Wayne Fontana

Wayne Fontana Loses Fight with Cancer aged 74

by Geoff Ford

Wayne Fontana, one of the early pioneers of the Manchester music scene in the sixties, has lost his fight with cancer and passed away at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, on 6th August aged 74. His long term partner was by his side said a statement from Mr Fontana’s agent, adding that the family ask for privacy at this time.

Wayne Fontana was born Glyn Geoffrey Ellis in Levenshulme, Manchester and formed his first group The Jets in 1961.  Fontana’s stage name was taken from Elvis Presley’s drummer DJ Fontana. In 1963 he reformed, and renamed the group The Mindbenders, with Bob Lang, Ric Rothwell and Eric Stewart who later found fame in 10cc.

Following the breakthrough by the Merseybeat groups, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders quickly gained a huge following at clubs across the north of England. As the recording industry cast their gaze towards the North, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders the band secured a recording contract with Fontana Records, one of the first groups to do so from the burgeoning Manchester music scene. In 1964 they scored their first Top 40 hit with Stop Look And Listen (No 37) before hitting Number 5 with a cover of Major Lance’s Um Um Um Um Um Um.

The follow-up Game Of Love made Number 2 in the UK charts and gave them a US Number 1 the following year. However, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders were unable to repeat this success and Fontana left the band to follow a solo career.

His biggest solo success came in 1967 with the Graham Gouldman composition Pamela Pamela which charted at Number 11. Fontana was also one of the first to perform at the Glastonbury Festival, in 1970.

After a period away from the music business, Wayne Fontana returned on the 60s revival circuit and became a regular performer, for many seasons, alongside Gerry And The Pacemakers on the hugely popular Solid Silver 60s Show.