Roy Wood (born 8 November 1946) is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of The Move, Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. As a songwriter, he contributed a number of hits to the repertoire of these bands.
The BBC has described Wood as being "responsible for some of the most memorable sounds of the Seventies" and "credited as playing a major role in the Glam Rock, Psychedelic and Prog Rock movements". In 2008, Wood was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to rock and pop by the University of Derby. In 2015, his long and eclectic career was recognised with the "Outer Limits" award at the Progressive Music Awards in London.
Wood was born in Kitts Green, Birmingham, England. For some years the legend persisted that his real name was Ulysses Adrian Wood, until it was revealed that this was probably the result of somebody close to the Move in their early days filling in such names on a 'lifelines' feature for the press as a joke. His first group in Birmingham in the early 1960s was the Falcons, which he left in 1963 to join Gerry Levene and the Avengers. He then moved to Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders (the band later became the Idle Race). He attended the Moseley College of Art, but was expelled in 1964.
From this basis, and other Birmingham-based groups, was formed the Move, and they quickly entered the UK Singles Chart. Their single "Night of Fear" climbed to No. 2 in early 1967. Their third hit, "Flowers in the Rain", was the first song played at the launch of BBC Radio 1 in 1967, and the band evolved over a three-year period. After the departure of the Move's lead singer Carl Wayne, Wood's influence became more prominent. In 1967 Wood (and fellow Move member Trevor Burton) supplied backing vocals on the track "You Got Me Floatin'" on the Jimi Hendrix Experience's album Axis: Bold as Love.
Wood was keen on musical experimentation and was in this respect one of the most progressive musicians of his time, taking the 'pop group' into new areas. He was an early proponent of combining rock and roll and pop music with other styles, such as classical music, or the big band sound, and introduced classically-styled string and brass sections into the pop record. In early 1972, Wood's composition "Songs of Praise" was shortlisted by the BBC as one of six possible choices for the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1972. When performed by the New Seekers on the Cliff Richard vehicle It's Cliff Richard!, the song finished in last place with 3,842 votes. The group included the track on their album We'd Like To Teach The World To Sing. Wood recorded his own version of "Songs of Praise", releasing it on the B-side of his 1973 single, "Dear Elaine".
Whilst the Move was still together, he founded, along with his band colleagues Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), which was later to gain major commercial success. The original intention was to split the Move at the end of 1970, but contractual obligations meant that they and ELO existed together for a year, until the former finally broke up in June 1972.
ELO's early live performances were chaotic, and after increasing tensions, Wood left in July 1972 and formed a new group, Wizzard, which assembled cellists, brass players and a bigger rhythm section, with several drummers and percussionists. Wood emulated the wall of sound production style of Phil Spector while successfully and affectionately pastiching the rock and roll style of the early 1960s. Meanwhile, he released several solo albums, exploring further musical directions. His 1973 album Boulders was an almost entirely genuine solo effort, right down to the sleeve artwork, with Wood playing a wide variety of musical instruments. A second solo album, Mustard, released in 1975 and including contributions by Phil Everly and Annie Haslam, was less successful.
Instruments played by Wood on his various albums include guitar, bass, cello, flute, sitar, saxophones, clarinet, recorder, oboe, bassoon, drums, percussion, bagpipes, French horn, crumhorn, double bass and keyboards.
Earlier, in July 1972, Wood played bass on all the tracks for Bo Diddley's Chess Records album The London Bo Diddley Sessions.
By the late 1970s, Wood was appearing less in public; commercial success faded away, and his musical experiments did not always match popular taste, but he remained productive in the studio as musician, producer and songwriter. He was a fan of Elvis Presley, but never succeeded in getting him to adopt one of his compositions. However, he was untiring as a producer for other acts, most successfully doo-wop revivalists Darts. In 1976, Wood recorded the Beatles songs "Lovely Rita" and "Polythene Pam" for the ill-fated musical documentary All This and World War II.
In 1977 he formed Wizzo Band, a jazz-rock ensemble, whose only live performance was a BBC simultaneous television and radio broadcast in stereo. The Wizzo Band split early the following year after cancelling a nationwide tour.
Between 1980 and 1982 Wood released a few singles under his own name and also as Roy Wood's Helicopters, and played some live dates under this name, with a band comprising Robin George (guitar), Terry Rowley (keyboards), Jon Camp (bass), and Tom Farnell (drums). The release of what would have been the last of these singles, "Aerial Pictures", backed with "Airborne", was cancelled owing to the lack of chart success for its predecessors, but both sides appeared for the first time in 2006 on a compilation CD, Roy Wood - The Wizzard!. "Aerial Pictures", using the original backing track, subsequently became a solo single for Carl Wayne, the Move's former vocalist.
Wood also made a one-off rock and roll medley single with Phil Lynott, Chas Hodges and John Coghlan, credited to The Rockers, "We Are The Boys" (1983), and played a leading role in the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986, on 15 March 1986, which was later televised in part by the BBC. As well as designing the logo, Wood performed in a line-up which also included the Electric Light Orchestra and the Moody Blues.
After a hiatus following the release of the album Starting Up (1987), a cover version of the Len Barry hit "1-2-3", and a guest vocal appearance on one track on Rick Wakeman's The Time Machine, he went on the road with a band billed as Roy Wood's Army. He also wrote and recorded two tracks with Lynne in 1989 ("If You Can't Get What You Want" and "Me and You"), which were never released.
Collectively, hit records by the Move, Electric Light Orchestra, Wizzard, and Wood's own solo singles demonstrated an impressive chart run for an individual, both as composer and performer. Altogether he had more than 20 singles in the UK Singles Chart under various guises, including three UK No. 1 hits. His most regularly broadcast song is the seasonal Wizzard single "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". In 1995 he released a new live version as the 'Roy Wood Big Band', which charted at No. 59, and in 2000 he joined forces with Mike Batt and the Wombles, for a re-working of "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" and the Wombles' hit "Wombling Merry Christmas", together in one song which reached No. 22. Over Christmas 2007, Wood appeared in a catalogue advertisement for Argos, where he played the part of a rowdy neighbour playing guitar along to Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", and the song once again entered the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 16. It has re-entered the charts every subsequent year on download sales alone, although no longer physically available as a single.
Most recently, he has formed the Roy Wood Rock & Roll Band for occasional live dates and television performances in the UK. They were the support act for Status Quo at several UK dates in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2009 and 2011.
In 2010, Wood made a guest appearance on the Christmas special of the television series Benidorm.
In 2014, Wood and his band performed "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" on the Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special.
Wood currently lives in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
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