Pete Ham shines on Gwent Gardens

By Debbie Brautman

Last year, South Florida’s music man Rich Ulloa, with his Y & T Music partners Jim Wurster and Don Sarley, released a very special tribute album to Pete Ham of Badfinger fame. It is called Shine On – A Tribute to Pete Ham and it is jam-packed with fabulous recreations of Pete’s songwriting genius. It took two years of Rich’s life, but this very successful and rewarding two-album project got a great response from fans, press, radio, and media. Besides being his dream project and the most personally rewarding project of his career, it also led to this new release called Gwent Gardens. Rich explains, “Little did I ever dream that it would lead to working directly with representatives of the Pete Ham Estate in helping to issue an album of previously unreleased Pete Ham demos on Y & T Music. It goes to show that sometimes when you put yourself out there, amazing things can happen, and releasing an album of rare Pete Ham recordings is as amazing as it gets for me. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the beautiful songs that Pete recorded between 1966 and 1972 and the special CD artwork that was put together by my dear friend Samantha Thrall.” Imagine getting access to unreleased material from your favorite artist, and you can understand why Rich Ulloa is on cloud nine. Nearly 50 years after Pete Ham’s tragic passing, we can hear new and beautiful music with these original mono demo recordings from this legendary and prolific singer-songwriter.

Y & T Music’s press release composed by Rich Ulloa and writer/journalist Bill DeYoung states that this limited-edition CD, Gwent Gardens, includes 18 newly discovered home demos, many of them songs that were never recorded or released by either Badfinger or the group’s earlier incarnation, The Iveys. It will be released on March 8th on Y & T Music. The album will be available on all streaming services, as well as a limited-edition CD. For a few of us, CDs are still a desired form of music release, and it is great to have them available. The songs are remarkably tuneful blueprints for what might have been. Often double tracking his vocals, Pete also overdubbed additional instruments onto the tracks, fleshing out his vision for what the final The Iveys or Badfinger tracks would sound like. They were the first act signed to the Beatles’ famed Apple Records label in 1968. Badfinger, through Pete Ham’s songwriting brilliance, scored massive global hits with “Day After Day,” “No Matter What,” and “Baby Blue.” Co-written by Pete and his bandmate Tom Evans, “Without You” became an enduring classic, topping the charts in versions by Nilsson, Mariah Carey, and others.

Among the many gems on Gwent Gardens, is Pete’s soulful solo demo for “Take It All,” which would become the opening track on Badfinger’s masterpiece, the 1971 Straight Up album, produced by George Harrison and Todd Rundgren. Produced with the blessing of the Pete Ham Estate, the Gwent Gardens project began with the late Dan Matovina, the musicologist and historian whose book Without You is regarded as the definitive Badfinger biography. Martovina produced several albums of Pete Ham demos before his passing in 2023. He marveled to a close friend about the treasure trove of material still unreleased. He said, “I can’t believe there are still so many great Pete Ham songs that no one has heard yet.” With the release of Gwent Gardens, those great songs referenced by Dan will now be a permanent part of Pete Ham’s legacy. This is a great addition to the collection for fans of Badfinger and Pete Ham. Check it out!

Photo: Marianne Evans

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