Fritz Fryer

Guitarist with the Four Pennies
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The Independent Online

David Roderic Carnie Fryer (Fritz Fryer), singer and guitarist: born Rochdale, Lancashire 6 December 1944; died Lisbon 2 September 2007.

In 1964, Lionel Morton and Mike Wilsh of the Four Pennies assembled at the home of the band's lead guitarist Fritz Fryer to put a lyric to a plaintive tune that Wilsh had written. Fryer's two-year-old niece, Juliet, was there; they discovered that her name was perfect for the melody, and the song was put on the B-side of a song written by Fryer and Wilsh, "Tell Me Girl". Morton's mother was the first to realise that they had made a big mistake. She told the group that "Juliet" would be a hit and was proved right when BBC discjockeys began playing the song and it hit the top of the charts in May 1964.

David Fryer, nicknamed "Fritz", was born in Rochdale in 1944; his grandfather Herbert Fryer was the writer of 2,000 hymns including "The Virgin's Cradle Hymn". David went to school with Mike Wilsh and in the late 1950s they played in a guitar duo, the Fables. They added Lionel Morton, a former choirboy, on lead vocals and guitar, and then became a quartet with the addition of Alan Buck on drums. They took their name, the Four Pennies, from Penny Street in Blackburn. "It was an unfortunate name," laughed Morton, "as we were almost inviting audiences to throw those old pennies at us."

In 1963 they won a talent contest in Blackpool which secured them a recording contract with Philips. They were produced by Johnny Franz and their first single, the Beatle-ish "Do You Want Me To" made the Top 50. They followed it with "Tell Me Girl", but "Juliet", which was reminiscent of Ritchie Valens's "Donna", became the big chart hit. The song was helped by their ultra-sweet harmonies and also their image, with the music papers describing them as "the best-dressed group in the UK".

Although Morton was a superb front man, all the group made an impact. Wilsh recalled Fryer as "a great, larger-than-life character, so he had just the right personality for being on stage. He was also someone who was innovative and our records would have sounded very different without him."

After "Juliet", the Four Pennies had further hits with "I Found Out the Hard Way" (written by Fryer), "Black Girl" (a powerful interpretation of a Leadbelly blues worthy of the Animals), "Until It's Time for You to Go" and Bobby Vinton's "Trouble is My Middle Name". They made two fine albums, 2 Sides of the 4 Pennies (1964) and Mixed Bag (1966), for which Fryer wrote several of the songs. In 1967, they played their final show in Turkey, where they had just had a No 1 with "Cats".

Fryer and Wilsh worked briefly in a group called Fritz, Mike and Mo, before Fryer became a record producer, based at the noted Rockfield studios in Monmouth. His biggest success was with Prelude's "After the Goldrush" (1974), but he also produced hard-rock bands like Stackridge and Motörhead.

Fryer had recently moved to Portugal with Joan, his partner of 30 years.

Spencer Leigh