One of the first country singers to appeal to the pop market, Marvin Rainwater topped the British charts for three weeks in 1958 with Whole Lotta Woman, which he wrote himself. Considered risque at the time, the song was banned by several radio stations in his native America, but was surprisingly given air time by the usually conservative BBC.
When he was a boy, his mother took in washing to pay for his piano lessons, but they ended when he lost part of a thumb in machinery he was operating. He switched to guitar instead.
After winning first place on a television talent show, Rainwater was signed by MGM, recorded a duet with Connie Francis, which sold more than a million copies, and wrote a country music standard, Gonna Find Me a Bluebird, which was recorded by more than 100 different singers.
When Rainwater arrived in Britain to make a series of television and concert appearances, including a spot on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, his band parts were lost. He was delighted as 40-piece orchestras did not suit him. He was backed instead by Johnny Duncan and His Blue Grass Boys.
Rainwater’s growing popularity encouraged a young guitarist from Newcastle to change his name from Brian Rankin to Hank Marvin, later to become lead guitarist of the Shadows. But Rainwater failed to consolidate his career once the skiffle craze took hold.
Later, he contracted throat cancer and, although he was cured, his voice was badly damaged. Towards the end, he was living in a caravan on wasteland in Minnesota.
Marvin Rainwater, who was born on July 2, 1925, died on September 17, aged 88.
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