Best remembered as lead guitarist of the British pop band the Four Pennies, Fritz Fryer later mounted a successful career as a producer, helming sessions for acts as diverse as Clannad, Prelude, and Motörhead. Born David Roderic Carnie Fryer in Lancashire on December 6, 1944, he was the grandson of Herbert Fryer, author of some 2,000 hymns including "The Virgin's Cradle Hymn." As a teen he played in the Fables, a guitar duo with schoolmate Mike Wilsh -- with the additions of singer Lionel Morton and drummer Alan Buck, the group renamed itself the Four Pennies, inspired by Blackburn's Penny Street. After claiming victory in a local talent contest, the Four Pennies secured a recording contract with Philips, entering the studio with producer Johnny Franz to cut their Beatles-inspired 1963 debut, "Do You Want Me To." The ballad "Donna" topped the British pop charts the following spring, and "I Found Out the Hard Way" also climbed into the Top 20.
Fryer's inventive guitar leads were best showcased via the Four Pennies' gritty cover of the Leadbelly blues classic "Black Girl," and he contributed a number of original songs to their two studio LPs, 1964's Two Sides of the Four Pennies and 1966's Mixed Bag. The Four Pennies split in 1967, and after briefly reuniting with Wilsh in the group Fritz, Mike & Mo, Fryer signed on as a staff producer with the Monmouth-based Rockfield Studios. He began his production career with art rock outfit Steamhammer's self-titled LP, scored his biggest hit via harmony rock group Prelude's 1973 effort, After the Gold Rush, and made his most enduring impression via the folk revival, collaborating with Clannad, the Bothy Band, and Horslips. Shortly after retiring to Portugal, Fryer died in Lisbon on September 2, 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi