Obituary: Barry Pritchard

IN 1963, in Birmingham, the guitarist and vocalist Barry Pritchard formed a group called the Fortunes with Glen Dale and Rod Allen, and they were signed by the eccentric promoter Reg Calvert. Pritchard recalled the first bookings: "Reg held competitions and, if people shouted a number that we couldn't do, he would pay them half-a-crown. It was no big deal. There might be 20 people shouting out, so Reg would pick out numbers that we knew."

The Fortunes, as a five-piece with David Carr and Andy Brown, were signed to Decca, and their first single, "I Love Her Still" (1963), was written by Pritchard. Their second, the songwriter Tony Hiller's infuriatingly catchy "Caroline" (1964), became the theme music for the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, and was a European hit. The Fortunes stood out from other 1960s beat groups because of their distinctive four-part harmonies. "Barry Pritchard had the high voice," says Tony Hiller, "and he was sensational. His high notes really made `Caroline' work for me."

The Fortunes recorded two numbers for a live album from the Cavern club in Liverpool (1964), but their subsequent singles failed to sell. The record producer Noel Walker remembers:

The Fortunes' contract came up for renewal and Decca didn't want to renew it. I had recorded them at the Cavern and I told Decca that they sung wonderfully and deserved another chance. I wanted to use them as singers backed by professional musicians and I found a beautiful song, "You've Got Your Troubles". The record turned out exactly how I wanted and I regard Barry's harmonies as fundamental to the Fortunes' sound.

"You've Got Your Troubles" (1965) climbed to No 2 in Britain and No 7 in the United States, but the Fortunes bravely admitted that they had not played their own instruments on the record. As with the Monkees and Love Affair, the public became suspicious of their abilities. However, they played well in concert, where their hit song was stripped of its middle-of-the-road arrangement. And, as the songwriter Roger Greenaway says, "There are 160 versions of `You've Got Your Troubles', but the Fortunes' is very much the best."

Their follow-up single, "Here It Comes Again" (1965), despite its similarities to "You've Got Your Troubles", was an international hit, and "This Golden Ring" (1966) was also successful. Then the hits stopped. Noel Walker recalls: "Barry was the most outgoing of the Fortunes and was a calming influence when things went wrong. He took the ups and downs much better than the rest." The Fortunes released some fine singles - "The Idol" (1967), "Seasons in the Sun" (1968) and "Loving Cup" (1968) - but they didn't sell. "We were like wet fish on a slab," said Pritchard, "and it took us some years to get back."

The comeback finally came with a cover version of Pickettywitch's "That Same Old Feeling" for the American market. It was followed by "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again", which made the US Top Twenty in 1971. Then came two Top Ten hits in Britain - the reggae-influenced "Freedom Come Freedom Go" (1971) and "Storm in a Teacup" (1972, written by Lynsey De Paul).

In 1984 the Fortunes were part of the successful double album Hooked On Number Ones, but by then they were resigned to cabaret dates and oldies shows. Pritchard, who was not a large man, had to endure Rod Allen calling him "a small Fortune" on stage every night.

In 1995, suffering from heart trouble, Pritchard was forced to leave the group. He and his family opened a bar and restaurant on the Costa del Sol.

The Fortunes are about to embark on a nationwide tour with Gerry and the Pacemakers, but Rod Allen is the only remaining original member.

Barry Pritchard, singer and guitarist: born Birmingham 3 April 1944; twice married (four sons); died Swindon, Wiltshire 11 January 1999.