Norrie Paramor

Born: May 15th, 1914, London (United Kingdom)
Died: September 9th, 1979, Barnet (United Kingdom)
Nationality: British

Eurovision record
Norrie Paramor conducted Frank Ifield’s ‘Alone too long’ in the 1962 UK Eurovision heats; this song finished in a second position behind winner Ronnie Carroll, who went on to represent the United Kingdom in the international final. In 1968, being Cliff Richard’s producer and arranger, he was asked for the musical directorship of the UK heats, ‘A song for Europe’, in which his protégé sang all six entries. Subsequently, he was chosen as the MD of the Eurovision Song Contest proper as well, which was held in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Conducted by Paramor, Cliff Richard came second with ‘Congratulations’. Norrie Paramor returned as the musical director for ‘A Song for Europe’ in 1971, when all entries were sung by Clodagh Rodgers; he did not conduct her entry in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest final, though.

Norrie Paramor studied the piano. He began his career as an accompanist for other artists. It was not long before he also played in, and arranged the music for various jazz bands, such as the Maurice Winnick Orchestra, and, later on, for the likes of Mantovani and Noel Coward, too. During World War II, Paramor was enlisted in the RAF, but continued to work as a musician even then, accompanying artists who performed to cheer up the troops. Around the same time, Ralph Reader engaged him to be the musical director of his variety shows.

Having continued to work as an accompanist, a band member of various ensembles, and a music arranger after the war, in 1950, for the first time, Paramor tried his hand at producing, recording a number of songs with Australian vocalist Marie Benson. In 1952, he was contracted by Columbia Records (a branch of EMI) as an arranger and A&R manager. It was not long before he produced no. 1 hit records with Ruby Murray (‘Softly, softly’) and trumpeter Eddie Calvert (‘Cherry pink and apple blossom white’, ‘Oh mein Papa’ – the latter originally written for Lys Assia by Paul Burkhard). The string of hit records continued all through the 1950s with Michael Holliday (‘The story of my life’) and the Mudlarks; during recording sessions, both this group and Holliday were usually accompanied by the orchestra of Ken Jones.

In 1958, Paramor was given a demo of one Cliff Richard. In spite of his reservations about rock ‘n’ roll music, he decided to contract the young singer. Although Paramor would have preferred to record the song ‘Move it’ with the Ken Jones Orchestra, in the end, it was decided upon to have Cliff Richard accompanied by his own band, the Drifters. ‘Move it’ went on to become the young singer’s first chart success – and Paramor’s first production success with a rock ‘n’ roll record. Norrie Paramor remained Cliff Richard’s arranger and producer throughout the 1960s and, thus, was co-responsible for worldwide hits, including ‘The young ones’, ‘Summer holiday’, and ‘Bachelor boy’. During the same period, other protégés of Paramor, such as The Shadows (as the Drifters were renamed), Ricky Valance, Helen Shapiro, and Frank Ifield, were enormously appreciated by record buyers as well, both in England and abroad. The last British number one hit recorded under the auspices of Paramor was ‘Lily the pink’ for the Scaffold (1968).

Norrie Paramor in the Abbey Road Studio with his assistant John Schroeder (on the right) and Helen Shapiro

Meanwhile, Paramor released many records under his own name, too. These include several instrumental ‘Mood’ albums which did particularly well in the USA. He composed film scores as well as light orchestral works (e.g. ‘The Zodiac’, ‘Emotions’), which he recorded with his Concert Orchestra, and a number of hit songs; ‘Lonely’ for AckerBilck, ‘A voice in the wilderness’ for Cliff Richard, and ‘Let’s talk about love’ for Helen Shapiro, to name just a few. He had a major hit himself in 1952 with ‘The greatest show on earth’ (vocals by Johnny Brandon), a song inspired on the Hollywood film which bore the same name; other orchestral successes of his include ‘Theme from a Summer Place’ (1960) and ‘Theme from Z Cars’ (1962). In 1955, Paramor founded the Big Ben Banjo Band and the Big Ben Hawaiian Band, groups consisting of London studio musicians, both of which were well-liked by the British audience.

In 1960, American actress-singer Judy Garland recorded an album in London with Paramor as her arranger and conductor. Subsequently, he was her MD during her European tour. From 1972 to 1978, Paramor was director of the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra. Although not working for EMI anymore, he still owned a publishing company called Festival Record International which specialized in finding repertoire for Cliff Richard. As such, Paramor also was the driving force behind ‘Long live love’, the 1974 UK entry which was sung by Olivia Newton John; he commissioned young arranger Nick Ingman to orchestrate and conduct the song.

Norrie Paramor in the Eurovision Song Contest
In 1962, Norrie Paramor was the conductor for Frank Ifield, one of his contract singers, when the latter entered ‘A song for Europe’, the UK Eurovision heats. Ifield managed to reach a second place with the entry ‘Alone too long’, composed by Vince Hill. Of all twelve competing songs, only Ronnie Carroll’s ‘Ring-a-ding girl’ (arranged and conducted by Wally Stott) managed to do better and become the United Kingdom’s representative in the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Luxembourg that year.

When the BBC asked Cliff Richard to perform all songs in the 1968 edition of ‘A song for Europe’, it was no more than logical that the man who had been his arranger and record producer from the beginning of his career onwards, was chosen to be the musical director of the show. Norrie Paramor arranged and conducted all six efforts, from which viewers chose ‘Congratulations’, written by Phil Coulter and Bill Martin, as the winner.

After that, Paramor was given the task to be the musical director of the contest proper, which, after the victory of Sandy Shaw’s ‘Puppet on a string’ the year before, was staged in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Unusually, no BBC orchestra was provided for the show; Paramor hand-picked a group of session musicians for the occasion. During the interval between the songs and the voting, he conducted his ensemble in a ‘London Medley’, arranged by Harry Wilkinson. Of course, Paramor also led the orchestra during Cliff Richard’s rendition of ‘Congratulations’. Richard came second, which was considered as a humiliation at that time, but he was vindicated by the worldwide commercial success of the record.

In 1971, Norrie Paramor was once again musical director of ‘A Song for Europe’, a show hosted by Cliff Richard; six songs were sung by the Clodagh Rodgers, from which the British TV audience chose a winner: ‘Jack in the box’. Paramor, however, left the conducting of Clodagh Rodger’s entry in the Eurovision finals in Dublin to the arranger of the song, Johnny Arthey.

Other artists on Norrie Paramor
Between 1968 and 1974, Nick Ingman worked as a songwriter and arranger for the publishing company Festival Records International, owned by Norrie Paramor. Paramor commissioned him to arrange and conduct ‘Long live love’, the 1974 UK entry: “Norrie Paramor was my first boss when I joined the music industry in 1968. I was fresh out of Berklee College in the USA. He untaught me a lot of academic nonsense and showed how it really was. He was a very kind and considerate man, to whom I owe a lot.” (2009)

Harry Rabinowitz, a British musical director of the same generation as Paramor, comments: “Norrie Paramor was an extremely skilled orchestrator. He made hit recordings with music that was right at that time. Moreover, he composed many songs himself, pretty good songs indeed. All in all: an able professional.” (2009)

Norrie Paramor at the piano, working on a film score, flanked by (from left to right) Ronald Cass, Andrew Mitchell, and Christopher Miles

Links & sources


Songs conducted
1968: Congratulations

Musical director
1968: London