1970–1973: Formation and early albums
In the late 1960s, Roy Wood—guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of The Move—had an idea to form a new band that would use violins, cellos, string basses, horns and woodwinds to give their music a classical sound, taking rock music in the direction to "pick up where The Beatles left off". Jeff Lynne, frontman of fellow Birmingham group The Idle Race, was excited by the concept. In January 1970, when Carl Wayne left the Move, Lynne accepted Wood's second invitation to join the band on the condition that they focus their energy on the new project. On 12 July 1970, when Wood added multiple cellos to a Lynne-penned song intended to be a Move B-side, the new concept became a reality and "10538 Overture" became the first Electric Light Orchestra song. To help finance the fledgling band, one further Move album Message from the Country was also recorded during the lengthy ELO recordings. The resulting debut album The Electric Light Orchestra was released in 1971. It was released in the United States in 1972 as No Answer, the name being chosen because a record company secretary had tried to ring the UK company and get the name of the album—since they were unable to contact them they left a note saying "No Answer". "10538 Overture" became a UK top-ten hit. Wood, Lynne and Bev Bevan were the founding members of Electric Light Orchestra.
ELO's debut concert took place on 16 April 1972 at the Greyhound Pub in Croydon, Surrey, with a line-up of Wood, Lynne, Bevan, Bill Hunt (keyboards), Andy Craig (cello), Mike Edwards (cello), Wilfred Gibson (violin), Hugh McDowell (cello), and Richard Tandy (bass). However, this line-up did not last for long. First Craig departed, and then Wood, during the recordings for the band's second LP. Taking Hunt and McDowell with him, Wood left the band to form Wizzard. Both cited problems with their manager, Don Arden, and an unsatisfactory tour of Italy, where the cellos and violins could not be heard over the electric instruments. Despite predictions from the music press that the band would fold without Wood, who had been the driving force behind the creation of ELO, Lynne stepped up to lead the band, with Bevan, Edwards, Gibson and Tandy (who had switched from bass to keyboards to replace Hunt) remaining from the previous line-up, and new recruits Mike de Albuquerque and Colin Walker joining the band on bass and cello respectively.