Priscilla White became Cilla Black purely by accident. A featured vocalist with several Liverpool bands, she’d managed to work herself up to a mention in Mersey Beat, about which founder/publisher Bill Harry recalls:
I remember going down to the State Ballroom one evening when I was putting the first issue together and asking Cilla if she had the fashion column she promised me. She was with her mate Pat Davies and Cass & the Cassanovers were on stage. When I got back to the office I began working on the copy of the first issue and then began to type out a story on Cilla. When it came down to putting down her surname, my mind went blank. I knew it was a colour, but forgot which one. I took out the piece of paper with Cilla’s fashion column in it, but she hadn’t signed it. The column was all about colours in fashion and went from white to black. Looking at it, I decided on the black. I was wrong. Her name was Cilla White! After Mersey Beat was published, Cilla came into the office and told me I’d got her surname wrong but she liked it so much she decided to call herself Cilla Black from now on!
Her career managed by Brian Epstein, her records produced by George Martin for Parlophone, natch Cilla became a major star in Britain and a television fixture.
Lots of middle-Sixties pop stars were on the wane by the end of the decade, but not Cilla. Her 1969 album Surround Yourself with Cilla was ostensibly so titled because it was never issued in mono:
Or you might listen to the final track:
Her last UK chart item was a 1993 duet with Dusty Springfield titled “Heart and Soul” not the Tin Pan Alley standard which, like all her records, went largely unheard in the States, except for this one:
“You’re My World” crept onto Billboard at #26; the follow-up, “It’s For You,” a Lennon/McCartney (of course) number, died at #79.
Cilla Black is 71 today, and still all over British television. Meanwhile, her 1960s self abides: ITV is shooting a three-part TV series about her rise to fame, which will star acclaimed actor Sheridan Smith.