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Emile Ford (born Emile Sweetman, 16 October 1937, Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies) is a musician and singer, who was popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Life and career

Ford was the son of a government official and an opera-singing mother, and he moved to Britain with his family at an early age.

He was educated at the Paddington Technical College in London. It was during this time that Ford taught himself to play a number of musical instruments. These included the guitar, piano, violin, bass guitar and drums. His innate interest in music was fostered by his mother, and perhaps derived in part -- according to annotator Roger Dopson and journalist Norman Jopling -- in his synesthesia: he perceived sound as colours and patterns.

He teamed up with George Ford, Ken Street and John Cuffley as Emile Ford and the Checkmates, and their first self-produced recording "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" went to number one in the UK Singles Chart at the end of 1959 and stayed there for six weeks. The track remains as having the longest question ever asked by a chart topping disc in the UK. Ford was also the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a 7" single.

Ford first entered show business at the age of twenty, and made his first public appearance at The Buttery, Kensington. This was immediately followed by appearances at (on a rota basis) The Breadbasket, Fitzroy Square; The Roebuck, corner of Tottenham Court Road and Warren Street tube station; The Macabre, Soho; and Chiquita's, near Regent Street (then the Show Business Agents coffee bar).

Ford's first appearance with a backing group was at the Athenaeum Ballroom in Muswell Hill.

His TV appearances in 1958 included outings on The Music Shop, the Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson Show, Oh, Boy!, and Six-Five Special. In 1959 the band appeared on the TV programme Sunday Serenade, which ran for six weeks.

But it was winning the Soho Fair talent contest in July 1959, that led to his Pye recording contract.

In January 1960, Ford signed a two year employment management contract with Leslie Grade. Emile Ford also scored a number one EP in 1960. His debut album was made up of covers, and he made several albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Most of his albums included new versions of "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?". In the late 1960s he moved to Sweden and while there his private recordings were stolen and bootlegged. These recordings were subsequently released on the Hallmark record label.

In 2001, Castle Communications released the double-CD set, Counting Teardrops, covering Ford's complete Pye Records sides from 1959 through to 1963.

Further information

The readers of the British music magazine, NME, voted Emile Ford and the Checkmates as the "Best New Act" in 1960.,

"What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" was originally recorded by Ada Jones and Billy Murray in 1911.,

"(I'd Like to Get You on a) Slow Boat to China" was composed by Frank Loesser, and originally recorded by Kay Kyser in 1948.,

"Counting Teardrops" was written by Barry Mann and Howard Greenfield.,

"Them There Eyes" was written in 1930, and first recorded by Louis Armstrong that same year and by Duke Ellington in 1931.,

His recordings included "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now". The melody was written by Joseph E. Howard and Harold Orlob, and the lyrics by Will M. Hough and Frank R. Adams. The song was published in 1909.


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