Winchester Cathedral

"Winchester Cathedral" is a song by the New Vaudeville Band, a British novelty group established by the song's composer, Geoff Stephens, and was released in late 1966 by Fontana Records.


Winchester Cathedral (WORD)
Winchester Cathedral (PDF)

It reached #1 in Canada on the RPM 100 chart, co-charting with the Dana Rollin version, and shortly thereafter #1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the Billboard Easy Listening chart for four weeks. Stephens was a big fan of tunes from the British music hall era (or what Americans would call "vaudeville"), so he wrote "Winchester Cathedral" in that vein, complete with a Rudy Vallée soundalike (John Carter) singing through his hands to imitate a megaphone sound. Although the song was recorded entirely by session musicians, when it became an international hit, an actual band had to be assembled, with Fontana Records trying unsuccessfully to recruit the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The band toured extensively under the tutelage of Peter Grant, who later went on to manage The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin. The song won the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording, despite not being a rock and roll song. An initial long-playing album including the song was issued in late 1966 by Fontana Records, also titled Winchester Cathedral. Stephens received the 1966 Ivor Novello Award for "Best Song Musically and Lyrically".

When The New Vaudeville Band, recorded "Winchester Cathedral" on the Fontana label and it became an international hit, disc jockeys speculated that the recording must have been prompted by a Rudy Vallee performance from the 1920s.  When contacted about it, Vallee was astounded because he had never heard of the song - but he was quick to cash in on it by making his own recording, singing into the microphone through one of his trademark megaphones. In 2016, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song's release, a new version by Geoff Stephens was released on CD by Signum Classics, sung by members of the Winchester Cathedral Choir. The premier performance of this version was to take place during a Gala Concert in Winchester Cathedral on March 12, 2016 to help raise funds for the Cathedral's Appeal.

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