berry’s unforgettable performances was when they received one of their most prestigious invitations to perform at the coveted “Royal Variety Performance” in 1967, which The Queen and Prince Phillip attended.

As years passed, the original band member started to leave the group, including Geoff Turton; however, the Rockin’ Berries performed in cabaret as a popular music/comedy combo, traveling all across the U.K. and even getting bookings abroad. The band occasionally continued to release its recordings on several record labels.

The Rockin Berries

1. “Don’t You Believe It” is Geoffrey Turton’s first solo career single launched after he left the Rockin’ Berries. The said single was launched under Pye Records and its Piccadilly subsidiary. However, the single failed to give Turton a spot in the top charts, which led Piccadilly chief and producer John Schroeder to suggest changing Turton’s name to Jefferson. They believed that the change of name would bring fame to Turton since it was the time of single-name artists such as Keith and Heinz, and the name Jefferson had the added value of sounding American.

2. Jefferson’s first single, “Montage,” was a gorgeous cover of an even prettier Jimmy Webb song buried in the forgettable comedy How Sweet It Is (1968). The Love Generation had also recorded it. Amazingly, when Webb’s songs all seemed to generate gold, Montage failed to make it to the chart despite being an excellent record and a stunning example of sunshine pop.

3. The song “The Colour Of My Love” is Geoffrey Turton’s big U.K. hit. This hauntingly beautiful ballad is almost but partially too over the top to be taken as a rock song. The song is about a man falling in love with a woman who seems to be involved with another man. The song mainly talks about how the man is lost in his thoughts, imagining the woman’s eyes and hair and how similar it is to the sun’s color. The British pop artist Barry Ryan initially recorded and composed the song. However, Ryan’s song rendition failed to make it onto the U.K. singles list. In contrast, Jefferson’s rendition of the song shot to the Top 30 on the U.K. pop charts. 

 4. The song “Baby Take Me in Your Arms” was written by Tony Macaulay and John Macleod in 1968. It is one of Jefferson’s most popular songs ever recorded. The song peaked at #23 on the Hot 100 in 1970. Finally, it gained popularity in the U.SU.S. During the winter of 1970 in the United States and Canada, Jefferson’s rendition reached the Top 40 of pop and adult contemporary charts. The song “Baby Take Me in Your Arms” peaked at No. 12 on New York City’s WABC-AM.

5. One of the songs that Jefferson recorded, which ought to have been a hit, was “Spider.” It had all the drama and offbeat humor required by the top charts when Kenny Young first published it on the CBS label in July 1969. Jefferson’s post-crash period is represented in “Spider,” which was produced after his name was no longer a hit in the music industry during the 1960s. When he recorded the “Spider,” he gave the arrangements some extra strength, demonstrating his capability.

Later career

Between late 70’s to 1990’s, the Rockin’ Berries did a comeback, embarking on a tour. With his given name, Turton was also doing solo shows in the U.K. In 2001, Castle Records issued a compilation album called The Colour of My Love. It contains Turton’s previously unreleased songs.

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