Glyn Geoffrey Ellis, an apprentice telephone engineer, christened himself Wayne Fontana in 1961, borrowing the surname from Elvis Presley‘s drummer (or, perhaps, the Fontana record label to which he would be signed). The group’s lineup was created when a couple of his original band members failed to appear at an audition at the Oasis Club, and Fontana recruited as stand-ins, two musicians who happened to be at the bar, Ric Rothwell and Eric Stewart. They joined Fontana and bass player Bob Lang and the band named itself after a then-popular Dirk Bogarde movie, The Mind Benders.
The group’s first single was a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner,” which met with moderate success. In 1964, Fontana and the Mindbenders had their first big hit with another cover — Major Lance’s “Um Um Um Um Um Um.” It reached number two on the UK charts., The next year, “Game Of Love” became the number one song on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Mindbenders took off on what became a successful US tour. Despite the exposure, their next single, “Just a Little Bit Too Late,” reached only number 45 in the U.S. and number 20 in Britain.
In October 1965, in the middle of a concert, Fontana walked off stage, turning to Stewart as he left and saying, “It’s all yours.” The other band members finished the set and decided to make a go of it themselves.
The Mindbenders first single, minus Fontana, “Groovy Kind of Love,” reach number two in the U.S. The band enjoyed considerable success over the following months – including two more hit singles and an appearance in the movie To Sir With Love. They played the club circuit for a few more years and broke up in 1968.
As a solo, Fontana recorded four singles from 1965 to 1966, including “Pamela Pamela,” which reached Number 11 in the UK. Over the next few decades, he toured the British cabaret circuit and the U.S.
Fast forward to 2005, when Fontana was reportedly having financial problems. When a debt collector paid a visit to his home, Fontana was accused of setting fire to the man’s car. At a hearing in 2007, Fontana showed up at Derby Crown Court dressed as the Lady of Justice, with a sword, scales, crown, cape and dark glasses, claiming “justice is blind”. Fontana was ultimately sentenced to 11 months in jail but was released for time served. He lives in Spain and is still touring.
Where Are They Now?
Eric Stewart went on to form Hotlegs and the band 10cc with songwriter Graham Gouldman.
Bob Lang later joined another rock group, Racing Cars. They had one hit single, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” which reached Number 14 in the UK Singles Chart in 1977.
In the 70’s, Grahame Foote joined “Herman’s Hermits starring Barry Whitwam”.
Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders Video
“The Game of Love,” 1965
Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders Discography
* “The Game of Love” (with Wayne Fontana) – 1965 – UK #1, U.S. #1
* “A Groovy Kind of Love” – 1966 – UK #2, U.S. #2
* “Can’t Live With You (Can’t Live Without You)” – 1966 – UK #28
* “Ashes to Ashes” – 1966 – UK #14, U.S. #44
* “I Want Her, She Wants Me” – 1967
* “It’s Getting Harder All the Time” – 1967
* “The Letter” – 1967 – UK #42
* “School Girl” – 1967
* “We’ll Talk About It Tomorrow” – 1967
* “To Sir, with Love” (Lulu) – 1967
* “Blessed Are The Lonely” – 1968
* “Uncle Joe the Ice Cream Man” – 1968