In the early 1970's, a new British singer was getting a lot of attention. Tony Christie from Sheffield, was discovered singing in working men's clubs, by Harvey Lisberg, who had also discovered and managed Herman's Hermits, 10cc, Barclay James Harvest and Wax.
In 1971, Tony Christie's first two hit singles were: 'Las Vegas' and 'I Did What I Did For Maria'
Lisberg approached Neil Sedaka, in his quest to find new material for Christie, explaining that he had a singer who sounded a bit like Tom Jones. Sedaka played him a rough copy of Amarillo on a cassette and he loved it.
Sedaka himself, recorded a version of Amarillo which features on his 1977 album, A Song. It has a gentle reggae beat. When Sedaka released it as a single, it became known as just Amarillo.
Tony Christie's single version went to No. 18 in the UK charts. Christie's success continued in Britain, into the mid-seventies, when it began to wane. His popularity was still strong in the rest of Europe though, particularly in Germany.
In the early 2000s, 'Is This The Way To Amarillo' made a big come back when comedian Peter Kay started using it in his TV series, Phoenix Nights.
The catchy song became the perfect anthem, in 2005 for Comic Relief. A very funny video with Peter Kay miming, and marching around Britain with a line of over 30 celebrities following him, ensured that the song was an even bigger hit second time around. It peaked at No.1, where it stayed for seven weeks, raising £1.5 million for charity.
Tony Christie set a new record, as the act that had waited longest for a No. 1, having had his first chart entry almost 35 years earlier.
Amarillo is a town that has been name checked in other songs, George Strait's 'Amarillo Morning', Bob Dylan's 'Brownsville Girl' and 'Route 66' (aka 'Get Your Kicks On'), made famous by Nat King Cole, The Rolling Stones & Depeche Mode, among others.