Singer who topped the charts with What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?
Emile Ford (Michael Emile Telford Miller), singer and acoustics engineer, born 16 October 1937; died 11 April 2016
Emile Ford was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, in the West Indies. He was the son of Barbadian politician, Frederick Edward Miller, and Madge Murray, a singer and musical theatre director whose father had founded and conducted the St. Lucia Philharmonic Band. His mother married again, taking the name of Sweetnam; some sources erroneously give Emile Ford’s birth name as Sweetnam or Sweetman.
He teamed up in January 1959 with his half-brother, bassist George Sweetnam-Ford (born 1 January 1941), electric guitarist Ken Street (born 1943) and drummer John Cuffley to form Emile Ford & the Checkmates. The band appeared on the TV programme Sunday Serenade, which ran for six weeks. They won the Soho Fair talent contest in July 1959, but turned down a recording contract with EMI because the company would not allow Ford to produce their records, and instead agreed to a deal with Pye Records. Their first self-produced recording, “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?“, a song originally recorded by Ada Jones and Billy Murray in 1917, went to number one in the UK Singles Chartat the end of 1959 and stayed there for six weeks. Ford was the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a single.
As a sound engineer, Ford was responsible for creating a backing track system for stage shows, first used in 1960, which provided a basis for what became known as karaoke. In 1969, he set up a recording studio in Barbados with the help of his father, before moving to Sweden. While there, he further developed a new open-air playback system for stage shows, patented as the Liveoteque Sound Frequency Feedback Injection System.