Mal Perry: Schoolfriend of John Lennon who enjoyed a brief stint in the limelight as a pop singer

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The Independent Online

Of a similar age to his schoolfriend, John Lennon, Mal Perry attended Quarry Bank school in Liverpool. He obtained a recording contract as early as 1958, some four years before the Beatles.

Mal Perry was born Malcolm Levy in 1939 into Liverpool's Jewish community and his parents were proud of his excellent singing voice. He was writing songs from the age of 10, which impressed John Lennon. In 1958, he was second in a contest organised by the National Association of Boys Clubs and he went on tour with Frankie Vaughan. A businessman, Woolfe Bednash, wanted to manage him and, as Bednash's favourite singer was Perry Como, he renamed him Mal Perry.

Perry recorded for the new Fontana label, owned by Philips, and his first single was a cover of the novelty song, "Lollipop". His big voice was put to better use with "Make Me A Miracle" and he appeared on ITV's Cool For Cats and BBC TV's 6.5 Special. Brian Epstein invited him to do a record signing in his NEMS shop in Liverpool, but Perry's road manager left the records in the back of a car and they melted in the sun. He was featured in a rock'n'roll show at Liverpool Stadium in 1960 and also in the stage show Wackers' Playtime with the Vernons Girls. He was backed in the Liverpool clubs by the beat groups, Cass and the Cassanovas and the Remo Four and John Lennon asked him, without success, to record the songs he was starting to write with Paul McCartney.

Although Perry recorded five singles including his own song, "The Girl Next Door" and had a residency at the Astor Club in London, he soon gave up the business. "My father wanted me to sing in the synagogue and my mother didn't like me being in London," he told me in 2007. "I didn't like it much myself. Back then, they thought you were a second class citizen if you came from Liverpool."

Perry went into the family retail business and then opened his own clothing store. He often sold suits to the beat groups and he also sang in synagogue choirs. In later years, he did a variety of jobs but the urge to perform never left him. He sang media ads for Colorvision and more recently, Johnny Goggles. When I last saw him, he gave me a copy of a new song, "Gonna Put My Life In Music", and his ambition was to do just that.

Spencer Leigh

Malcolm Levy (Mal Perry), singer; born Liverpool 15 December 1939; died Liverpool 16 April 2010.