Winchester Cathedral (song)
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Winchester Cathedral Song
"Winchester Cathedral"
American issue of "Winchester Cathedral"
Single by The New Vaudeville Band
"Wait For Me Baby"
ReleasedOctober 4, 1966
RecordedJuly 1966
GenrePop, beat, baroque pop
LabelFontana Records
Geoff Stephens
Geoff Stephens

"Winchester Cathedral" is a song by The New Vaudeville Band, a British novelty group established by the song's composer, Geoff Stephens, and was released in late 1966 by Fontana Records.

It reached #1 in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles charts[1] and shortly thereafter in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Stephens was a big fan of tunes from the British music hall era (or what Americans would call "vaudeville"), so he wrote "Winchester Cathedral" in that vein, complete with a Rudy Vallée soundalike[2] (John Carter) singing through his hands to imitate a megaphone sound.[3] Although the song was recorded entirely by session musicians, when it became an international hit, an actual band had to be assembled, with Fontana trying unsuccessfully to recruit the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.[4] The recording is one of the few charting songs to feature a bassoon.[5] The band toured extensively under the tutelage of Peter Grant, who later went on to manage The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin.[3]

The tune went to No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.[6] It went all the way to the top in the U.S., however, displacing "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by the Supremes on December 3, 1966. After a one-week run at No. 1, "Winchester Cathedral" was knocked off the summit by the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations", only to rebound to the top spot the following week. After two additional weeks, it was knocked off the top for good by "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees.

"Winchester Cathedral" topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart for four weeks.[7] Cover records by Dana Rollin and The New Happiness reached no higher than No. 70. The Shadows recorded an instrumental version of this song on their album, Jigsaw. Singer Rudy Vallée, whose voice and style the original recording imitated, did his own cover of the song in 1967 when he was in his late 60s. (It did not chart.) The Four Freshmen recorded a cover of the song on their 1968 album In a Class by Themselves. Frank Sinatra also recorded a version of the song for his 1966 album That's Life.

Global sales of the single were over three million, with the RIAA certification of gold disc status.[8]

The song won the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording,[9] despite not being a rock and roll song. An initial long-playing album including the song was issued in late 1966 by Fontana Records, also titled Winchester Cathedral. Stephens received the 1966 Ivor Novello Award for "Best Song Musically and Lyrically".[10]

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song's release, a new version by Geoff Stephens was released on CD by Signum Classics, sung by members of the Winchester Cathedral Choir.[11] The premier performance of this version was to take place during a Gala Concert in Winchester Cathedral on March 12 to help raise funds for the Cathedral's Appeal.


  1. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 38 - The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ a b "Biography by Steve Huey". Retrieved 2009.
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2000). Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9781617744815.
  5. ^ "Best Songs with Bassoon". Democratic Underground. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 392. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 178.
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 209. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. ^ "Winchester Cathedral by New Vaudeville Band Songfacts". 1966-12-03. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  11. ^ "'Winchester Cathedral' re-released - Winchester Cathedral". 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2018.

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