Peter Doyle

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Peter Doyle, singer and guitarist: born Melbourne, Victoria 28 July 1949; married (one stepson); died Castlemaine, Victoria 13 October 2001.

Among the happiest and catchiest records of all time is "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" by the New Seekers. Based on a Coca-Cola jingle, it became an international hit, topping the UK charts in 1972 and helping to ensure that the New Seekers would have more chart success than the original Seekers.

In 1965 the Seekers, with their lead vocalist, Judith Durham, became the first Australian group to top the UK charts. They disbanded two years later, but their guitarist, Keith Potger, decided to form a similar but younger act which would continue with their legacy of folk-slanted pop songs and stylish family entertainment. Potger advertised in The Stage and New Musical Express, and he recorded an album with his group, which he called the New Seekers. However, three of them left to form another band, Milkwood, and Potger had to find replacements to join Marty Kristian and Eve Graham.

Peter Doyle, who was born in Melbourne in 1949, was performing on the Australian TV talent show Swallow's Juniors before he was 10. When his voice broke, he recorded for the Sunshine label and had Australian chart hits with Conway Twitty's "The Pick Up" (renamed "Speechless") and Solomon Burke's "Stupidity", both in 1965. Then he became part of the Virgil Brothers, an Australian response to the Walker Brothers.

He was recommended to Potger and the revised line-up was Lyn Paul, Eve Graham, Marty Kristian, Paul Layton and Peter Doyle. Lyn Paul recalls,

We were going to do the same kind of folk music as the Seekers, but it didn't work out like that. "Look What They Done to My Song, Ma" still aggravates me, I don't like the song, but it was our first hit in 1970.

The New Seekers went to No 2 in the charts with a cover version of Delaney and Bonnie's "Never Ending Song of Love" and then made their career record with "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing". Its success in America led to their having their own apartments there and even being featured in a comic strip. Paul says,

It was a very boring song and I couldn't stand up and do it in cabaret on my own, but what makes the record interesting are all the counter-harmonies.

Indeed, Doyle's falsetto harmonies gave the New Seekers a very distinctive sound. "They had a cleverness and a musical intelligence that you wouldn't get with other bands of the day like the Bay City Rollers," says their publicist, Tony Barrow, "and a lot of that is due to Peter Doyle."

The group's management did not always have the right ideas about marketing. Taking part in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest was never going to do much for their credibility and they lost to Luxembourg with "Beg, Steal or Borrow". Having experienced success in Australia, the good-humoured Doyle became uneasy about the finances of the group and only a romance with Lyn Paul kept him there. He left in June 1973 and a few months later Paul also left and the group undertook a farewell tour. The New Seekers, without Paul or Doyle, reformed in 1976 and have been working with some changes in the line-up ever since.

In 1977 Doyle released a solo album, Skin Deep. He later spent a couple of years in Florida and was part of the group Regis, with Steve Holley of Wings, making an album that was never released. He was forced to stop working when diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999.

Spencer Leigh