Listen to “Telstar” by the Tornados – the First Single by a British Band to Go Number One in America

Joe Meek and the Tornadoes pictured at Meek's London studio in the early '60s
L-R: guitarist George Bellamy, keyboardist Roger LaVern, drummer Clem Cattini, producer Joe Meek, bassist Heinz Burt, and guitarist Alan Caddy (Image credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The late Alan Caddy – lead guitarist of pioneering British groups the Tornados and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates – was born on this day in 1940. While Caddy sadly passed away aged 60, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Tornados’ Joe Meek-penned international hit “Telstar.”

The record was a Billboard Hot 100 smash and is credited as the first single by a British band to hit the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Tornados (L-R): L-R Alan Caddy, Roger Lavern, Clem Cattini, Heinz Burt and George Bellamy

The Tornados (L-R): Alan Caddy, Roger LaVern, Clem Cattini, Heinz Burt and George Bellamy (Image credit: RB/Redferns)

These first ripples of excitement from across the pond signaled the imminent arrival of the British Invasion. And as the whirlwind of success that was the Tornados topped the charts, George, John, Paul and Ringo were warming up for Beatlemania.

Interestingly, Caddy’s electric guitar partner in the Tornados was George Bellamy whose son, Matt, is the frontman and founder of Grammy Award-winning alternative rock behemoths Muse.

Although “Telstar” was a massive international hit, Meek did not receive royalties from the recording after French composer Jean Ledrut filed a plagiarism lawsuit against him in ’63. 

Failing to take the allegations seriously, Meek ignored the mounting legal correspondence and his rapidly accruing royalties were frozen pending a decision in court. 

Tragically, by the time a verdict had been reached several years later the famed British producer had taken his own life.

Joe Meek's plaque at 304 Holloway Road in London

A plaque at 304 Holloway Road in London commemorating Joe Meek. (Image credit: David Peters/Redferns)

A film based on the story of Meek’s life titled Telstar: The Joe Meek Story released in 2008 deals with the complex personal issues leading up to his suicide following the success of “Telstar.” 

And while tomorrow, February 3, marks the 55th year of his passing, Meek will continue to be remembered for his invaluable contributions to music during his pioneering days of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Buy The Tornados Play Telstar And Other Great Hits here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.