Justin Case: When Lonnie Donegan Signed Justin Hayward

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Justin Hayward photo by Bill Tompkins and Getty Images
Photo: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

Lonnie Donegan was fond of telling people how badly done by he was over the recording of his debut hit, Rock Island Line in 1956. He had received the standard session fee of £3.50, which worked out at 70p per song, for the five he cut that day. He didn’t receive any money in royalties when Rock Island Line sold three million copies in six months. But Lonnie wasn’t always so hard done by. In 1965 he signed a nineteen-year-old singer named Justin Hayward to a management and publishing contract with his Tyler Music Company. Justin had been in Marty Wilde’s group and after signing with Lonnie he released a single on Pye and then another on Parlophone.

In 1966 Justin joined the Moody Blues and soon began work on their groundbreaking Days of Future Passed album. The biggest hit from that album was Nights In White Satin, which has charted in Britain three times and reached No.2 on the US Hot 100. The song is published by Tyler Music, Lonnie’s company, and earned the King Of Skiffle a veritable fortune over the years. And it wasn’t just that song, but also most of Justin’s other songs that featured on the Moody Blues million-selling albums.

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  1. Sue Morrison

    October 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    I owe Justin Hayward a debt of gratitude for his being the muse who helped me design a stained glass window. It is a long story, but I would like to thank him personally. It is possible to get a message to him through this agency? Thank you. Sue Morrison

  2. Jim H

    January 29, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Lonnie took all of Hayward’s songwriting royalties for a ten year period. Yet Lonnie is portrayed as being such a great guy.

  3. Rosemary Scott

    October 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Poor Justin. Lonnie Donegan took advantage of a naive teenage boy. As well as not having a conscience he mustn’t have had any pride either. I wish there was some way Justin could get his songwriting copyrights back.

    • jcott

      October 21, 2020 at 12:48 am

      agree wholeheartedly,but Marty Wilde told Justin not to do it

  4. Petr Slivinski

    June 7, 2022 at 10:38 pm

    The song is a classical gem for the Moody Blues and Justin Hayward lost millions in royalties as was the case in the 60s. Most musicians that were emerging as songwriters found themselves losing so much to people like Lonnie Donegan. Justin Hayward was the first. Though Hayward could sue for millions would it be worth the pain and anguish?

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