John Bradford

Summer 1970

John Bradford was the first Wolverhampton man to appear on Top Of The Pops. He first came to local prominence as the lead singer of Brad Ford & Sundowners. He had more success as a member of the Ides Of March. His father Bob was the manager of the group. He left the group for personal reasons and pursued a solo career as John Ford.
He recorded for Phillips from 1968 to 1970. His first record was Two’s Company, Three s A Crowd, part written by Willenhall song-writer Martin Hall. It was credited with being an exceptionally good first solo effort.
In 1969 he released I Know It’s Love which had something of a Tom Jones style about it and sold quite well in local shops. He released three more records as John Ford.
When John Bradford became the first Wolverhampton man to appear on Top Of The Pops, it was as Eli Bonaparte, the name his manager insisted he change to by deed poll.

Arriving at the BBC studio clutching Good Luck telegrams from his family in Penn, he thought “I’ve made it.” And as Tony Blackburn called out Eli Bonaparte, Bradford was sure he’d hit the big time. What he did not realise, however, was that his career had just peaked and was about to go into free-fall.

He could only look on as his former Highfields Secondary Modern classmate Dave Hill made it big with Slade, going on to achieve six No 1 hits, selling more singles in the UK than any other band in the 1970s.

John eventually gave up the music business and now runs his own building maintenance company. But he is swapping his overalls for a stage outfit when he makes a comeback after 20 years with his new band The Sun Kings at the Robin 2 in Bilston on Sunday. Now 62, he had to be coaxed out of retirement by the band’s drummer Eddie Taylor, founder of the Formula 1 rock and roll group, which was made up of personnel from the world’s racing circuit. The Sun Kings also feature bassist Pete Manzini, lead guitarist Terry Guy and pianist Graham Taylor.

Looking back, he wishes he had stayed in a band instead of going solo. For a while he shared a stage with Hill in their fledgling group Brad Ford And The Sundowners.

He can now laugh at the name he went by on the 1970 show. John says:
It was a ridiculous name but it was the era of Engelbert Humperdinck and I did as I was told. All my family and friends, including Dave, were chuffed when I made it on to the programme – it was a big thing round here – but Dave did say ‘You beat me to it’.

I was gutted things didn’t work out. The song, Never An Everyday Thing, was withdrawn from the charts after rumours that it was being hyped to the official chart shops."

Decca F 13047 1970

"Never An Everyday Thing was originally written by Pete Shelley and Ben Finden in 1967. It was recorded by John Bradford in 1970, (FYI, Wayne Fontana previously recorded it in '67.) who took the name Eli Bonaparte. John was from Wolverhampton, and I think the record was produced or promoted by Larry Steinman, who worked on a lot of US radio stations under the name Larry Tremaine. He also was a member of the Sunrays (they had a US hit called "I Live For The Sun". Eli later led a band called T Ford & The Boneshakers, who did two albums, one called "Just Keep It Up" - the other called "Rock Rattle & Roll".

He almost went on to Eurovision fame in 1987 with a song called "What You Gonna Do" which finished fourth in the UK "Song For Europe".
Jim Liddane
International Songwriters Association


Taken from the excellent 2002 online book by Keith Farley. 'N Between Times: An Oral History of the Wolverhampton Group Scene of the 1960s. It's certainly worth a read if you are remotely interested in the 60's Midland Beat scene.


Cees van Dijk said...

He released several singles as JON FORD (not John Ford).
Discography you find here:

Anonymous said...

Where is "Eli" now?, is he still alive and kicking?, l have loved 'Never an everyday thing' since l first heard it and it gets played maybe twice a day in my house. Good Luck to him if he is still with us.

Anonymous said...

Hi, he is still alive and well he is a family member of mine and he still lives in Wolverhampton!

John Pitt said...

That's great to hear, Anon, wish him all the best this Christmas from all at "From Roots To Boots"!