Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum • 'Data on the men, the music'

17 June 1967 • Melody Maker

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Who are the Procol Harum – the group that rocked the world with one enormous first-time hit A Whiter Shade of Pale? They confounded the ‘experts’ who said that all groups were finished. But Britain’s number one group are a mystery to the general public. Only singer Gary Brooker, with Chinese robes and moustache, is beginning to emerge as the identifiable one. The sheer speed of their dash to the top of the MM Pop 30 by the fastest-selling single in the history of Decca Records took the image makers and star builders totally unawares. NOW – here is a Melody Maker Procolgraph – bringing you instant Harum Facts, plus a rapid word picture of each member of the group by their recording manager Denny Cordell.

Says Denny, ‘Their music is stimulating intellectually as well as emotionally. It’s pretty introvert music and defiitely not for leaping about. They are mood makers and should be listened to whilst stoned out of your mind at 3 am’.

Gary Brooker
Lead singer, piano. Also plays organ, trombone, cornet and accordion. Born in Hackney, London, on May 29 1945. Was lead singer with The Paramounts until they broke up in September 1966, when he decided to take a rest from the music business and endless one-night stands. Met Keith Reid, who had written the words for A Whiter Shade of Pale, and they started writing songs together. They advertised for musicians and formed Procol Harum. Made a demo which they took to Denny Cordell and which led to a recording contract with Deram. Gary lists his favourite musicians as Buddy Guy, Lonnie Mack, and Roland Kirk and his musical tastes as Baroque, New Orleans Jazz and Bob Dylan.

Says Denny Cordell: Gary is a very solid guy and very talented. He’s calm about success because he’s quite hard and has been around for some time. He likes quality and has a very beautiful girlfriend. One of those people who looks into his own mind, he’s very much impressed with China. Gary thinks If I Were a Rich Man by Topol is the best record in the chart, by the way!


Mathew [sic] Fisher
Organ. Also plays bass, guitar and piano. Born in Croydon, Surrey, on July 3 [sic] 1946, he studied at London’s famous Guildhall School of Music. The last to join Procol Harum, he has been working with Lord Sutch’s backing group and it took the others two months to persuade him to join. Now describes the group as the one ‘I had almost given up hope of ever finding.’ He put the organ variations on Bach’s Air on a G String into A Whiter Shade of Pale. Says his biggest influences are Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Jimmy Smith. His favourite artists include The Beatles, Stones, Small Faces and Jimi Hendrix. His tastes in music range from Bach to rock’n’roll.

Says Denny: Mathew [sic] is the kind of musical genius of the group. A beautiful player and very introvert. Musical humour makes him laugh, but he is very unemotional, except in his playing which has a lot of soul. Very shy, and quite uptight for the first few meetings.


Ray Royer
Lead guitar. Also plays violin. Born in Islington, London, on October 8 1845. Ray answered and advert from Gary and Keith Reid and was picked to join Procol Harum after an audition. The reticent member of the group, he admits a liking for the avant-garde jazz of the Albert Ayler group. He claims to have no particular musical preferences but names Gary and Keith and his favourite composers. He is a self-taught musician  who, like the other members of the group, believes passionately in what they are trying to do.

Says Denny: a kind of schizophrenic. One day he's in the studio and he can’t play a note. You just have to leave him alone on his off days, then he does the whole thing right. When Jimi Hendrix saw him play at the Speakeasy he jumped up and wanted to play bass guitar behind him. Ray plays block chords style – not fours, but in the picking style.


Dave Knights
Bass guitar. Also plays lead guitar. Born in Islington, London, on June 28 1945, and is a self-taught musician. Like Ray, he was one of a number of musicians who auditioned for Gary Brooker and Keith Reid when they decided to form Procol Harum. Has wide musical tastes and lists his favourite groups as The Who, Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix Experience. His favourite composers are Lennon and McCartney and Gary is currently his favourite singer. Dave says his biggest break was meeting Keith Reid. His ambition is just to remain with Procol Harum.

Says Denny: He’s astounding! He never moves but just stands there and plays in his black frock coat and looking for all the world like an undertaker’s assistant. Very solid.



Bobby Harrison
Drums. Also plays vibes. Born in East Ham, London, on June 28 1945. He as lead singer with the Power Pack and asked Gary Brooker to join them. Gary played him some tapes and he agreed to join Procol Harum instead, as drummer. Names Buddy Rich as his biggest influence and Rich and Duke Ellington as his favourite artists, Ellington is also his favourite composer. His favourite group – Procol Harum, which he describes as ‘the thing I have been looking for for the last four years.’ Is self-taught on drums and vibes.

Says Denny: A real East End kid raving around, enjoying a drink and messing with all the chicks. Like Dave he makes the gig. The three real individuals are the front line. They are all good friends together – or they were the last time I saw them. They probably hate the sight of each other by now!

Procol history

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