Heinz Burt (24 July 1942 – 7 April 2000) was a German-born British rock and roll bassist and singer who performed under the stage name Heinz. He was also known as a member of the instrumental group the Tornados.
Heinz was born in Detmold, Germany, but from the age of seven was brought up in Eastleigh, Hampshire, England. His German father had been killed during World War II and his mother decided to move to Britain. Heinz was influenced by the US singer Eddie Cochran and played in a local Eastleigh group, the Falcons, in the 1950s. Working in a Southampton grocery shop Heinz came to the attention of record producer Joe Meek, becoming his protégé. Meek styled Heinz's image, which included persuading him to peroxide his hair.
Heinz was a member of the Tornados, famous for their multi-million selling hit "Telstar". With Meek in love with Heinz, he struggled to launch him on a solo career. Due to the inadequacies of Heinz's voice, his vocals on his first single "Dreams Do Come True" were over-dubbed by another singer, a Meek artist named Mark Douglas or Billy Gray, but whose real name was William Halsey. The single was a commercial failure. With Meek vigorously promoting Heinz, he was sent on a tour with Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. Audiences did not take to him, and he was attacked on stage and had beans thrown over him (to a contemporary audience 'Heinz' would have been associated with Heinz Baked Beans).
Heinz's next and biggest-selling solo hit was "Just Like Eddie", a tribute to Eddie Cochran. Its success coincided with the emergence of The Beatles and was the high point of commercial success for Heinz. Two successful EPs, Heinz and Live It Up, followed, and 1963 he appeared in the British music-film Live It Up! as Ron. Following a well-received tour with Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and Bobby Rydell, Heinz was seen as belonging to an era of rock and roll as the more modern Merseybeat became more popular. He covered the Bob Dylan song "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", which was another commercial failure.
A move from the Decca label to Columbia saw him gain a minor hit with "Diggin' My Potatoes". Differences of a professional and personal level with Meek appeared, and with Heinz introducing his girlfriend to Meek their relationship faltered. Although he had lived briefly in Meek's flat, further disagreements over royalties saw him move out, leaving some possessions behind including a shotgun. It was this shotgun with which Meek killed his landlady and then himself in 1967, and although Heinz was questioned by police, they concluded he had nothing to do with their deaths.
Meek's death ended Heinz's recording career as a solo artist, and he worked outside the music industry including in advertising at a local newspaper, The Dagenham Post.
Although often dismissed as a mediocre talent pushed into the spotlight by Meek, Heinz was an enthusiastic performer, and worked in pantomime and theatre in the 1970s, including a role in David Hare's Teeth 'n' Smiles in 1976, as a dim-witted would-be rock star. In later years, he appeared in 1960s revival shows and continued performing until the end; his last set was from a wheelchair at a social club two weeks before his death.
He was initially backed by the Saints, a band that included Roy Phillips, guitar, and Tab Martin, bass. His later backing groups (the Wild Ones or the Wild Boys) featured Ritchie Blackmore and others. Mick Underwood, Chas Hodges, Blackmore, and others performed on "Just Like Eddie" as members of the Outlaws.
Heinz performed at the London Rock and Roll Show in 1972, with Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood in his backing band, as shown in the documentary Oil City Confidential.
He was portrayed by JJ Feild in Telstar, a film about the life of Joe Meek, which was released in 2009. The film depicts him as Meek's gay lover at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom. His family have denied that he was homosexual and have stated that the film is a slur on his life. His former wife, Della Burke, who was married to Heinz at the height of his success said, "It is completely and utterly untrue. Heinz was definitely heterosexual."
In the 1991 BBC documentary, The Very Strange Story of... the Legendary Joe Meek, when asked if Meek was in love with him, Heinz replied "Yes. It's an infatuation ... that was the thing with him, where I told him to get off, that I wasn't into that sort of thing ... if there's something you can't have you want it even more".
Crippled by motor neurone disease, Heinz died in 2000, aged 57 following a stroke. He was cremated at Eastleigh Crematorium in Hampshire.
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