Just as The Beatles were releasing their new "White Album" in late 1968, Mrs. Mills was touring Canada and the USA with several other acts from the British Isles. All of this ... an extravaganza ... under the banner "The Greatest British Variety Show".
The acts included David Whitfield, Billy Dainty, The Taitums, Billy Meek and Anne Shelton. These artists were also supported by The Carlton Showband as well as by Ken Stanley And His Orchestra.
This was Mrs. Mills one and only tour of North America to my knowledge ... and what a thrill it must have been for "Gladys" to get across the pond and see just how many fans she had.
Mrs. Mills had sold thousands of Capitol 6000 Series LPs during the 1960s and had quite a following in Canada that included many British ex-pats.
The tour dates included the major cities across Canada as well as some cool USA dates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. What a gas it would have been to see Mrs. Mills and her piano in live performance !
Mrs. Mills was very well known in England and recorded many albums with her distinctive Honky Tonk Piano sound. So distinctive was it that the piano she always used at Abbey Road Studios was renamed "the Mrs Mills piano" amongst the personnel. It was used on many late Beatles recordings and is still used today!
This piano was a 1905 Steinway Vertegrand piano (an upright piano). It was built at the Hamburg Steinway factory and was shipped to London in 1905. Abbey Road apparently payed £404 for the instrument in 1953, a lot of money then. The piano then still had a "normal" piano sound, and only in the late 50s did sound engineer Stuart Eltham have the piano modified by a Steinway technician to achieve an older sound. The felt hammers were hardened with lacquer in order for them to emulate the sound of a tack piano.
This piano was used on a lot of Beatles sessions starting in their "middle period". It can be heard prominently on Penny Lane (track 2 of the 4 track tape on take 6), With A little Help From My Friends (track 1 of the 4 track tape on take 10), The Fool on The Hill (overdubs on track 4 of the 4 track tape on take 5) and the end of Tomorrow Never Knows (on track 3 of the 4 track tape)
Actually, although many speculated that Lady Madonna featured this piano, it turned out it wasn't. Performance tests pointed towards the "Steinway Grand Piano" with Heavy Compression and EQ.
For extensive details on the Mrs Mills piano and other studio equipement used during Beatles sessions, please read the hard work of Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew called "Recording The Beatles" HERE
Mrs Mills reached the climax of her fame around the same time The Beatles did. She was originally recruited by a talent scout, and had made a name for herself by 1962. She was then signed to a management contract by the same person who managed The Dave Clark Five and The Rolling Stones (Eric Easton). She was then signed to Parlophone, and therefore was issued on the Capitol 6000 Series in Canada. Her work consisted of Honky Tonk piano versions of standard British and international hits as well as covers of contemporary hits.
Mrs. Mills was so popular in Canada that she toured across Canada (with her family in tow! ) in the late 1960s. She must have been so surprised by her popularity and success in Canada. In the 1960s in Canada, her records sold in quantities that neared the popularity of Herb Alpert. That is why you come across so many copies of her LPs in the used record shops and bargain bins at the charity shops across Canada nowadays. She was a big seller for Capitol records Of Canada during the 1960s and many of her LPs were re-issued in the 1970s. God Bless her!
Mrs Mills died on February 24, 1978.
For a detailed discography, visit the article page through the menu or simply click HERE.
Another very nice copy of the Canadian Let It Be Box Set (SOAL 6351) sold for a price of USD 113$.
The box set was also complete with the book and the tray but sold for a bit less this time.
Other noteworthy sales this week were Capitol 72159 Do You Want To Know A Secret that sold for 60$, George Martin's Ringo's Theme on the red UA label with silver bars (49$) and finally the error pressing of Apple single 2654 with Come Together on the A-side sold for a meagre 35$.
Following on from the tragic events of Friday we would like to send out a very special message of condolence and concern for our Japanese friends and send very special thoughts of peace for those in northern Japan affected by this terrible earthquake. Japan has always had many Beatles fans from the outset in the 1960s and is home to some of the world's very best and most knowledgeable record collectors. HEIWA / PEACE.
A very nice copy of the Canadian Let It Be Box Set (SOAL 6351) sold for a price of USD 510$.
The box set was complete with the book and mostly the tray which was intact. This tray is often in a very poor condition, or simply missing from the box sets because they are easy to damage. The disc was Compo pressed while the jacket was the version without the white frames around the back pictures and with the smaller "Manufactured in Canada" notice at the bottom.
PETER AND GORDON
Woman / Wrong From The Start
This 45 was pressed by Compo in Cornwall Ontario in January 1966. The duo of Peter Asher and Gordon Waller had scored a few hits with Lennon-McCartney songs that had been given to them, notably Capitol 5175 "A World Without Love" (April 1964), Capitol 5211 "Nobody I Know" (June 1964) and Capitol 5272 "I Don't Want To See You Again" (September 1964). Peter And Gordon had released a few records in 1965 but nothing had clicked for them.
Paul McCartney had been living with the Asher family in London in 1965 and knew Peter well. For this next release it was decided that Paul would use the pseudonym "Bernard Webb" to see if he could give them a hit record without the public knowing there was any Beatles connection.
Well the trick worked for a while until people found out that "Woman" had in fact been written for them by Paul. Needless to say the record zoomed up the charts in Canada before anyone knew the true story. No label changes were made by Capitol in Canada .. and this is the version that was sold in Canada with Bernard Webb as the writer !
Another version exists with different credits that lists the A side writer as "A.Smith" instead of "Bernard Webb". It's Canadian and likely a first issue. It looks identical in every way to the Bernard Webb version other than the writer credit. Any information on this different pressing would be appreciated.
If you have a cool original Beatles-related record from the 1960s you would like to share please send it along via email to email@example.com and we will do our best to feature it on this page.