Gordon Haskell


“You’ve turned the music industry upside down!”
— Rob Dickens CBE, Warner Music

Gordon Haskell has been a musician and singer/songwriter for 50 years. He was born in a nursing home near Bournemouth, Dorset UK on 27 April 1946. His young mother had been widowed in 1943 when her husband Wing Commander Walter Ralph Haskell was shot down, leaving her with two small children. His father Harry Hionides was an American/Greek pilot in the US Air force, who swept her off her feet at a local dance – where, very aptly, a jazz trio were playing. Gordon would not discover that Harry Hionides was his father until he was a teenager.

At a very young age Gordon was naturally drawn to music; he would play the family piano and pick out tunes on his sister’s boyfriend’s acoustic guitar. During his last years at Wimborne Grammar School, his class mate Robert Fripp introduced him to the bass guitar and the two friends played together in The Ravens and the first incarnation of The League of Gentlemen.

Gordon and Robert played in youth clubs, small clubs and village hall dances for two years up until leaving school. School days for the classmates over, Robert went into his father’s estate agency as an apprentice and then onto business college. Gordon continued his apprenticeship in music and reformed The League of Gentlemen for a short time before being asked to join The Dowlands as bass player; he began to earn some money as a musician.

In 1965 Gordon joined the Southampton group The Fleur des Lys, who were signed to Immediate Records in London. They gigged all over the country and spent a month playing in Germany. When they returned home they recorded and released the single ‘Circles’ (produced by Glyn Johns) and moved to London full-time…where they became a session band for Atlantic (Stax) Records and were coached by Booker T & the MG’s, working with some of the greatest names in music.

In 1967 The Fleur des Lys – with Gordon, Bryn Haworth and Keith Guster – appeared on John Peel’s ‘Top Gear’ alongside Traffic, Procol Harum and Cream. By this time, Gordon had started to write his own songs…one of which, entitled ‘Lazy Life’, was covered by William E and topped the South African charts at No.1. The song also became a hit in Australia, covered by Heart and Soul, reaching the No.2 spot in 1969. Radio Caroline DJ Johnnie Walker made ‘Lazy Life’ Record of the Week; Billy Fury also covered the song in 1984.

In 1968, Gordon was offered £45/week to play bass for The Flower Pot Men and he sadly left his Fleur des Lys family but his brothers in the band have remained among his closest friends to this day. During this time he also played bass for Cupids Inspiration before completing his first album as a singer/songwriter in 1969 – for CBS. ‘Sail in my Boat’ became Record of the Week on BBC Radio 1 and Wanda Arletti – a young girl singer – covered a song from the album entitled ‘Zanzibar’; this gave Gordon his second No.1 in South Africa.

1970 arrived and with it came the worst nine months of his career. Gordon had completed a vocal-overdub of ‘Cadence and Cascade’ for his old school-friend Robert Fripp, who was under huge pressure to reform his band King Crimson. He asked Gordon to join the band as a full member on bass and as lead singer but Gordon didn’t feel that he was musically compatible with Robert’s ideas and style…so he declined. Robert soon asked him again and in a moment of bad judgement, a lot of nudging from his then-wife Sally and his loyalty to his old school chum, Gordon said ‘yes’. He stayed with the band long enough to never live it down (a period of only nine months!) – Robert and Gordon were simply at opposite ends of the musical spectrum and Gordon’s personal and musical integrity would not allow him to stay. From that day to this, he has never ‘sold his soul’. Gordon remains curious as to why some 23 members to date have left the band – distinctly unharmonious.

Now 25 and armed with his own songs and an acoustic guitar, Gordon was asked back to Atlantic Records and was signed by the then-president Ahmet Ertegun. Ahmet was the most respected man in the industry at that time, having signed such greats as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. It was 1971 and the album was ‘It Is and It Isn’t’ – an inspired title, given that Gordon’s signing to Atlantic coincided with the corporate takeover of the entire music industry. The album reached No.8 in the Luxembourg Top 20 and Gordon completed a solo promotional tour for the album, including two gigs at the Rainbow in London. He also opened for Mountain, Stackridge (who had covered ‘Worms’) and Wishbone Ash. Alas, the time wasn’t yet right for Gordon to be a full-time solo artist and so he returned to his beloved bass playing with various bands and artists including Cliff Richard, Alvin Lee, Tim Hardin, Jim Russell and Hiroshi Kato. These collaborations took him to Holland, Japan and America. In 1979 he signed to RCA for two years as a songwriter.

Gordon was now concentrating seriously on his writing and in 1982, whilst working on a project with Hansa Records, he wrote a beautiful song called ‘Benny’. Sadly the record was never released as the record company went bankrupt. He continued writing/recording and a series of demos from this time were picked-up and later released by Voiceprint as the album ‘It’s Just a Plot to Drive You Crazy’…in retrospect, Gordon points out how highly predictive this was! In 1984, Gordon started his career as a solo live act and travelled to Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden playing a circuit of bars, clubs and cruise ships…seven nights a week. The work was gruelling but the strength required to endure it gave Gordon his smooth, worldly-rich voice and unique guitar style that would develop over the long haul. His popularity and the warmth he supplied to the Arctic Circle meant he was rebooked again and again, over nearly 14 years.

In 1989 during a well-earned rest, Gordon started his own label – Wilderness Records – and released the album ‘Hambledon Hill’ that achieved airplay and was highly-rated. Judy Boucher covered a song from the album called ‘Almost Certainly’ that became a No.1 once again in South Africa. His next break from the ice saw Gordon produce his album ‘Butterfly in China’. In 1996 and having completed his marathon of the Arctic Circle, he started to build up a circuit of gigs in the south of England. He released ‘All in the Scheme of Things’ in 1999…by which time he had established himself with a regular circuit of gigs, seven nights a week. Gordon was now a true musician of the people, with his own unique warmth, humour, soothing golden voice and guitar style complete with his own guitar tapping and foot-stomping percussion.

The album ‘Look Out’ was released in 2001 and then came ‘How Wonderful You Are’ and Gordon was heard by a much wider audience. The single became the most requested record on BBC Radio Two and reached No.2 in the 2001 Christmas chart. Gordon was the people’s choice but not the choice of the corporates! Consequently No.1 would not be for him. Former Chairman of Warner Music Rob Dickens CBE told Gordon at the time: “You have turned the music industry upside down!” His album ‘Harry’s Bar’ reached No.2 in the 2002 album chart and charted all over Europe. ‘Shadows on the Wall’ followed in 2002 and ‘The Lady Wants to Know’ in 2004. He then took a break from songwriting and wrote his autobiography – ‘The Road to Harry’s Bar’ – before following an instinctive pull he had had all his life…moving to Skopelos, Greece in 2007.

In 2010 Gordon released his politically-motivated album ‘One Day Soon’ – aptly written in the country where politics was invented.

In 2016, Gordon returned to his home in the UK, leaving the Greek sunshine behind. The draw was two-fold: for family and for exploring musical opportunities. He has always said: “I will continue to write for as long as I have something to say and a message to share” and Gordon is walked into his 70th year demonstrating just that.

After a nine-year period enjoying the Greek sunshine abroad, Gordon brought his jazz/blues-influenced songbook and golden voice back to theatre audiences countrywide. Gordon teamed-up with BBC Introducing-supported and Radio Two-played musical collective Hannah’s Yard for a warm and intimate evening of timeless music from artists with some 50 years between them…the aptly-named ‘Timeless Tour’ 2017.

So to the present day. Following the final show of his celebratory, 70th year tour – a heady, nostalgic evening at Southampton’s The Brook – Gordon looks forward to reverting to ‘duo’ shows with his long-term saxophonist Paul Young…up-close, intimate evenings showcasing Gordon Haskell – the master singer-songwriter.

Gordon Haskell