He sang lead with a five man group group called The Fascinators, and sang solo accompanying himself on guitar. In 1957 he made his television debut on the armed forces network in Germany, the same network on which Elvis Presley would appear a year later. Upon leaving the service in 1958, he put an act together with some of the other street corner crooners of his teen years playing local clubs and nighthalls. By 1959 he had gained a reputation for his stage performance and had recorded a couple of demos of his own material, acquiring some radio play. This led to his signing with Aaron Schroeder, who had just founded Musicor Records with then United Artists president, Art Talmedge.
He along with Aaron, Wally Gold and Al Kooper were house writers for January Music. Predictably, Jim's first record appeared on the Musicor label. "Twist Calypso" was designed to capitalize on the West Indian sound sparked by Harry Belafonte's 1956 "Calypso" album. Both sides of the record were written by Jim and Phil Stern, his longest song writing partner. Their collaborations lasted until 1970 when they wrote "Everybody Needs Love" for the Harlem Globertrotters. One of the co-writers' names most often seen next to Jim's was Carl Spencer.
Among the duo's compositions were "This time tomorrow", recorded by Tammy Montgomery (Terrell), and "Deep in the heart of Harlem", a Billboard R&B hit for both Walter Jackson and Clyde McPhatter. The ex-Drifter McPhatter recorded five of Jim's songs on his 1964 "Songs of the big city" album. The tracks were "My block", "A suburban town", "Three rooms with running water", "Coney Island" and "Deep in the heart of Harlem". "My Block" had been a #67 chart entry on Billboard's Hot 100 a year earlier for the Chiffons, recording as the Four Pennies. One of the most recognised of Jim's writing partners was Joey Brooks.
Between 1963 and 1965 they wrote "My Ship Is Comin' In", a radio hit in the UK for Jim in 1965. The white cover version by the Walker Brothers was a #3 pop hit in December 1965. Aside from recording his own songs, Jim would often do disc directions in demo form for other publishers. He was able to be given a song and create the vocal presentation that would best suit a specific artist. This is most evident in the case of the Ray Charles version of the Radcliffe-Scott tune, "Show me the sunshine".
In another instance Jim made a demo of the Gordon Mills-penned "It's not unusual", which went on to become a #1 pop hit for Tom Jones. Jim's demo and Tom Jones' hit sounded exactly the same vocally, even down to the accenting on certain words. Jim would also do some sessions as a back-up singer. Most notable are the Drifters' sessions he recorded with the Sweet Inspirations.
These sessions brought Dionne Warwick together with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Jimmy together with Dee Dee Warwick andCissy Houston. Jim liked their sound so much, he used them on his 1963 Musicor release, "Through a long and sleepless night", which was produced by Bert Berns. Berns also produced his 1964 release, "Long after tonight is all over", backed once again by the Sweet Inspirations. This Bacharach and David number was originally recorded by Jim as a demo for label mate Gene Pitney, but on hearing Jim's demo Musicor issued the record on him.
Issued in the UK on the Stateside label, it was a #40 pop hit in February 1965. In 1966 Jim moved into the field of advertising, both writing and performing jingles. By the time of his death, he had worked on over 200 TV and radio commercials and was recognized as one of the top performers in that field. Steve Karmen remembers Jim in the advertising industry: "Typically, Jim would be called to come to the studio at a designated time, in most cases not even being told the name of the product he was to sing about, then be given about five minutes to learn a song that he had never seen before that moment, and was then expected to deliver the "soul" version of the commericial". Jim's best known commercial was for the 1969-70 Pontiac, "breakaway in a wide tracking Pontiac". The 30-second commercial was expanded for general release to try to capitalize on its popularity.
It was released as "Breakaway", by the Steve Karmen Big Band, featuring Jimmy Radcliffe. As Karmen recalls, "unfortunately jingles that are written to work in 30 seconds are not easily expanded into record length without the addition of some other piece of creative material. In the case of Pontiac I had stretched the middle section hoping to keep it completely instrumental with no vocals at all. During the wrap up, all the singers would enter and Jim would provide the "ad lib" fills to inspire America to recall the commercial and then rush out and buy Pontiacs.
At the session, my client asked Jim is he could ad lib something over the middle section about what it would feel like to be free, or to be set free or to break away. What you hear is his first and only ad lib reading. After he had finished, completely bowling over everyone in the booth, my client was seized with the desire to script and improve upon Jim's ad lib. But of course, the performance we used was the first one, because it was the best and the most honest". 1969 saw Jim signing with RCA and releasing a single, "Funky Bottom Congregation", that year.
It was also the year Jim started working with a newly signed RCA artist, Carolyn Franklin. The third Franklin sister to get a recording contract. Carolyn's first two RCA albums were produced by Jim. He also contributed a song to each -"More than ever before" on the Baby Dynamite album from 1969, and "Right on" from the Chain Reaction album in 1970.
Jim and Carolyn also collaborated on a number of projects aside from Carolyn's albums, including writing the track, "Pullin'" for Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the dark" album. At this time Jim had decided to control his weight. For most of his life he was heavy set. He was also suffering from high blood pressure due to dietary intake. It was a sometimes opinion that one of the reasons Jim's career as a performing artist didn't come to fruition was his weight.
Jim was hospitalized with high blood pressure, which was causing a major strain on his kidneys. This strain evetually led to the removal of one of his kidneys, and to his being put on dialysis once a day. In the following months he suffered a minor stroke and lost the sight in his left eye. Over the ensuing months, the amount of time that Jim spent on dialysis increased from once a day for an hour to three or four times. Although it had become more and more difficult to work, Jim took on another project in early 1973 -Carolyn Franklin's third album, titled after his "Darling I'd rather be lonely" tune.
From the onset, Jim had problems with RCA over the money he was spending on the production and he was eventually replaced by Wade Marcus, who had worked on Carolyn's "Chain Reaction" album. By this time Jim's health had deteriorated more, with his remaining kidney failing. This caused him to spend most of the day on dialysis while waiting for a transplant. Carolyn's album was still in production, with neither Carolyn nor RCA happy with the way it was shaping up.
So they decided to rehire Jim to complete the project. He managed to complete the A-side of the album before his condition took a turn for the worse. He entered the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx on July 2, 1973. Twenty-five days later on July 27, 1973, James Radcliffe died of natural causes at the age of 36.
He was interred at the Long Island National Cemetery on August 2, leaving to mourn his wife Judy and two sons, Christopher and William. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
show me more