Denis Payton

Dave Clark Five saxophonist


Denis West Payton, saxophonist: born London 11 August 1943; married (two sons); died Bournemouth, Dorset 17 December 2006.

The line-up of most of the bands in the British beat boom of the Sixties was three guitarists and a drummer, but the Dave Clark Five also featured Denis Payton's baritone saxophone which, combined with bass and drums, resulted in the beefy, thumping thuds of "Glad All Over" and "Bits and Pieces". The so-called "Tottenham Sound" was noisy and powerful and, although the band was criticised for being lightweight, they sold 100 million records around the world.

Denis Payton, who was born in Walthamstow, London, in 1943, was an adept musician who could play saxophone, guitar and wind instruments. In his teens, Payton played tenor saxophone in a jazz combo, whilst training as an electrical engineer. He knew the members of another local band, formed by its drummer Dave Clark and called the Dave Clark Five, which chiefly played instrumentals, although their saxophonist Stan Saxon also sang.

Saxon left, and by the time of their début single, "Chaquita", in August 1962, the Dave Clark Five consisted of Clark (drums), Mike Smith (lead vocals and keyboards), Lenny Davidson (guitar), Payton (saxophone) and Rick Huxley (bass). "Chaquita" was an instrumental featuring a scorching sax from Payton. They moved to the Piccadilly label for "I Knew It All the Time" and "First Love", and although they were not having hits, became a popular dance-hall act, a highlight of their set being Payton's saxophone break during "Yakety Yak".

In 1963, the Beatles transformed popular music and Clark, whose stated aim was to get rich, fell in line, covering the Contours' "Do You Love Me?" which he licensed to EMI's Columbia label. The publicity for an accompanying dance based on Prince Philip's gait, "The Duke", was a mistake, with the chart honours going to a rival version from Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Stung by this, Clark and Smith wrote "Glad All Over" and this thunderous, echo-laden single, engineered by Adrian Kerridge, took over from the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at No 1. "I knew that we needed a song with thumps in," Clark said. Payton's saxophone sound on the single emulated Little Eva's 1962 hit "The Locomotion".

The follow-up, "Bits and Pieces" (1964), was equally potent and went to No 2. However, some dance halls were reluctant to let the band play their hits as they feared that dancers would damage the floor with their foot-stomping. The group had by now turned professional and had a deal with the Harold Davidson Organisation which guaranteed them £50,000 for performances during 1964.

Their third Top 10 single, "Can't You See That She's Mine" is better remembered for its softer B-side, "Because". After that, the Dave Clark Five had a succession of minor hits and that might have been that, had it not been for The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan presented them on his US variety show 18 times. He did not care for their music, but he warmed to their good-looking, clean-cut image - they looked like members of a yacht club with their blazers, tab-collared shirts and light trousers. Appearing on the same show as the Dave Clark Five, Muhammad Ali said of Payton, "He's almost as pretty as me."

This was a well-disciplined group: there were no scandals, no John Lennon-like outbursts and no one was going to criticise the dictatorial Clark. Asked what he disliked, Payton said, "Income tax, parking meters and getting up early."

The Dave Clark Five had hit after hit in America including a No 1, "Over and Over" (1965). They also had several big-selling albums and American Tour (1964) included Payton's compositions "Move On", "I Want You Still" and "Ol' Sol". He wrote their 1966 hit "Nineteen Days". They toured in their own plane, marked "DC5" on the side, and over 5,000 fans greeted them at Montreal Airport.

In 1965, they made the film Catch Us If You Can (with the US title Having a Wild Weekend), which was directed by John Boorman and, ironically, was about a pop group escaping from commercialisation. When they appeared on the 1965 Royal Variety Performance, they chose, quite out of character, the Jim Reeves hit "Welcome to My World".

The Dave Clark Five did well in the UK with "Everybody Knows" (1967) and "Red Balloon" (1968), but they had difficulty in relating to psychedelia. After some retrospective rock'n'roll medleys, the Dave Clark Five disbanded in 1971 and Payton became an estate agent in Dorset.

Clark owns the group's recordings but he has been reluctant to market them on CD. The group's reputation has fared badly with the years; unfairly, as they knew how to make three-minute, good-time singles. In 2007, the Dave Clark Five will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but, these days, the place you are most likely to hear "Glad All Over" is on the terraces at Crystal Palace.

Spencer Leigh

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