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Dick James

Dick James (12 December 1920 – 1 February 1986), born Leon Isaac Vapnick in the East End of London, was a British music publisher and, together with his son Stephen, founded the DJM record label and recording studios, as well as (with Brian Epstein) the Beatles' publisher Northern Songs.


  • Career 1
    • Early days 1.1
    • Switch to publishing 1.2
    • Later days 1.3
  • Death 2
  • UK chart hits 3
  • Trivia 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Early days

James sang with North London dance bands in his early teens, and was a regular vocalist at the Cricklewood Palais by the age of seventeen. He joined the Henry Hall band, and made first radio broadcast in 1940, but joined the Army in 1942. After World War II he continued to sing with leading bands, including Geraldo's. Later still, James was also a part-time member of The Stargazers, a popular early 1950s vocal group.[1] In the 1950s he often appeared in the top ten Melody Maker vocal charts alongside the likes of Dickie Valentine and Frank Holder.

He was the

  • Dick James at the Internet Movie Database
  • 'Robin Hood' song connections webpage
  • Detailed website concerning Beatles song rights, including Dick James references
  • James mini-biography at the Musicweb site
  • bio

External links


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Spitz 2005. p365
  6. ^ Harry 2000. p573
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^
  9. ^



  • "Robin Hood"/"The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (1956) - number 14
  • "Garden of Eden" (1957) - number 18[9]

UK chart hits

James died in London of a heart attack in early 1986, at the age of 65. Dick James Music was acquired by PolyGram which was, in turn, bought by Universal Music Group.


John formed his own Rocket label in 1976, but in 1982, he was involved in a court case with James about royalties.[7] In June 1985, the British music magazine NME reported that John was suing James over the rights to his earlier material.[8]

James signed Reg Dwight and his lyricist Bernie Taupin as untried unknowns in 1967 after his son Stephen, who had been working with his father since 1963, found Dwight using their recording studios late at night without permission. Stephen, who had started the recording studios and opened a record production company called This Productions, formed DJM Records in 1969. Stephen instigated Dwight's adoption of a new stage name - Elton John - and oversaw his first recording contract. All of John's releases up to 1976 were issued on the DJM record label. The label also carried Jasper Carrott, RAH Band and John Inman.

Later days

During the 1960s, James also handled Billy J. Kramer and Gerry and the Pacemakers. James lived in Anson Road, Cricklewood, north-west London, in the 1960s. He was involved, along with Brian Epstein, in offering Bobby Willis a singing contract which he turned down on his future wife, Cilla Black's, insistence. Willis was a backing singer on Cilla Black's "You're My World."

What initially began as an amicable working relationship between the Beatles and James disintegrated by the late 1960s: the Beatles considered that James had betrayed and taken advantage of them when he sold Northern Songs in 1969 without offering the band an opportunity to buy control of the publishing company. James profited handsomely from the sale of Northern Songs, but the Beatles never again had the rights to their own songs.[6]

James entered the Ringo Starr were also signed to Northern Songs as songwriters, but did not renew their contracts in 1968). James's company, Dick James Music, administered Northern Songs.[5]

Switch to publishing


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