The world’s original heavy metal bands came from our area with some of the founder members going to school with the clanking of manufacturing factories in the background.
Meanwhile, many of our region’s greatest actors, presenters and comedians started out at some of the finest grammar schools in the area.
So, if you’ve ever wondered which schools Julie Walters, Cat Deeley, Liam Payne, Lenny Henry, Jamelia, Jeff Lynne, Beverley Knight and Robert Plant went to, take a trip down memory lane with us to find out more. You might just find you have a tenuous claim to fame you never knew about!
Soul singer Beverley Knight was born in Wolverhampton in 1973 and attended Woodfield Infant and Junior Schools and Highfields School in Wolverhampton. In September 2005, she was made an honorary Doctor of Music by the University of Wolverhampton.
Martin Shaw, AKA Inspector George Gently and Judge John Deed, was born in Birmingham in 1945 and grew up in Erdington and Sutton Coldfield. He went to Great Barr School.
Olympics gold medallist Denise Lewis OBE was born in West Bromwich in 1972 and grew up in Pendeford, Wolverhampton. She went to the Regis School in Tettenhall, which was later renamed The King’s School. A £1 million sports hall named in her honour now stands there.
Dame Julie Walters was born in Smethwick in 1950 and went to Holly Lodge Grammar School for Girls in Holly Lane, Smethwick. The much-loved actress started out in comedy roles in Acorns Antiques and Dinner Ladies, going onto star in Hollywood films such as Educating Rita, Billy Elliot, Mama Mia and, of course, becoming Molly Weasley in Harry Potter.
Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was born in West Bromwich in 1948 and grew up in Halesowen. He went to King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys in Stourbridge (now King Edwards VI College).
Actor Adrian Lester OBE was born in Edgbaston in 1968 and went to Archbishop Masterson RC School in Northfield then Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College. He said he spent a lot of time at the MAC in Cannon Hill Park. His career has seen him playing conman ‘Mickey Brick’ Stone in ‘Hustle’ and Othello at the National Theatre.
Ozzy Osbourne, the lead singer of Black Sabbath, was born in Aston in 1948. He attended Prince Albert School in Aston then Birchfield Secondary Modern in Perry Barr before going on to belt out the likes of Paranoid and Iron Man. There’s a Black Sabbath Bench on Broad Street.
It was at Birchfield Secondary Modern in Perry Barr that guitar legend Tony Iommi met Ozzy Osbourne. Iommi, who was born in Handsworth in 1948, famously lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hand whilst working as a teenager in a factory. It crucially impacted his playing style. He once told BirminghamLive he hated music lessons at school!
One Direction band member Liam Payne was born in Wolverhampton in 1993 and went to St Peter’s Collegiate School in Compton, Wolverhampton before going on to study music technology at City of Wolverhampton College.
Frank Skinner was born in West Bromwich in 1957 and grew up in Oldbury. He attended Moat Farm Infant school, St Hubert’s RC and Oldbury Technical secondary school before graduating from Birmingham Polytechnic – now Birmingham City University – then getting a Masters at the University of Warwick. Ahead of his career in comedy and presenting, Skinner worked as a lecturer at Halesowen College.
Singer Jamelia was born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1981. She went to Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst before going onto top the charts with her songs Superstar and Thank You.
TV presenter Cat Deeley was born in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, in 1976. She went to Grove Vale Junior School and Dartmouth High School in Great Barr then later Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield. Listen to her talk about her childhood here
Born in Acocks Green in 1945, comedian Jasper Carrott went to Acocks Green Primary School and Moseley Grammar School. He is best known for his role in spoof police drama The Detectives together with his TV shows Carrott’s Lib, Canned Carrott, and Golden Balls.
Musician Bev Bevan of The Move and ELO also went to Moseley Grammar School. Born in Yardley in 1944, Bev and ELO gave us classic songs like Mr Blue Sky, Don’t Bring Me Down and All Over the World.
ELO frontman Jeff Lynne was born in Pype Hayes, Birmingham in 1947 and grew up in Shard End, where he attended Alderlea Boys’ Secondary School. He received an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University in 2014 and features on Birmingham’s Broad Street Walk of Stars.
Wizzard, The Move and ELO musician Roy Wood was born in 1946 in Kitts Green. He attended the Moseley School of Art on Moseley Road, Balsall Heath.
UB40’s frontman Ali Campbell also attended the Moseley School of Art. Born in Birmingham in 1959, he left UB40 in 2008 then reunited with bandmates Astro and Mickey in 2014.
Another famous alumni from the now-closed Moseley School of Art is Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie. She was born in the Lake District in 1943 but grew up in Bearwood.
Comedian Sir Lenny Henry was born in Dudley in 1958 and went to St John’s Primary School and The Blue Coat School in Dudley. He was discovered on the Birmingham-made talent show New Faces, which he won in 1975 with an impersonation of Stevie Wonder then went onto do Tiswas and become a driving force behind Comic Relief.
Slade frontman and guitarist Noddy Holder was born in Walsall in 1946 and went to T P Riley Comprehensive School in Bloxwich. He was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Walsall in June 2014, receiving his signed scroll for his service to the music industry with Slade.
TV presenter Richard Hammond was born in Solihull in 1969, and went to Solihull School. Best known from Top Gear and Total Wipeout, it is said that his grandparents worked in Birmingham’s car industry.
Goodness Gracious Me comedian, writer and actress Meera Syal was born in Wolverhampton in 1961 and later moved to Bloxwich. She attended Queen Mary’s High School in Walsall.
Former member of The Goodies and famous TV birdwatcher Bill Oddie was born in Rochdale in 1944 but he went to Lapal Primary School and and Halesowen Grammar School (which is now The Earls High School) then later King Edward’s School, Birmingham, where he captained the rugby team.
Actor David Harewood was born in Small Heath in 1965 and went to St Benedict’s Junior School and Washwood Heath Comprehensive School. He is famous for starring in American drama Homeland.
Toyah Willcox was born in Kings Heath in 1958 and went to Edgbaston CofE College for Girls before going on to become a musician, actress and TV presenter.
Duran Duran’s bass guitarist John Taylor was born in Solihull in 1960 and went to The Abbey High School in Redditch, which is now Trinity High School. He returned to the school in 2012 to unveil its state-of-the-art music centre.
Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy
Born in Alum Rock in 1960, musician Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy met John Taylor and formed Duran Duran whilst they were attending the School of Foundation Studies & Experimental Workshop at Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University).
Actor/stuntman Scott Adkins was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1976 and went to Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield. A keen martial arts practitioner, he went on to appear in The Expendables 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Musician Steve Winwood was born in Handsworth in 1948 and went to Great Barr School. He was in the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, which he is said to have formed after jamming with other musicians at The Elbow Room club in Aston.
Waking the Dead actor Trevor Eve was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1951 and went to The Bromsgrove School.
Radio DJ and presenter Simon Mayo was born in London in 1958 then moved to Solihull where he went to the Arden School in Knowle and the Solihull School before attending the University of Warwick.
Romantic novelist Barbara Cartland was born in Edgbaston in 1901. She went to private girls’ schools, first The Alice Ottley School in Worcester then Malvern Girls’ College.
Author of the famous Jack Reacher books, Lee Child was born in Coventry in 1954 and moved to Handsworth Wood at the age of four. He went to Cherry Orchard Primary School in Handsworth Wood and then King Edward’s School in Edgbaston.
Dad’s Army actor Ian Lavender was born in Birmingham in 1946 and grew up in Longbridge. He went to Bournville Technical College and is a keen Aston Villa fan.
Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1951 and grew up in Walsall. He attended Hatherton Lane Infants School in Bloxwich from 1956, moving to the Junior School when it opened in 1960.
Fellow Judas Priest band member Glenn Tipton was born in Blackheath in 1947 and went to Olive Hill Primary School.
Actor Nicol Williamson was born in Scotland in 1936 but his family moved to Birmingham and he went to Central Grammar School for Boys on Suffolk Street and then the Birmingham School of Speech & Drama. He is famous for his roles in Excalibur, Return to Oz and The Exorcist III.
Monty Python’s Eric Idle was born in South Shields in 1943 but enrolled at Royal Wolverhampton School as a boarder at the age of seven and became a fan of local football team Wolverhampton Wanderers.
TV presenter Sue Lawley was born in Sedgley in 1946 and went to Dudley Girls High School.
TV presenter Suzi Perry was born in 1970 and grew up in the Finchfield area of Wolverhampton. She went to Smestow School in Wolverhampton then Wolverhampton Polytechnic (now the University of Wolverhampton).
Lead singer of Babylon Zoo Jas Mann was born in Dudley in 1970 and went to Pendeford High School. The band, formed in Wolverhampton, had a 1996 No.1 single with Spaceman, which was used in a Levi’s advert.
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Original posted at www.birminghammail.co.uk