The Many Sides of Jeremy Clyde – Part One

Jeremy Clyde of Chad & Jeremy, 1965

To Americans, he’s half of ’60s British musical duo Chad & Jeremy. Meanwhile, back home in England, Jeremy Clyde is an established actor, with over 50 years of credits ranging from the West End to Broadway, from film to television. In fact, most Britons have no idea that Clyde — together with partner Chad Stuart — put seven Top 40 singles on the US charts between 1964 and 1966, including classics like “Yesterday’s Gone” (the only Chad & Jeremy tune to squeak onto the British charts at #37) and “A Summer Song.”

Next month, he and Stuart will join Mike Pender (of the Searchers), Denny Laine, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Billy J. Kramer on tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion. Besides the tour, Clyde is performing a rare solo show at the end of September in Tacoma, WA, and is readying a new solo album of rediscovered material.

A few weeks ago, Clyde and I chatted from his home “overlooking the hills” in North London, where he sat on his balcony and enjoyed the “lovely” weather.

This is your second time doing a British Invasion package tour. Other than it being the 50th anniversary, what’s special about this one?
Well, the fact of it is the 50th anniversary. We were, they say, the first British group to make it to the West Coast. We remember it incredibly well and it was, you know, Beatlemania. When we got off at the Los Angeles airport, we had no idea the reception waiting for us — all the screaming girls and the madness. And I’ve never, ever forgotten. It was quite extraordinary.

It is 50 years since that day. It has a very sort of special feel to it, certainly. We haven’t done many of these. A lot of the ’60s acts, quite correctly — I understand why — get out and do these package tours. We sort of rather wanted to plow our own furrows, so to speak, and have done our own  “An Evening With…” where we talk and do things. We do the hits, obviously, but don’t just knock them out rather quickly and get off because somebody else is coming on, which is what we’re going to be doing [on this tour]. We’re hoping to slip in a few little surprises, even in the small time that we have.

This is the acoustic version of what we do, and we quite like playing the whole thing by ourselves. Actually, if you strip the songs down, they do come up fresh as a daisy. It’s quite a listen. Of course, it does help that Chad plays wonderful piano as well, so we can make the colors change in the set. I’m looking forward to it very much.

I would imagine the songs would translate pretty well acoustically because Chad & Jeremy was always sort of more folk-ish, with even some bossa nova in there at times.
That’s exactly it. We just decided, you know, we can’t recreate the string section, or the this and the that. Let’s just do how we started. Go back to the roots. Exactly. We were always sort of an acoustic-y, folk-y type of duo. And that’s what we did. I have to say, it’s a joy. It came in as sort of a surprise.

I have another life here as an actor, and Chad has a life up in the mountains. We were sort of happily doodling along when PBS asked us to do this ’60s Pop-Rock Reunion [in 2003]. We said to each other, “What do you think? It would be a lot of fun, wouldn’t it?” I went over and stayed at Chad’s and we rehearsed. It was only 20 minutes with just the two of us and the audience went mad. We looked at each other afterwards and said, “This is ridiculous! We’ve got to do more of this!” And that was how it all started — these past 10 or 11 years. And it’s been fun; it’s been pretty good.

The pair in 1966. (Photo from Giovani, June, 1966.)
(Photo from Giovani, June, 1966.)

It’s interesting to me that, especially on this particular tour and when you guys appear with other ’60s acts, how different you were. A lot of the acts that came over in the first wave of the British Invasion never evolved their sound. You two definitely did toward the end of the ’60s.
Yeah.

When “Yesterday’s Gone” hit over here, is it true that it first landed on the country charts?
That’s absolutely right. We were called by our publisher, who said, “Hey, guys, you’re on the charts in America!” “Really?”  We could have been “Chad & Jeremiah,” it all could have been different. But then they discovered we were English and we had hair. We were just lucky — in the right place, at the right time.

As we all know, everything is all about the slipstream of the Beatles. Everybody got dragged along, blown along in their wake, and if you happened to be at the right age and you happened to have an English hit or two, then you were in an absolutely prime position. But we were different. We weren’t from Liverpool. We weren’t — we were ourselves, really. It’s been fun going back to that, and sort of rediscovering who we are and what we do.

The other thing is, we’re almost the last man standing in terms of original acts. Other people all have an original member, or two original members in the band or something. And we don’t. We just are. The other duos, sadly, have fallen by the wayside. The Everlys, of course a huge influence. And Peter and Gordon. Gordon sadly died about five years ago.

So sad.
So that’s sort of, you know, the thought of a long-service medal you get. It becomes slightly more pressured, I think, is the word I’m looking for, because you are seen as a piece of living history.

Right, absolutely. I think that’s one reason why a lot of journalists, like myself, love to talk to you guys. Because the history’s so intriguing.
We were there. We actually did it. We saw it, you know? It happened to us. And that is kind of extraordinary, looking back. The trouble is, how it works, is that when you are young, you kind of take it for granted. First of all, everything’s moving so fast. You’re on a roller coaster. You have very little control over what’s about to happen. This seems to be general, I mean. Pop success is a heady and short-lived business, and you are young, and you are just sort of chucked into the deep end. And you know, “Good luck!” And it’s all taken away very quickly because you’re a teen act.

Jeremy & Chad (for once!) in 1963. Photographer unknown.
1963. (Photographer unknown.)

So, you’re aware of all this and it’s only later that you realize just how lucky you were. Or, the fact that it doesn’t happen to everybody. Your memories are pretty extraordinary. For example, here in England, I am Jeremy Clyde the actor, and, over there, I’m “and Jeremy.” And that’s fine, you know. Whatever. Highly-skilled and famous friends of mine who do Shakespeare and so on say to me, “What are you doing?” and I say, “Well I’m off to — I had a few hits in America!” “No, really? When you put it like that, oh, my God, I would much rather be doing that!” Everybody, it turns out, wants to stand up on a stage with a guitar and be admired. I get a lot of points for that over here.

Well, you were more popular here than in the UK, which is a bit of reversal from a lot of other British Invasion acts.
Oh, we were much more popular. We only had one-and-a-half not-huge hits over here. I was in the office the other day and, literally, there was a guy down there doing the decorating, and he turned ’round and he stared at me and he said, “You’re Jeremy Clyde, aren’t you?” And I said,”Yes,” because that’s off the telly — in other words, acting. He said, “You were in Chad & Jeremy weren’t you?” Oh, my God! So a few people do [know], but it’s not like it was in America. In America, we had seven Top 40 hits and, if you want to count all the charts, it comes to 11, which is very respectable. They can’t take that away from us.

When you came to America, actually probably from the genesis of the group, your pull was more towards acting, and Chad’s was more toward the music. Is that accurate?
Well, yeah. But first of all, we met at drama school. That’s what I was going to do with my life — I’d done a year and a half already. Chad was actually in another course. So, he arrived and then everybody already knew that I played eight chords on a guitar, or something rather sad. When Chad arrived, somebody came up to me and said, “You’re going to want to meet this new guy; he’s absolutely brilliant. And he can play” — There was this big instrumental hit called “Apache” by the Shadows. Sort of a surfing-type thing — “‘Apache’ all the way through!” And I said, “Take me to this musical genius!” Not only that, but we both had choral backgrounds. Chad was much more grand than me. He was a chorister teacher at choir school. I just  led the choir on solos at school. So, we both had that and the guitars. In his case, he could play keyboard as well.

(Photo via chadandjeremy.net)

Then I go off and complete my three years, fully intending to be an actor, because that’s what I was going to do with my life. I did a year’s rep, you know, Shakespeare and the whole bit, and came back to crack London and become very famous and brilliant. There was an equity at my actor’s union, that, for the first — and only — time in its life, declared a strike. You weren’t allowed to work as an actor. It’s extraordinary how life deals with things. Fate takes a hand.

I called my old friend, Chad, and said, “I’m hanging around kicking my heels.” He’d dropped out of drama school and decided he wasn’t really cut out for this acting thing particularly. He liked it, but he wasn’t as serious about it as I was. Instead, he was working at a music publisher; he was already in the music thing.

That’s when we started to get together, and then we got a regular gig  at a place called Tina’s Bar in Albemarle Street where [producer] John Barry was persuaded to come down and have a look at us. That’s how we got signed and that’s how it all started. But, it’s an extraordinary sequences of coincidences, almost. And, so, I’m an actor; it’s what I trained for. I had already done four hard years before we got “Yesterday’s Gone” into the charts. That sort of says it all, really.

Right, and then in 1965, you left for a bit to do a West End production.
John Barry asked me to lead a musical called The Passion Flower Hotel. It’s a question of values, isn’t it? It’s still a problem. I don’t think I realized how big we were in America. To me, it was starring in the West End, which sort of overrode everything in my value system. I’ve done many things since on the West End, but, at that time, that was the way I saw it. Would I have done it now? No, probably not. I would not have let Chad down — which I did at the time — for which I was duly sorry. He came over here and we made an album while I was  performing at night. We kept it all going, but I wouldn’t have done it that way now because I probably would have realized that we had this one shot at America and I would have stuck with that and hoped to get into the West End later.

When you eventually went back to America to tour and record, was it a lot different?
It sort of goes in “two year, two year, two year” chunks, I suppose, looking back.

The first two years were madness. It felt like a roller coaster — it’s the screaming girls, it’s insane, and it’s not going to last. In the middle of that, we were also — which turned out to be a hugely important thing, but we didn’t realize it at the time, like all those things — go-to guys for sitcoms. We could string a few lines together, say a bit of dialogue. We did The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show, and two episodes of Batman playing ourselves. That was fun, that chunk. As it turns out, the fact that those shows are still re-running has kept us very much more in the public eye than we might otherwise have been. Although it made us look like we weren’t terribly serious musicians at the time, I think. But, these things change.

So, you get the first two years, which are the screaming-teenage-girl years. Then you get another two years which are basically when we realized that we wanted to do what we’re doing now, which was go to colleges and do our own two-man show, or [perform] with a small band, stretch out a bit and show what we could do beyond the same five hits, or whatever it was. Then there was the feeling of, ‘oh, my God, the world is really changing.’ Suddenly, there’s the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, and the Beatles doing these amazing things. Everybody got very experimental.

Then I realized that I was about to be 30 and missing home. [England] is always home. Chad was happy already having amazing children and settling down over there, so I came back here and got very lucky very quickly. Straight into starring roles in the West End, and into Broadway, and marriage, and children, and off we go. So that’s how it worked out.

Going back to your days on ’60s sitcoms, you two probably could have had your own show if it hadn’t been for The Monkees, correct?
I didn’t know this until literally the other day when Jason, who manages us, told me the story. We did a pilot — it was an episode of Laredo. Would it have gone the distance, even if it’d been picked up? I don’t know. But, apparently, there was one teen slot and The Monkees got it, so there you are.

That’s interesting. And you mentioned Laredo. Were American westerns a big influence on you growing up?
Oh huge absolutely huge. I grew up around horses and things, so I was always thundering about pretending I was in Arizona or Monument Valley.

That’s great.
Yeah, absolutely huge influence. My father was half-American, so there were endless American connections. My parents would come back [from America] with cowboy outfits that you couldn’t possibly get here, like guns and chaps for children. They were really good. I was really proud of them, too!

And you were probably the most popular kid on the block!
Yeah, I mean, those the other kids that came over to play didn’t have these kinds of things, so it was pretty good. Yeah absolutely. “Wow, look at those matching cap guns! Wow, double holster! Hopalong Cassidy!” It was terrific.

(Photo via williamtell.nl)

On the flip-side, you were also a page at the Queen’s coronation, which I think is really cool.
Yes, it is kind of cool. That’s another one where you sort of go — actually, I didn’t. I, in no way, took that for granted. I was in the right place at the right time; it’s quite simple.

My grandfather happened to be a duke, and I was the right age because you weren’t allowed to be too young or too old. My cousin, who will eventually inherit the title, didn’t get the job because he was too young — but I did.

It was an absolutely extraordinary experience. I remember it tremendously well because all the grown-ups said, “You will remember this for the rest of your life. Make sure you concentrate and, believe me, you’ll never forget this.”

One of the most extraordinary things was to ride in a coach all done up, in a cheering crowd that’s waving. I mean, coachmen and horse, the full bit. That’s an experience that’s not given to all. It was fantastic.

That sounds really great. I read, though, that it may have hurt your image a little bit in the UK. As Americans, we think royalty is very, you know, prestigious, but that didn’t seem to be the case in Britain at the time. Did people assume you were attached to that?
Of course. There was an element of manipulation about this because our then-manager realized I was a page boy. I had to be talked into [releasing that fact]. I said, “No, no, no, no, no,” and, eventually, I think he just called a few people in Fleet Street and said, “Have I got a story for you!”

There was even a rather bad early rock ‘n’ roll film called The Duke Wore Jeans starring Tommy Steele — and that became the headline, “The Duke Wore Jeans.” That, again, didn’t help us be taken seriously. I haven’t got a private income, I’m not the duke, I haven’t got the rolling acres. Thank goodness, by the way. I wouldn’t want it. It’s an awful responsibility. It didn’t look terribly good because the English certainly were then, and still are, I fear, sort of obsessed by the minutiae of class difference. It’s just in the water somehow over here. It was lovely to go over to America, and they would say, “Are you from Liverpool?” which I clearly wasn’t.

There, I could become anybody. I could become a musician. It was nice.

Click here for part two of our chat with Jeremy Clyde!

(Cover photo via 16, February, 1965.)

About Allison Johnelle Boron 87 Articles
Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based music writer and editor whose work has appeared in Paste, Goldmine, Popdose, and more. She is the founder and editor of REBEAT. Her karaoke song is "Runaway" by Del Shannon. Find her on Twitter.
  • Liz Flaherty

    What a great interview.