The Eurovision Song Contest was inaugurated in 1956, and although the UK didn't win until Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a String" in 1967, there were several near misses. The Allisons came second with "Are You Sure" in 1961, beaten by Jean-Claude Pascal's "Nous les amoureux".
The Allisons were promoted as two brothers, John and Bob Allison, but John Alford and Bob Day were simply friends. They both lived in Parsons Green, west London, and sang in the local church choir. They would harmonise in social clubs and had a residency in a Soho coffee bar, the Breadbasket. In 1960 they won a talent contest at the Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia, run by Disc magazine, where they sang John's composition, "Words". One of the judges, the impresario Tito Burns, offered to manage them and secured a contract with Fontana Records.
The duo had toyed with different names, but Burns thought it was best to establish them as brothers and thereby create a "British Everly Brothers". This called for deception in newspaper features, especially "at home" ones, but back in 1960, not all showbusiness journalists questioned what they were being told.
One of John's songs was the ultra-catchy "Are You Sure", whose publishers wanted to enter it for the UK heat of the Eurovision Song Contest. They beat off such established names as Craig Douglas and Ricky Valance in the UK heats and were on their way to Cannes. The "brothers" were good-looking and clean-cut with a passion for identical knitwear, but they wore bow ties and dinner jackets for the contest.
"Are You Sure" climbed to No 2 on the UK chart, being kept from the top by the Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back". It sold a million copies in the UK alone and they won an Ivor Novello award for song of the year.
The next single, "Words", was too similar to "Are You Sure" to make much impact, and releasing a song called "What a Mess" is never to be recommended. Their "Lessons in Love" was taken up by Cliff Richard and the Shadows and performed in the film The Young Ones. They released an album, Are You Sure, but their moment had passed.
The Allisons disbanded in 1963 after a deal with Brian Epstein did not materialise. Bob worked as a telephonist and then managed a public house, occasionally teaming up with John for the Allisons. More often that not, John worked with new Allisons, Mike and Tony. In 2001, they recorded new songs for the album All The Hits And More, but they soon parted.
The young Allisons were easy prey, and most of their earnings went to show business piranhas. In 2009 Lord Lloyd-Webber called "Are You Sure" the best of the UK entries in the Eurovision Song Contest, and said he was sorry that it hadn't won.
Bernard Colin Day (Bob Allison), singer: born Wiltshire 2 February 1941; died 25 November 2013.
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