It was clear from an early age
that Justin Hayward would
carve out a career as a musician and singer, but few who heard him sing in
the choir at St Saviour's Church, Swindon in the 1950s could have guessed
that he would lead one of the world's most famous 'supergroups'.
Born in Dean Street, Swindon,
on 14 October 1946, Justin was the son of two teachers. He went to Shrivenham
Primary School and then on to Commonweal, but was already an accomplished
musician when he left school
at the age of sixteen.
It was at Commonweal that he acquired his nickname, 'Legs', which was to stay
with him during his most successful years with The Moody Blues. "I was
tall for my age and I could run, so they called me 'Legs'," he recalled.
He could run fast, too, and won the South West County Championships for the
But music was his true vocation,
as became apparent at the tender age of ten when he formed a skiffle group
called The Riversiders. He had to wait another three years for his first real
taste of showbusiness, however, which came while he was on holiday at Lyme
Regis. He volunteered to be an emergency accompanist for a musical called
Boy in the Blues Jeans, and ended up staying for the rest of the summer.
Back in Swindon, he became a member of The Rebels, who later changed their
name to The Off-Beats. He was also in Swindon bands The Whispers, All Things
Bright and The Shots and for 18 months worked as a trainee salesman for the
local building firm, Bradley's.
His first big break in the music industry came from an association with established
pop star Marty Wilde. On 8 April, 1966, Justin played alongside Wilde in a
televised charity show at the London Palladium and within a month jetted off
on a Forces entertainment tour as part of the Marty Wilde trio - Wilde's wife,
Joyce Baker, completing the line-up.
But while Wilde's career was on
a downward path, Justin was a rising star. He left Swindon to move to London
and it was there that he joined the Moody Blues in 1966 (he actually learnt
that he'd secured the lead singer role while looking at guitars in Duck, Son
& Pinker in Fleet Street, Swindon).
The group had already scored a number one hit at the first attempt, Go Now
reaching the top in early 1965. But they had failed to make the top twenty
on three subsequent releases and times were not easy for Justin in those early
days with the band. He had to turn to his father to pay for his instruments
when the money ran thin.
But they were ready to bounce back, thanks to Justin's input as a songwriter.
Although Go Now and the 1970 hit,
Question, which made number two, are their most successful singles, Nights
in White Satin is probably their best-remembered song and was a top twenty
hit three times, though strangely for such a well known song, it never went
higher than number nine in the charts. Justin wrote the song while living
in a flat in Bayswater.
Another hit, Tuesday Afternoon, was inspired by Lydiard Park, a place he loved
as a boy. "I really liked it. There is an ambiance about it," he
later recalled, explaining that he wrote the song on a visit to the park with
his dog, called Tuesday.
The group's success in the singles charts never matched their status as one
of the most highly-respected bands of the era. The Moody Blues were always
guaranteed to perform better in the album charts - chalking up a string of
six consecutive top-five hits between 1968 and 1972. They had also built a
reputation as an accomplished live band, and performed at the famous Isle
of Wight Festival in 1969.
Ironically, it was as a soloist
that Justin scored his biggest hit single, Forever Autumn. The song reached
number five in the British charts in 1978 and the album it was taken from,
Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, went on to be a multi-million seller worldwide.
The Moody Blues proved to be one of the most enduring groups of the Sixties
and are still playing to packed houses when they do rarely embark on a tour
- a fact that would have surprised the young Justin as he was growing up in
Swindon. After being cornered by Michael Aspel on This Is Your Life in March,
1997, he admitted: "I started playing in a band at 14. If you'd told
me then I'd still be doing it at 50, I'd have said no way - I'd be over the
hill. But rockers go on forever now."
Today, he lives most of the year in the South of France with Marie, his wife
of over 30 years. Their daughter, Doremi, is a model and TV presenter.
But Justin Hayward still remembers his Swindon days with affection, and has
returned in recent years to help fundraising for a number of causes.
They have included his memorable gig in 1991 in aid of the Gerry Drewett Cancer
Fund, called the 'Moody Blue Bop', and his most recent appearance at the Apartment
in 2005 for Children in Need.