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The Highway Star

Heinz Burt [24th July 1942 - 7th April 2000]

After his band, The Falcons, failed an audition with record producer Joe Meek, Heinz Henry George Burt was lined up to join The Outlaws on bass - Chas Hodges was going to take over on lead guitar. When Chas asked Joe what the new bass-player was like [meaning as a bassist] Joe replied, "Well, he's tall, quite good looking and very smart!"

After the audition, Chas lied to Joe saying he didn't feel he could handle the lead guitar job and wanted to stay on bass - prompted by his reaction to Heinz's clean-cut image and ambition. A new line-up of The Outlaws was put together around Chas whilst Heinz was slotted into a new Meek group, as bassist with The Tornados.

Heinz was quickly groomed for solo stardom by Meek who was clearly obsessed with him and advised to dye his hair and dress distinctly from the rest of the band. The Tornados quickly went on to have a number one hit around the world in 1962 with "Telstar", the first US number one by a British pop group, though at the time they were on the road as Billy Fury's backing band and due to contractual commitments it was some months into 1963 before they got the opportunity to follow through and cash in on this success by which time The Beatles and Mersey Beat were changing the face of the UK music scene. Ironically, it was Chas Hodges who deputized for Heinz immediately after he left The Tornados.

His first and indeed biggest solo hit was "Just Like Eddie", a tribute to Eddie Cochran who had died in a car crash in 1960. Heinz went on, over the next few years, to record probably more singles with Meek than any other of the RGM acts and an album of predominantly Cochran material, "Tribute To Eddie".  

Heinz 'Tribute To Eddie'

After a further change of line-up, The Outlaws - with a new guitarist and drummer, Ritchie Blackmore and Mick Underwood - went out on tour as backing band for Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Heinz and some of Chas Hodges' memories from this tour are included in his biography, "The Rock & Roll Years Of Chas Before Dave". This was followed by a summer season for Heinz and The Outlaws with Arthur Askey in Rhyl.

Part of The Outlaws' management deal with Heinz included the financing of their new stage clothing, van and equipment which, I think, is where Ritchie got his red Gibson ES 335.

Heinz was in a number of movies in the 1960's most notably in 1963's "Live It Up", filmed at Pinewood, in which he performed two tracks including the title number with his 'band' including David Hemmings as lead guitarist and a young [pre-Small Faces] Steve Marriott on drums! The film - typical of it's kind - is about four Post Office workers who are in a group. Also included among the cast were Peter Glaze [Crackerjack] and Jennifer Moss [Coronation Street] whilst Gene Vincent, Kenny Ball and Sounds Incorporated were featured, along with other Joe Meek acts including The Outlaws miming to "Law And Order", filmed on the scaffolding of the house Hemmings' daydreams of building when he becomes a star. 

After later going on the road with The Saints, this was followed by more live work, this time with The Wild Boys, again with Ritchie Blackmore on lead guitar who played on many of Heinz's recordings. Jimmy Page and Big Sullivan also played on some of his records and Derek Lawrence was also involved.

Heinz's recording career effectively came to an end with the death of Joe Meek. In fact, it was Heinz's shotgun that Joe Meek used when he murdered Violet Shenton and then took his own life in 1967.

Heinz had been ill for about a decade since being diagnosed with motor neurone disease and was confined to a wheelchair. His last stage appearance was on 3rd February 1999 in London at a Joe Meek Appreciation Society gig which was also one of the last public appearances of fellow former Joe Meek recording artist Screaming Lord Sutch.

His most recent press coverage, late last year, was over a dispute with neighbours which almost went to court over the volume of the music he was listening to in his home in Southampton, England.

He will be missed among friends and fans alike. If you're a fan of Ritchie's early work, give "Just Like Eddie", "Please Little Girl", "Twenty Flight Rock", "I Get Up In The Morning", "I'm Not A Bad Guy" or "Movin' In" a spin.

Nigel Young

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