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Members include BillWyman(born William George Perks, Jr., on October 24, 1936 in London, England), bass player keyboard player; GaryBrooker(born on May 29, 1949), keyboard player; GeorgieFame(born Clive Powell on June 26, 1943 in Lancashire, England), vocalist; Beverley Skeete, vocalist. Addresses: Management--Ripple Productions Ltd., 344 Kings Road, London, SW3 5UR, England.

The British blues band Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings is an assemblage of some of the greatest names of 1960s and 1970s rock and roll. The Rhythm Kings was the brainchild of long-time Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who produced much of the band's material and provided continuity and structure for the group. The band's line up, though constantly changing, included Beverley Skeete on guitar and vocals, Gary Brooker on keyboards, and vocalist Georgie Fame. Cameo appearances from artists such as Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton added to the band's roll call of great rock and roll talent. The band signed with Velvel records and released two albums beginning in 1997, and toured between recording sessions.

Rhythm Kings leader Bill Wyman grew up in war-torn Europe, in one of the tougher neighborhoods of London's southeast side. He was born William George Perks, Jr. on October 24, 1936 in Lewisham Hospital in London. Wyman was the eldest of six children of Kathleen May "Molly" and William Perks, Sr. His father was a bricklayer by trade, who worked very hard to support his large family. For Wyman, childhood was an eventful stream of childish pranks intermingled with the terror of German air raids, the distress of poverty, cramped living quarters, and childhood diseases. In spite of the hard times caused by the Great Depression and World War II, Wyman's parents stayed attentive to their children and supervised the brood under a watchful eye. The Perks children received strict discipline and were raised with a strong sense of morality; none of them were spoiled or indulged. Wyman and his siblings regarded simple treats like chewing gum and a glass of lemonade among the finest of pleasures during their formative years.

In1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Wyman's father joined the British army and was stationed in Norwich. He sent the family to live near his in-laws' home in Penge. From time to time as a youngster Wyman lived at the residence of his maternal grandmother, Flora Jeffery. These intermittent stays at his grandparents' home were in part to ease the burden on his parents who were overwhelmed by their large family. In part Wyman stayed because of problems at school, which he generally disliked despite his high intelligence. It was from his grandmother that Wyman learned basic reading and math skills. It was with further assistance from his grandparents that Wyman took piano lessons and became involved in singing in the choir at the Holy Trinity Church near his grandmother's home.

His antipathy for academics notwithstanding, in September of 1947 Wyman received a scholarship to the Beckenham and Penge Grammar School, an honor that proved bittersweet for him because he spoke with a thick cockney accent and otherwise failed to fit into the elite student body at the prestigious school. He became trapped between two worlds his family and friends admonished him not to become a snob, while his new friends and teachers at school kept him under continual derision for what were considered to be low-class ways. Just after 1950, only two months before what would have been the end of Wyman's curriculum, his father pulled the boy from school and sent him to work due to the family's dwindling economic resources. Wyman took his first job, with a bet-maker, until January of 1955 when he received a draft notice from the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was in the service, while stationed at Oldenburg, that Wyman developed a close camaraderie with an RAF cohort named Lee Whyman, who would eventually become the namesake for William Perks, Jr.

Wyman first began to pay attention to popular music as a youngster, and by 1950 he was very conscious of each new artist that came to the forefront, from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, to Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presely. Wyman eagerly welcomed the inauguration of the British pop chart in 1953 and bought himself a record player in July of that year. Four years later, while serving in the RAF, Wyman bought himself an acoustic guitar and began to recruit a band. His first combo was a skiffle group. After two years of military service Wyman worked for a meat importer and then as a storekeeper. For social life he frequented dance halls and ballrooms, where eventually he met his future wife, Diane Maureen Cory. The couple married on October 24, 1959, Wyman's 23rd birthday. In 1960 Wyman bought a Burns electric guitar and started up another group which eventually became known as the Cliftons. Soon afterward he switched to bass guitar. Slowly the Cliftons dissolved, and its members went on to play with other bands.

Diane and Bill Wyman's son, Stephen Paul Wyman, was born on March 29, 1962, just months before Wyman embarked on one of the most unique adventures in the history of rock and roll. In December of 1962, Wyman was invited by a musician friend to meet a band called the Rollin' Stones, a blues group in need of a bass player. Wyman met the band, but found that he was a clean-cut contrast to the scruffy Rollin' Stones. He and the band were in fact mutually disinterested in each other until the Stones got a look at Wyman's powerful amplifiers and other sound gear. According to rock and roll legend, good sound gear was a commodity so prized that the band accepted Wyman into the group because they liked his amplifiers. Wyman played his first gig with the Rollin' Stones on December 15, 1962. The band changed its name to Rolling Stones in 1963, and in 1964 Wyman changed his name legally from William George Perks, Jr., to William George Wyman, in honor of his friend Lee Whyman from the military. Around that same time Wyman, who was considerably older than most of the other members of the band, shaved five years off his age for publicity purposes, by adopting a birth date of October 24, 1941. For the next 30 years Wyman played as a member of one of the most famous and controversial rock-and-roll bands in history.

Wyman released a number of solo albums during his years with the Rolling Stones, including Monkey Grip in 1974 and Stone Alone in 1976. He starred in the movies Sympathy for the Devil and Gimme Shelter, both in 1970, and he published his memoirs in an autobiography called Stone Alone with Ray Coleman in 1990. Additionally Wyman dabbled as a restaurateur, an author, and a student of archaeology and medieval history. When Wyman left the Stones in 1993 he was already the owner of Ripple Records, Ripple Music, Ripple Publications, and Ripple Productions.

Apart from a string of marriages and other questionable shenanigans, Wyman retained a generally conservative lifestyle in comparison to his fellow Rolling Stones. He divorced his first wife in 1969 and remarried amid a flurry of scandal, in June of 1989 to Mandy Smith, a fashion model and a singer whom he first dated when she was only 13 years old. Wyman and Smith spent only five days together. They separated in May of 1990 and divorced in 1991. In 1993 Wyman married his third wife, ex-model Suzanne Accosta.

Wyman left the Rolling Stones in 1993, and in 1997 he formed Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings. The members of the Rhythm Kings typically varied between one performance and the next, but always included a collection of the biggest names in rock and roll and R&B. Rhythm Kings royalty includes keyboard artist Gary Brooker, former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, the late pianist Nicky Hopkins, former Squeeze vocalist Paul Carrack, and blues artist Beverley Skeete. Rock legends Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton performed on Rhythm Kings recordings. The band released two albums; Struttin' Our Stuff in 1998 and Anyway the Wind Blows in 1999, both on Velvel.

Keyboard player Gary Brooker, formerly of Procol Harum, was born on May 29, 1949. Brooker, a founding member of Procol Harum, was raised in a middle class family in London, the son of a musician. Brooker took piano lessons as a child and went away to school as a teen-ager to study classical composition. During the course of his education he experimented with modern, jazz-related musical styles including boogie-woogie. In 1966 Brooker met Keith Reid through a mutual friend who recognized the possibility that the two musicians might collaborate, which they did. The two wrote songs together--Brooker wrote the music while Reid wrote the lyrics. Eventually Denny Cordell, who managed Joe Cocker, produced Brooker and Reid's songs as played by Brooker's band Procol Harum. Procol Harum peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s following such chart-topping hits as "A Whiter Shade of Pale" in 1967.

Rhythm Kings vocalist Georgie Fame was born Clive Powell in Leigh (Lancashire), England on June 26, 1943. Fame was the son of a cotton spinner who played and sang as a hobby. Fame himself sang in the church choir in grade school and was a self-taught piano player. Fame began to play the piano professionally in his late teens at a London ballroom, but his show business "break" came when Oliver composer Lionel Bart discovered Fame and referred him to British music producer Larry Parnes. Parnes changed Clive Powell's name to Georgie Fame and used the teen-ager as a backup musician with assorted bands, until 1961. Fame appeared on the popular television shows, "Hullabaloo" and "Shindig," and toured with the Tamla Motown Review in 1965. Fame is accompanied on Rhythm Kings vocals by English blues singer Beverley Skeete.

Several of rock music's most famous guitarists have recorded with the Rhythm Kings including Wyman's former Rolling Stones mate, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, and Albert Lee. Intermittent contributors on drums include Procol Harum veteran Graham Broad. Broad, along with percussionist Ray Cooper added spice to the first Rhythm Kings recording, Struttin' Our Stuff, in 1998. Other Rhythm Kings contributors include Chris Rea, who was professionally involved with Wyman on more than one occasion prior to the formation of the Rhythm Kings; ex-Squeeze vocalist, Paul Carrack, and guitarist Terry "Tex" Taylor. The Rhythm Kings' album, Anyway the Wind Blows, secured a slot in the top five jazz-blues album chart in England.

by Gloria Cooksey

Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings's Career

Formed in 1997 by Bill Wyman; contracted with Velvel Records to record a trilogy of albums, including Struttin' Our Stuff in 1998, and Anyway the Wind Blows in 1999; toured Europe in 1999.

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