b. 14 March 1947, Bury, Lancashire, England. A composer, singer, and musician, Skellern played trombone in a school band and served as organist and choirmaster in a local church before attending the Guildhall School of Music, from which he graduated with honours in 1968. Because ‘I didn’t want to spend the next 50 years playing Chopin’, he joined the vocal harmony band March Hare which, after changing their name to Harlan County, recorded a country pop album before disbanding in 1971. Married with two children, Skellern worked as a hotel porter in Shaftesbury, Dorset, before striking lucky at the end of 1972 with a self-composed UK number 3 hit, ‘You’re A Lady’. ... Not Without A Friend was all original, bar Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Rockin’ Chair’, and another UK hit single with the title track to 1975’s Hold On To Love established Skellern as a purveyor of wittily-observed if homely love songs of similar stamp to Gilbert O’Sullivan. He earned the approbation of the ex-Beatles coterie which, already manifested in Derek Taylor’s production of Not Without A Friend, was further demonstrated when George Harrison assisted on Hard Times and the title number was later recorded by Ringo Starr. A minor hit in 1978 with ‘Love Is The Sweetest Thing’ (featuring Grimethorpe Colliery Band) was part of a tribute to Fred Astaire that won a Music Trades Association Award for Best MOR Album Of 1979.
Skellern subsequently wrote and performed six autobiographical programmes for BBC television, followed by a series of musical plays (Happy Endings) and also hosted the chat show Private Lives in 1983. A year later he formed Oasis with Julian Lloyd Webber, Mary Hopkin and guitarist Bill Lovelady in an attempt to fuse mutual classical and pop interests, but the band’s recordings failed to make a major impact. In 1985, Skellern joined Richard Stilgoe for Stilgoe And Skellern Stompin’ At The Savoy, a show in aid of The Lords Taverners charity organization. This led to the two entertainers working together on several successful tours, and in their two-man revue, Who Plays Wins, which was presented in the West End and New York.
After becoming disenchanted with the record business for a time, in 1995 Skellern issued his first album for nearly eight years. Originally conceived as a tribute to the Ink Spots, it eventually consisted of a number of songs associated with that legendary group, and a few Hoagy Carmichael compositions ‘just to break it up’. Skellern remains a popular live draw and all-round entertainer.