|Birth Day:||December 25, 1962|
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He left home at an early age and worked as a musician to support himself.
In 1982, when he was nineteen, Dunnery formed the rock band It Bites (taking the role of lead singer and guitarist). The other members of the band were his Egremont schoolfriends Bob Dalton (drums, vocals) and Dick Nolan (bass, vocals) plus John Beck (keyboards, vocals) who came from Mirehouse; a suburb of Whitehaven. Following a career playing the pub and youth club circuit the band temporarily split, with Dunnery moving to London. The band reformed some time later and left Egremont entirely to relocate to London in 1984, eventually signing a record contract with Virgin Records.
Playing an unfashionable but energetic blend of progressive rock, hard rock and pure pop, It Bites released three studio albums, The Big Lad in the Windmill (1986), Once Around the World (1988) and the critically acclaimed Eat Me in St Louis (1989). It Bites' biggest hit single was "Calling All The Heroes" in 1986, which reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart. During their lifetime, It Bites became a successful band (able to fill the Hammersmith Odeon in London and undertaking tours with The Beach Boys and Jethro Tull). It Bites split up in 1990 in Los Angeles on the eve of recording their fourth studio album. Various factors were cited in the break-up, which Dunnery recalls as being a case of the fact that "the band had come to the end. It was a natural process. We fell out over a few things, there wasn't one big issue or problem, it was daft little things. We had just drifted apart. It wasn't anyone's fault, but we split." Following Dunnery's departure, It Bites briefly continued with a new frontman (Lee Knott) and a succession of new names (Navajo Kiss, Sister Sarah) but split up after failing to sign a new recording deal. A post-breakup It Bites live album (drawn mainly from 1989 concerts) called "Thank You and Goodnight," was released in 1991.
Following the 1990 break-up of It Bites, Dunnery settled in Los Angeles, indulging what he later acknowledged to be a disastrously hedonistic lifestyle. During this period he recorded his first solo album, Welcome to the Wild Country, which was released on Virgin Records in 1991. Produced by David Hentschel, this was a much more rough-and-ready album than the heavily engineered and technically fastidious It Bites records, consisting mostly of hard rock songs performed by a power trio (although the record did also contain an extended blues-jam song and a keyboard-heavy ballad called "Jackal in Your Mind"). The record enjoyed little success, being released only in Japan. (He regained the rights in 2001, re-issuing it on Aquarian Nation Records.)
Dunnery has three daughters and a son from three different relationships. One of his daughters, Francine Nicholson, who he had with Jackie O'Sullivan, still lives in Cumbria where she works as a beauty therapist. He married American singer Julie Daniels (frontwoman of the rock band Star 69) on 8 December 1990 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The marriage ended in divorce, following which he started a relationship with Helena Faccenda, to whom songs like "I'm in Love" on the Man album were dedicated to. During their relationship they had a daughter, Ava Faccenda-Dunnery, in 1999. Around 2004 he met his girlfriend Erica Brilhart. During their relationship they had two kids, Elsie (2012) and Frankie (2015) Dunnery.
In 1993 Dunnery returned to the UK and took up the position of guitarist in former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant's live band. He performed on several tracks on Plant's 1993 album Fate of Nations and played on the accompanying world tour, acting as Plant's main onstage foil. Plant made a guest appearance on Dunnery's second solo album, Fearless, which was released on Atlantic Records in 1994. This performed considerably better than its predecessor, and showed a much broader range of styles. "American Life in the Summertime," the lead single from the album, received considerable airplay in the States.
Dunnery promoted Fearless with his first solo tour of the UK (an all-acoustic affair in small venues). The Glasgow date of the tour was recorded for a live album, One Night in Sauchiehall Street, which was released on the tiny Cottage Industry label in 1995. This album documented Dunnery's change to an acoustic approach, playing solo accompanied only by occasional second guitarist and harmony singer Ashley Reakes (later to briefly find success as the prime mover behind Younger Younger 28s). It was also the first evidence on record of Dunnery's live approach as raconteur as well as musician (which incorporated a surprising degree of confessional story, philosophical musing and salty stand-up comedy).
By 1995, Dunnery had relocated yet again, this time to New York City. His third studio album – Tall Blonde Helicopter – was released on Atlantic that year, and abandoned the predominantly pop-oriented sound of Fearless in favour of an eclectic mixture of soft ballads and acoustic rockers. It also displayed a much greater confidence in songwriting.
In 1996, Dunnery was approached to audition as lead singer for his old heroes Genesis, but ended up continuing with his existing solo career. Dissatisfied with Atlantic's promotion of his work (and beginning to suspect that he would need to take more responsibility for making things work in the future) he formed a power trio which played various dates in America. The sound of this band was captured on Dunnery's next album Let's Go Do What Happens (1998), released on Razor and Tie Records whose limited resources caused Let's Go Do What Happens to be initially only released in the United States. During this period, Dunnery also played on Lauryn Hill's 1998 debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Carlos Santana's 1999 comeback album Supernatural.
Increasingly dissatisfied with the music industry, Dunnery went into semi-retirement as a musician later in 1998 and set up a new home in the Vermont mountains with his girlfriend, Helena Faccenda. Francis Dunnery biography Archived 30 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Aquarian Nation homepage where he devoted the next few years to breeding and training horses (for which he studied under John Lyons, the "horse whisperer") as well as carpentry, astrology, and Jungian psychology.
In 2000, inspired by watching a televised Shakti concert (featuring his old hero John McLaughlin), Dunnery later admitted he "realised there was still a musician in me, and that I had to be as true to that side of my character as I was being to the other sides." He decided to re-engage with the music business, although this time he decided to do it entirely on his own terms and to take as much responsibility for the outcome as he could. His first step was to refresh himself by returning to the UK for the first time in five years to play a few concerts, and his second step was to set up his own internet-based record label, Aquarian Nation, with the intention of releasing his future albums on it (as well as albums by other artists).
The first Aquarian Nation release was Dunnery's comeback album, Man, released in 2001. Recorded in Vermont (USA) and Oswestry (UK), the album's music developed some of the electronic aspects of Let's Go Do What Happens (via keyboards and programming by Dunnery and his brother-in-law Dave McCracken, but featured much more acoustic instrumentation (guitars and cellos), a strong vocal interplay between Dunnery and Moran, and pared-down percussion (with almost no drums and with the rhythmic drive provided primarily by Matt Pegg's bass guitar). Man was also Dunnery's most personal and direct album to date, heavily influenced by autobiographical and spiritual matters (in particular parenthood, manhood and reflections on finding a sense of home as well as featuring a strong element of Jungian psychology).
During 2002, Dunnery made several albums released on Aquarian Nation. In addition to releasing Dunnery's own records the label had been set up to release records by other musicians, pursuing a cooperative approach with a degree of profit share and with all Aquarian Nation musicians contributing to each other's recordings. The label had a mission statement to "help support and promote artistic integrity" and went on to sign up to an ongoing partnership with Flying Spot Entertainment for the creation of original film/video programming.
In 2002, Dunnery founded the Charlie and Kathleen Dunnery Children's Fund, a volunteer-run fundraising charity based in his hometown of Egremont, and named in honour of his late parents. Explaining his reasons for setting up the charity, Dunnery has said "My mother was a wonderful woman... so this is my way of honouring her and my dad. A line in one of my songs is that the only thing you get to keep is what you give away – I like that idea. I think that by the time you are 40 if you aren't doing something to help others then you probably should be. People take all the time and I think it is nice to put something back."
Dunnery's next major British concert (at the Union Chapel, London, 2003) was in part a showcase for Aquarian Nation, featuring performances by Dunnery, Stephen Harris, John & Wayne (with Dorie Jackson), plus a guest appearance by Chris Difford. The concert finale was a two-song It Bites reunion, with Dunnery playing "Hunting the Whale" as a duet with John Beck and the whole band playing "Still Too Young to Remember." The event was recorded and released on DVD as Live at the Union Chapel (credited to Francis Dunnery & Friends) in 2004, with a wider release the following year.
By this time, Frank was based in Pennsylvania, studying for a psychology degree at Goddard University, and doing session and production work to developing Aquarian Nation as a company. In newsletters, he promised that his next three projects would be a solo album, Dorie Jackson's debut album and new recordings with the reunited It Bites. In 2005, Dunnery released the first of these, a solo double album called The Gulley Flats Boys, a more sedate and acoustic album than its predecessor, featuring next to no drum or percussion parts and sparse use of electric guitar. It was recorded by Dunnery with piano/keyboard player David Sancious and Dorie Jackson on backing vocals. Dunnery acknowledged the album was the product of a mid-life crisis, but embraced the fact.
In 2005, Dunnery embarked on a "house concert" world tour, suggesting to fans that they book him to perform in their own homes for a paying audience, in a drug and alcohol-free environment. The concept proved to be very popular, not least with Dunnery himself, who has described them as "phenomenally successful." Dunnery continues to perform house concerts to this day and describes a typical performance as "(showing up) as a friend – you can't show up as a rock dude or something – and it's just me and my acoustic guitar, no amplification, singing my songs and holding a 90-minute lecture on the human condition. I sing songs and tell stories of my life. It's not a party; it's more like going to church, but church with swearing!... (There is) an exchange of energy that I call a 'jacuzzi'. At the end of 90 minutes, everybody has dropped their ego. They don't even realise that has happened, but they have gradually taken off their clothes and gone into that energetic jacuzzi together. Something like that is a lot harder to achieve in a rock music arena."
In 2006, it was confirmed that the reunion of the original It Bites line-up had foundered and that Dunnery had been replaced by singer and guitarist John Mitchell (Frost*, Kino). In October 2007 Dunnery released a free download of a song called "Feels Like Summertime," which had initially been written for It Bites shortly before the band's original split in 1990 and was reworked as part of the unsuccessful 2003 reunion. Dunnery had rearranged and reworked the song for a third time (with new players), and made it available to promote a full-band "electric" tour which – although based mostly around his 1991 solo album Welcome to the Wild Country – featured several It Bites songs.
Francis Dunnery grew up as part of a musical family in the small Cumberland town of Egremont (at 28 Queens Drive on the Gulley Flats estate). He is the younger son of Charlie Dunnery (a former member of the Jimmy Shand band), and his wife, Kathleen, both now deceased. Frank displayed an interest in music from an early age, showing promise as an embryonic drummer, with his mother later recalling that "he was always drumming with his hands. Asking him what he wanted for his tea, he'd be drumming on something the whole time." His elder brother Barry "Baz" Dunnery (whom Frank cites as his greatest single influence) was a highly regarded rock guitarist who played with heavy rock band Necromandus and subsequently Ozzy Osbourne's first post-Black Sabbath band (preceding the formation of the Randy Rhoads-led Blizzard of Oz band) and the ELO-spinoff Violinski. The brothers remained close until Baz's death in June 2008, and Baz would join Frank onstage on several occasions.
In 2008, Dunnery continued to perform numerous solo performances and house concerts, this time centred on material from Tall Blonde Helicopter. His summer and fall schedule included a full-band tour, culminating in a performance in Seattle which was recorded by Flying Spot, Inc. for subsequent release as a special edition concert/documentary DVD. (Originally scheduled for a 2009 release and titled Louder Than Usual, this was finally released in September 2010 as a DVD with accompanying CD) Earlier that year, Dunnery released an "official video bootleg" DVD from the 2001 Man tour, titled In The Garden of Mystic Lovers. Later, he produced and played on Snowman Melting, the first solo album by James Sonefeld of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Dunnery continued to write songs as and when the inspiration took him. He has sometime commented that his songwriting is a periodic activity, stating in a 2009 interview with the PhillyBurbs online newspaper: "I cannot write songs on a nine-to-five basis. At the risk of sounding pretentious, my songs come from somewhere else and I have to wait for them, so it's not up to me when I receive them. When the songs start to come, they all come at the same time. I may get 20 songs in three to four days and then it all stops again."
Dunnery would join singer Steve Nardelli's revived 1960s progressive rock/beat band The Syn as guitarist, playing alongside Nardelli, keyboard player Tom Brislin and bass player Jamie Bishop as well as two members of American progressive rock band Echolyn (guitarist Brett Kull and drummer Paul Ramsey). Dunnery also brought in his backing vocal foil Dorie Jackson. He was musical director for the band's 2009 album Big Sky. This line-up of The Syn began an American tour in April 2009 but broke up after six dates.
Dunnery's next album, There's a Whole New World Out There, released on 3 October 2009, was centred on the New Progressives (plus guests) and featured a succession of reworking of old It Bites songs, plus a variety of similarly rearranged cover versions. The New Progressives toured the UK, American and Australia to promote the record, with guest appearances from other musicians where possible.
In 2009, Jem Godfrey (Frost*) announced on the Frost* Forum that he and Dunnery had both contributed solos to the title track of Big Big Train's upcoming album, The Underfall Yard.
On 12 August 2011, Dunnery released a new album called Made in Space (which was written and recorded in a contemporary R'n'B style) and took out an accompanying "Astrology Theater Show " tour of the UK, which featured himself and Dorie Jackson. He also announced that he would be recorded a cover version of Peter Gabriel's The Rhythm of the Heat as part of Sonic Elements, a new "fantasy rock" band put together by Dave Kerzner. In 2012, Dunnery made a guest appearance on Steve Hackett's album Genesis Revisited II, singing on two tracks – "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" and "Supper's Ready" (the "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)" section) – as well as contributing additional guitar. Dunnery also made a guest appearance on Hackett's subsequent Genesis Revisited tour, singing at the Arcada Theater show in St Charles, Illinois on 20 September 2013, and at the Scottish Rites Auditorium in Collingswood, NJ 27 March 2014, where he sang much-loved Genesis favourite, "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight."
From late 2012 to autumn 2013, Dunnery worked on a very different but equally personal project, recording a set of songs originally written by his late brother Barry's 1970s hard rock band Necromandus. The resulting album, Frankenstein Monster, was released by Aquarian Nation on 16 October 2013. Regarding the album, Dunnery commented: "I must say that this has been one hell of a journey both emotionally and musically. I learned so much about my brother during the making of this album and so much about myself ... Listening back now as it comes into focus I am very pleased and proud of the results. We have kept very close to the originals, sometimes exact and where it need a little more musicality or space we were smart enough to add our own parts without ruining the song. I know exactly what Baz would have liked so I only added things I know he would have liked. Paul Brown and Sconna [John Dunnery] were with me all the way, they both worked their arses off for months on end. Tony Beard was a star. He completely kept the youthful enthusiasm that [former Necromandus drummer] Frank Hall had yet also added a little more pocket and musicality to the tunes."
In October 2012, a group of Dunnery fans collaborated on the tribute album Green And White Stripes. 14 songs, mainly from his solo career, are covered, in various styles, often differing markedly from the original. The profits from album sales go to the CKDCF.
For late 2013, Dunnery put together The Sensational Francis Dunnery Electric Band, which toured both Necromandus songs and songs from the Francis Dunnery back catalogue. The band also featured on Dunnery's 2016 release Vampires, an album of re-recorded It Bites songs.
Since January 2016, Dunnery has presented a weekly radio show, called 'The Francis Dunnery Radio show', on British progressive rock radio station Progzilla Radio.
Currently, Francis Dunnery is 59 years, 6 months and 1 days old. Francis Dunnery will celebrate 60th birthday on a Sunday 25th of December 2022.
Find out about Francis Dunnery birthday activities in timeline view here.