Peter Cowap

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Peter Cowap was one of the more successful guitarist-songwriters to come out of Manchester, England. Born in Middleton, he reached his teens as rock & roll was starting to get a hold on British youth,…
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Peter Cowap was one of the more successful guitarist-songwriters to come out of Manchester, England. Born in Middleton, he reached his teens as rock & roll was starting to get a hold on British youth, and at age 15, he was already prepared to turn professional. He later toured in bands supporting Marty Wilde and Joe Brown, in addition to playing with two Manchester-based groups, the Tremors and Jimmy Justice's band. In the early 1960s, he organized the Country Gentlemen, an R&B-based trio that also included Nick Duval (bass) and Leo Larty (drums). They were successful enough to tour Germany, and in late 1963 were signed to Decca Records, through which they released a single of "Greensleeves" b/w "Baby Jean." Cowap arranged the A-side, a rock & roll adaptation of the Tudor-era song. Although his writing and arranging would become bigger parts of his career from the mid-'60s onward, at that time it was his playing -- which has been described as a combination of Buddy Holly's and Chet Atkins' styles -- that was getting increasingly recognized. The group eventually became a quartet with the addition of guitarist Terry Morton, and future Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders' bassist Rod Clare also passed through the Country Gentlemen before they broke up in the mid-'60s. By that time, Cowap was writing songs and also beginning to work as an arranger, and starting a long working relationship with Graham Gouldman, a member of the Mockingbirds who had already embarked on a highly successful songwriting career. Cowap's music, composed alone or in collaboration with Gouldman and others, soon began turning up on the recordings of the Measles, the Downliners Sect, ex-Searchers lead singer/bassist Tony Jackson, and Wayne Fontana in England, and even provided an A-side for the debut recording by the New York-based pop-soul-folk outfit the Pop Art, in the form of the song "Rumpelstiltzkin." When Gouldman left the Mockingbirds in 1966, he formed a group called High Society, with Cowap in the lineup. After one attempt at a hit single, that group fell by the wayside, and Gouldman and Cowap soon reappeared as part of the Manchester Mob, a more rock & roll-oriented outfit whose sound was filled out by the playing of Clem Cattini on the drums and John Paul Jones on bass. Cowap had also played and sung on recordings by Herman's Hermits from 1965 onward, and his songwriting credit also turned up on a pair of songs, "Last Bus Home" and "Ace, King, Queen, Jack." from Blaze, the most serious and ambitious album ever issued by the group.

In 1970, Cowap was signed to a contract as a solo artist in his own right, and he cut records for the Pye label. starting with "Crickets," released in August of 1970. He released three singles through Pye, none of which charted, and then, in 1971, his career took another unexpected turn when he was recruited as a replacement/successor for Herman's Hermits' lead singer Peter Noone, following the latter's exit from the band. This led to some new recordings produced by Eric Stewart at Strawberry Studios, including a complete LP of new material, heavily featuring Cowap's songs. He left the Hermits almost two years later, and formed a band called Grumble, but they didn't succeed or last. From the mid-'70s onward, Cowap pursued a solo career. He passed away in 1997, but retains a loyal following among fans of the broader Manchester-spawned output of Graham Gouldman and 10cc, as well as Herman's Hermits.