The Story of Hank B. Marvin and Beyond

The ’60s’ was a time when pop music was all the rage, and rock was slowly evolving from blues and jazz into something more individualistic. Eventually, we saw the rise and of Rock n’ Roll that is still influencing and shaping lives all across the globe. But nothing beats the classic sounds of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Eric Clapton, and others. But before they all came and changed the way we listened to and experienced music, there was a group of boys from Britain known as The Shadows. While they might have started out as a backup for another legend, they slowly and literally emerged from the shadows to form an image of their own.

There was one member though, who stood out for his geek-chic image, and more importantly for his skill and technique with which he played the guitar. That man was Hank B. Marvin, the lead guitarist, who has been named as a great influence for many mainstream musicians who have succeeded him. Here is a look into the life and success of this legend.
Hank B. Marvin was born on October 28, 1941, in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, United Kingdom as the not-so-jazzy Brian Robson Rankin. As a kid, he had already picked up the banjo (which he bought from his teacher) and played the piano. But watching legend Buddy Holly is what inspired him and egged him on towards guitar (thank you, Holly!). On his 16th birthday, his dad gifted him a Hofner Congress guitar, and from there began the musical journey of this star.

As a youngster, he was nicknamed Hank, to avoid confusion in his friend’s circle, which consisted of other Brians. When he started his career, taking up stage names was all the rage. He too, joined the bandwagon and named himself Hank Marvin, the latter coming from country singer Marvin Rainwater’s name. Hank had stated in an interview, “I love the sound of that name Marvin, it sounds good.” Eventually, he and fellow performer Cliff Richard both legally changed their names with a deed poll.

When he was 16, he left home for London with his school friend Bruce Welch. He had hoped to play music, and get recognized and signed, which is why they ended up at Soho’s “2i’s Coffee Bar”, which was known to host many talents (including Cliff Richard, with whom he later created many hits). As luck would have it, Richard’s manager, Johnny Foster, was at the bar in search of guitarist Tony Sheridan to be a part of Richard’s backup band, The Drifters, but instead he encountered Hank, who impressed him so much that Foster asked him to be a part of the backup band. Marvin promised on the condition that his friend Welch also be taken as a part of the team. And this is where the success story for both Cliff Richard and what we now know as The Shadows, took roots. He had played for some other bands like The Vipers, The Railroaders, The Crescent City Skiffle Group, and The Five Chesternuts. But his music journey had truly launched when he was signed on by Foster.