Errol Brown, the man known as the singing Malteser, has died at the age of 71.
Errol was born Lester Errol Brown in Kingston, Jamaica and moved, with his family, to the UK when he was nearly 12 and settled in Brixton. In 1968, at the age of 25, Errol assembled a band which comprised Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson, Harvey Hinsley, Patrick Olive and Tony Wilson.
The first song they recorded was a cover of the Plastic Ono Band’s Give Peace A Chance which was done in a reggae style and where Errol slightly changed some of the lyrics. He was told that he was not allowed do this without John Lennon’s permission, so a copy of the demo was sent to the Beatles Apple record label to see what they thought of it. “Amazingly, a week later I got a call to say John Lennon approved it and wanted to sign the band to the Apple record label – and that’s how we began,” Errol explained. The band didn’t have a name at this point and so it was the Apple label’s secretary Mavis Smith who gave them the name The Hot Chocolate Band.
Towards the end of 1969 Mickie Most signed Errol and the co-founder of the group Tony Wilson as writers and recorded their songs with Mary Hopkins, Julie Felix and Herman’s Hermits before encouraging them to come up with a song for themselves. In 1970 they released their first record entitled Love Is Life which reached number six in the charts and was the start of a 15 year career for the group who amassed a total of 33 hits and also became the only group in the UK to have a hit for 15 consecutive years. They were also only one of three acts to have had a UK hit in every year in the seventies alongside Elvis Presley and Diana Ross.
In 1981 Hot Chocolate had the honour of being invited by Prince Charles and Lady Diana at their pre-wedding reception at Buckingham Palace which was attended by heads of Government and many members of European Royalty.
In 1986 Errol left the band and they temporarily broke up, but reformed in 1992, with Greg Bannis being Errol’s replacement, but the success was not forthcoming.
Errol had a brief solo career which indlued the minor hit singles Personal Touch which reached number 25 and body Rockin’ which stalled at number 51. He also owned a racehorse called Gainsay. He was recognised for his career in music, being awarded the MBE in 2003 and an Ivor Novello award for his contribution to music in 2004.
He died on 6th May after losing his battle with liver cancer.