Reading the obit section of the Times, I was saddened to read of the passing of songwriter Peter Callander as 44 years ago we met him on a family holiday in Rhodes. He was the sort of fellow you would want to meet on holiday: jovial, fun loving and generous. In that half-hearted way one does post-holiday to preserve a friendship made, my parents invited him to the cocktail party they would give on their wedding anniversary (October 8) but after that I never saw him again. He had a wife called Connie and a son Jason of which he was unduly proud.
On meeting him, I would have put him down as a businessman with a few car dealerships in Essex, as he had a prosperous successful air about him. Word went round the hotel that in fact he had written the lyrics of The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde and many others, with his partner Mitch Murray supplying the music. The only thing I can remember is asking him if anyone ever sent him a decent tune to which he replied “Never”. I could not imagine where you start to compose a song. The obituary said he and Mitch Murray would drink brandy, hang out and then a tune and words would come. They were a partnership that Murray likens to a marriage, rather a successful one, as The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace sold 2 million though Mayor Daley loathed it. He wrote I Did What I did for Maria for Tony Christie, who was a big star of the early 70s. Peter said he had been around for ages not doing too much but then got his break.
Peter wrote hits for Cliff Richard, the Tremeloes, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black. He had a successful record label, Bus Stop Records. A man who enjoyed life and must have had many of its pleasures and temptations thrown his way stayed married to Connie. Jason, no more than toddler in 1970, became a teacher. I recall him, at their cocktail party, talking to friend of my parents who made a fortune in jeans. The man flew his own plane and Peter told him witha chortle to keep his joystick up. The obituary said that Mitch Murray had a keener sense of fun and was a practical joker, once saying on radio that Peter was in a rest home (which did not sound that funny to me) but I recall Peter as a man with great joie de vivre. Since he died aged 74 of a heart attack, he was 30 when we met him, but already a established and successful lyricist. The 60s and 70s was his era, but he set up the Society of Distinguished Songwriters (SODS), which was a fun loving freemasonry of the best lyricists including Sir Tim Rice, which held great sway over the music industry. To do what you enjoy, do it well and lucratively, and bring joy to others must be as good a life as you get.