Les Vandyke

Biography by

Les Vandyke is one of those rare talents in English pop music whose songwriting success crossed several genres and eras, from the end of the 1950s right into the 1970s. Indeed, he saw more success than…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Les Vandyke is one of those rare talents in English pop music whose songwriting success crossed several genres and eras, from the end of the 1950s right into the 1970s. Indeed, he saw more success than many onlookers realized, working also under the name Johnny Worth and John Worsley -- and none of these was the name he came into the world with. He was born Yani Panakos Paraskeva Skoradalides, on June 21, 1931, in Battersea, South London. As a boy he used the name John Skoradalides and trained as a draughtsman, interrupted by mandatory military service. He resumed civilian life at the start of the 1950s with the goal of becoming a singer, and took the name Johnny Worth. He found work in various pubs, and his breakthrough to a professional career took place when he landed a television appearance on which he was seen by the wife of bandleader Oscar Rabin, who pointed him out to her spouse. He spent five years with the Oscar Rabin Band, in the process recording for the Oriole label, EMI's Columbia imprint, and the Embassy budget label.

He left the Rabin band to join a vocal trio called the Raindrops, with Jackie Lee and Vince Hill, who were fortunate enough to land appearances on the Drumbeat television show. That program starred actor/singer Adam Faith, and its music director was John Barry. He was able to present a song that he'd written entitled "What Do You Want" to the star and music director -- Faith cut the record and got a number one hit out of it in November of 1959; even more impressive, the song stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. All of a sudden, Johnny Worth had a potentially major career in front of him, but to protect his new activities from any immediate interference by the Oriole label, to which he was signed as a singer, he adopted the name Les Vandyke.

And he scored again with Adam Faith in January of 1960 with the number one single "Poor Me." The singer/composer combo scored six more Top Ten hits over the next two years, with "Someone Else's Baby," "How About That," "Who Am I," "The Time Has Come," "As You Like It," and "Don't That Beat All." By that time, he was branching out all over, and was now able to use his Johnny Worth name as well. He collaborated with Ron Grainer on the score for the delinquency drama Some People (1962), and wrote (or co-wrote) the music to half a dozen other features, most of them low-budget exploitation dramas. And he provided singer Eden Kane with the number one single "Well I Ask You," plus two more Top Ten hits, "Get Lost" and "Forget Me Not."

Across the decade, his songs were recorded by pop/rock icon Petula Clark and such varied vocalists as Engelbert Humperdinck and Bobby Vee, plus the Foundations ("Baby, I Couldn't See"); singers from the more serious side of pop music, including Jackie Trent ("I'll Be Near You"), Shirley Bassey ("Does Anybody Miss Me"), Cleo Laine ("Life Is a Wheel"), and Barbra Streisand ("I Can Do It"), recorded his compositions as well. His success continued in the 1970s with the number four single "Jack in the Box" (written as John Worsley) by Clodagh Rodgers. His string of hits faded after "Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse," which became a hit for Jimmy Helms, but as late as 1986, he was back in the Top 20 when his wife Catherine Stock lofted "To Have and to Hold" onto the U.K. charts.