(Shown from L-R: Rick Huxley, Lenny Davidson, Denis Payton,
Mike Smith and Dave Clark)
1943 to 2006
1943 to 2008
By Nola Leone
(with Katharine Blossom Lowrie)
R&R Hall of Fame Too Late for Two of the DC5
Back in the mid-60s, the first thing I noticed about the Dave Clark Five was how damn good-looking they were. And such gentlemen! Unlike most groups who wore rebelliousness and bad behavior like a badge of honor, the “DC5,” as they were dubbed in fan shorthand, were well mannered, bright, funny, respectful and fun. In their trademark blazers, coordinated slacks and black boots, Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Denis Payton, Rick Huxley and Lenny Davidson were the complete package: good looks, talent and class. Thrilled to act as one of their publicists from 1965-70, I saw them as British knights in shining armor come to conquer America.
Influenced by everyone from Elvis Presley to Little Richard to Ray Charles, the DC5 became rock royalty, part of “The British Invasion” that included the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Unlike the latter two bands, however, the Dave Clark Five were endlessly passed over for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an oversight protested by music professionals and fans, particularly after they stalled in the 2006 and 2007 semifinals. Eligible since 1989 (25 years after their first US recording), the DC5 were finally inducted in a moving ceremony on March 10, 2008 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Longtime admirer Tom Hanks did the honors.
Two were missing
For those attending the event, the long overdue tribute was deeply emotional and bittersweet. Of the original five band mates, two were missing: Denis Payton and Mike Smith. Payton, whose gritty saxophone contributed to the DC5’s distinctive sound, succumbed to cancer in 2006. And Smith, the sexy, soulful lead singer and flamboyant keyboardist, passed away only two weeks before the ceremony due to respiratory complications from a spinal cord injury suffered in 2003.
Their music, like the group from North London that created it, was thrilling, powerful, and invigorating-a positive, joyful force, especially to those going through adolescence during the turbulent era following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hits like “Glad All Over.” “Bits and Pieces,” “Because” and “Over And Over” soared to the top of the charts.
100 million records worldwide
Like the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five became famous in the U.S. after a single appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Aside from the Fab Four from Liverpool, no other rock group came close to their hit-making prowess. Between 1964 and 1966-aside from appearing on Ed Sullivan (shown in photo above) an astonishing 18 times-the DC5 placed 15 consecutive singles in the Top 40 and sold out six coast-to-coast tours, including 12 shows at Carnegie Hall in three days. In 1970, when leader Dave Clark decided to call it quits while the DC5 were still “at the top” of their game, the band had generated 30 hit singles and sold over 100 million records worldwide.
On March 10th, backed by film clips of live performances, the three surviving DC5 members-drummer Dave Clark, guitarist Lenny Davidson and bassist Rick Huxley-took the stage at the Waldorf-Astoria for the Rock and Roll honor so long denied. The two missing band mates, Mike Smith and Denis Payton, were very much present in spirit. So much so that Clark, Davidson, Huxley and many in the audience were brought to tears when the Dave Clark Five was officially inducted into rock immortality.
The true product was joy…unparalleled joy
In a rousing introduction, Tom Hanks recalled how music, more than anything in his life, had transformed his early years in a drab, rented apartment in Southern California, especially when he heard the DC5 punching through the small speaker on his sister’s clock radio. Besotted with the fellows from Tottenham, Hanks flipped feverishly through pages of songs on jukeboxes to find “I Like It Like That” and other DC5 hits and treated Sunday nights watching Ed Sullivan like a religious experience.
“The true product was joy,” Hanks said about the spirited blend of drums, sax, keyboard, guitar and vocals that had him yelling to his father to turn up the volume on the car radio. “Unparalleled joy!”
Formed for the fun of playing the music
In accepting the Hall of Fame trophy, Dave Clark (next to Tom Hanks in the AP photo above) said he felt lucky to meet four guys who all had the same interests and goals in life. (Rick Huxley and Lenny Davidson are also pictured.) “The DC5 was originally formed for the fun of playing the music we all enjoyed,” Clark told the audience. “Each of the boys had his own special talent but the combination is what really made it work. It was not just The Dave Clark Five: it was Mike, Denis, Rick, Lenny and Dave. It was the five individual talents that made the DC5 so successful…I just happened to be the guy at the front.” Clark asked the audience to applaud “so they know they are still part our lives.”
“At least Mike knew he was a Hall of Famer,” said Clark, who had spent the previous Sunday at Smith’s home watching their beloved Tottenham Hotspur soccer team. “Mike was thrilled,” Clark said, and had been preparing to attend the event with his wife Charlie when he contracted pneumonia. Clark also introduced Denis Payton’s sons, Lee and Scott, and said how “proud” their father was of them.
Two lonely trophies
Denis and Mike’s absence was even more poignant for me following the televised ceremony. As the inductees, including Madonna, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen and The Ventures, celebrated with awards in hand, I noticed two lonely trophies sitting on the table. I read the name engraved on each one-Mike Smith . . . Denis Payton. Reality set in. They were no longer with us. In the midst of all the gaiety, I missed my friends more than ever.
Mike Smith (far left in photo below) was the ‘Dennis the Menace’ of the group, more the mischievous type than a troublemaker. He had a roguish twinkle in his eyes and an impish, crooked smile-you always knew he was up to something. And what a voice. One of the best rock singers ever.
Like Dave Clark, Denis Payton (in dotted shirt) was classically handsome. He appeared shy and vulnerable, but he actually had a lot to say and a quick wit. Warm, dark eyes and that cleft in his chin-what girl could resist?
Both men left us way too soon, Denis at 63, Mike at 64. Denis after a long bout with cancer; Mike following the freak accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down the last five years of his life. Prior to his own misfortune, Mike lost his only son, Jamie, in a diving accident.
Denis Payton and Mike Smith will be missed but never forgotten. They exhibited courage and strength of spirit in dealing with illnesses and tragedy when lesser souls would not have exhibited such bravery. As I observed four decades earlier, through the entire journey they were indeed a class act-gentle men to the end.
Editor’s Note: Nola Leone, president of Ace Music Services in Los Angeles, was a publicist for the DC5 during the 1960s and still acts as a licensing agent for group’s recordings for TV, films and commercials. (Katharine Lowrie contributed to this report.)