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Former EMI exec dies

Former EMI exec dies

Lanza, one of the record industry's most colourful characters, spent more than two decades at EMI, working under a succession of chairmen and managing directors, including Sir Joseph Lockwood, L G Wood, Ken East, Leslie Hill, Cliff Busby and Gerry Oord.

Lanza started his career as a classical violinist, working in the orchestra for several West End shows back in the Fifties. After a stint working for HMV's then-flagship store in London's Oxford Street, he moved to EMI Records where he was involved in some of the biggest hit records of the era.

As head of MOR, Lanza was directly involved with many number one hits, including Benny Hill's Ernie, Whispering Grass by Don Estelle and Windsor Davis, Eye Level (theme from the popular TV series Van Der Valk) and The Wurzels' The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key).

Other major hits included Baltimora's Tarzan Boy (number three in 1985), Patsy Gallant's From New York To LA (number six in 1977), and Welsh singer Iris Williams' Top 20 hit He Was Beautiful.

Lanza also signed North of England band Black Lace, who were the UK's entrants in the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest, held in Israel.

Although many of these hits were considered to be novelty items, Lanza's astute ear for a hit record ensured that the MOR division became one of the most profitable of EMI Records' various operations.

On the albums side, Lanza looked after names like Matt Monro, Ken Dodd, Roger Whittaker and Dame Vera Lynn.

He signed Max Boyce, a Welsh comedian who was virtually unknown outside of the principality, and Boyce's debut album Live At Treorchy remained in the charts for 32 weeks, while the follow up, We All Had Doctors' Papers, reached number one. Boyce went on to have a further five chart albums.

Other unlikely successes included Liverpool folk group The Spinners, who had a Top 40 album success in 1972.

Lanza also signed the Cambridge outfit The Kings Singers and the Treorchy Male Voice Choir from Wales, and they also enjoyed substantial album success.

West country poet Pam Ayres, a several times winner of the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, and popular TV and radio drag duo Hinge & Brackett were other signings to EMI made by Lanza.

He also signed up the cast recordings for several West End hit musicals, most notably Me And My Girl, which ran for several years.

Kay O'Dwyer, another music industry veteran who was director of business development at EMI Music Publishing for many years, says, "Vic Lanza was always the most helpful person, and a delight to work with. He actually listened to music publishers' songs, and had time for everyone.

"Vic was always professional and helpful in his approach, and was hugely popular within EMI Records and the record industry generally," she adds.

EMI Music UK VP catalogue international Mike Heatley adds, "Vic lead EMI's prestigious MOR department from the early 70s through the mid-80s, clocking up multiple Top 10 and No.1 singles and albums during his tenure. As well as possessing a boundless enthusiasm, Vic had an unbeatable finely tuned ear for a hit and was a popular colleague and friend."

Lanza's funeral will be held at West London Crematorium on Thursday January 31 at 130pm.

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