career started at a very early age - in fact my birthday, the 22nd
November – happens to be St Cecilia’s Day, the patron
Saint of Music!
As a small child I loved to sing and listened intently
to singers on the radio. One of my earliest recollections was being made
to stand on a chair at parties to sing the latest Sinatra song, and when
it was ‘News Time’ at school, instead of telling the class
where Mum & Dad had taken me on the weekend, I used to sing the latest
song I had learned.
My dad was Welsh and had a good tenor voice. He and my
uncle and grandfather all sang in a Welsh Male Voice Choir in London,
they often did radio and TV performances, and eventually he sent me to
their choirmaster to train my boy soprano voice. I won the silver medal
in the first music festival I entered, singing ‘Oh, For the Wings
of a Dove’. He taught me all the breathing exercises and techniques
for preserving the voice, which is probably why I’m still singing
today, many years later.
When my voice broke to a baritone range I began singing
with various small London dance bands. In my late teens and early twenties
my favourite haunts were the little cellar dance clubs around London’s
cosmopolitan Soho area. Two good things happened to me there – one
was learning about the music business from some of the resident professional
musicians at these clubs and getting a few gigs with them, the other was
meeting Rowenna, the girl who eventually became my wife.
Before too long I was getting offers of gigs in
night clubs and my first really professional cabaret engagement
was at ‘Young’s Chinese Restaurant’ in Leicester
remember singing ‘Pepito’, a Spanish pop song hit at
the time, in Spanish, to an audience consisting mostly of Asian
tourists, who looked blank. Their understanding of English was bad
enough, let alone Spanish ! It was a wonderful training ground for
any young entertainer and I learned how to work with the audience
and not to them.
With my feel for Latin music and languages I graduated
to working with a rumba band at the Savoy Hotel, and mixing with
the upper-class customers whose requests for songs were usually
accompanied by a 5 pound note – nice work if you can get it!
Once I started getting offers to work the lucrative club scene in
the North of England I had to decide whether to pursue my daytime
career in Sales and just sing on the weekends, or throw caution
to the winds and ‘go pro’. At 24 years of age I thought
the world was my oyster, resigned my job, bought a big second-hand
American car and set off for the wild and woolly Northern club circuits,
working up to four half-hour spots a night in the hundreds of clubs
which flourished in the industrial cities in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
I used Manchester as a base as it was fairly central, but then sometimes
I’d find myself doing a Saturday night gig in a South Wales
miners club then driving half through the night to make a Sunday
lunchtime show in a Newcastle working-mens club 300 miles away –
If I thought I knew something about the sophisticated scene in the South
of England I had to learn a lot more about the working-class attitudes
and musical preferences in the North, where I was viewed as a bit la-di-dah
because of my Southern accent and culture. As the old Yorkshire saying
goes ‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’ and I
certainly wanted the brass, if only to prove to my parents that I could
make a go of the showbiz life, and that I could manage on my own and wouldn’t
have to go back to a ‘proper job’ to make some money.
this time I was totally into Pop music but had an act that was perhaps
a little classier than many of my contemporaries, until I realized
that I was missing out on certain work because I had become a bit
‘uncommercial’ and agents didn’t really know how
to sell me. I certainly couldn’t stomach opening my act with
‘Beautiful Sunday’ and closing it with ‘Yellow
River’, as did 75% of the other acts I worked with, so I tried
specializing in songs in other languages – Italian, Spanish,
French and called myself “Voice International” finishing
off my act with a routine on bongo drums to ‘El Cumbanchero’.
I started working comedy routines into my act as well, because comedians
always got paid more money than singers, and it did increase my
earnings. The bongo routines went down well, but I wasn’t
really vulgar enough to be a successful comedian in those days,
so I concentrated on what I was best at – singing, and started
writing some songs.
I had an abiding love for jazz, but jazz gigs were few and far between
and paid peanuts, so there was no career path in that direction.
On a gig at the famous Blackpool Tower they somehow decided
that I should compere the show. I was used to introducing my own songs,
but introducing other acts and making them sound good was all new to me.
I must have latched on to it well enough because they offered me two Christmas
seasons and suddenly I had a reputation as a classy compere! This opened
up a whole new range of opportunities and ever afterwards I was known
as a singing compere, landing jobs in many of the top night clubs in Manchester
and Liverpool, mixing with some of the stars of the day - Buddy Greco,
Matt Munro, The Drifters, Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy Fury, Marty
Wylde, Hermans Hermits etc
the day there was some useful work with Granada TV and Yorkshire
Television on their soapy programs like ‘Coronation Street’
and other drama productions, and many club acts got work as extras.
I managed to get in on the scene and landed some ‘walk-on
parts’. Walk-ons got paid extra money as they appeared in
shot, working with the stars of the production and, although they
had no lines to say, they had to be able to act. They gave you your
own dressing room and you weren’t allowed to mix with the
extras, who were in a communal dressing room. One of the benefits
was that music journalists would see you on these shows and would
mention you in their columns thus enhancing your reputation. These
people were also well connected to recording companies and theatrical
productions so, if you knew the right people you were ‘in
the loop’ and I picked up some radio work through a music
journalist as a result of a promotional recording that I did in
By this time I was married with three children, and needed
a bigger house. I also needed more reliable sources of income to pay for
it so I took on various sales management jobs which kept me close to home,
provided me with a car, and didn’t interfere with my weekends, and
for some years I worked 7 days a week.
There is an old saying that many actors want to become
singers and many singers want to become actors, and I was no exception
to the rule. When the opportunity came to work with a local operatic company
in stage musicals I grabbed it and landed the leading role in my first
production. This was ‘Curly’ in Oklahoma and I got hooked
on the theatrical scene. Of all the shows I did, Kiss Me Kate was to become
one of my favourites, in the leading role of ‘Fred Graham’/’Petruccio’
– Shakespeare’s story and Cole Porter’s music all combined
– just wonderful.
1980 we took the ‘trip of a lifetime’ to meet my wife’s
parents, who had retired to Australia. They had never met me, or
our children, so it was an important family event. We decided that
the Brisbane lifestyle was one of the best-kept secrets in the world
and that, despite our comfortable life in Cheshire, we would come
back and live in the Sunshine State. We emigrated in 1982, and have
enjoyed our life here ever since.
Shortly after arriving I got on board with one
or two TV talent shows which were running at the time. I thought
this was a good way of getting national exposure and the chance
of some gigs. With a much smaller population than Manchester, Brisbane
did not have such a wide network of clubs and so the opportunities
were a bit limited. Nevertheless I got acquainted with some local
entertainers and musicians and started to get bookings at RSL clubs
between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Another dream came true when I was invited to try out
as a resident vocalist with the Brisbane Big Band which was run
by a fine musician who became a great friend - Brian Douglas (RIP),
at the Brisbane Jazz Club in 1989. I built up my library of Jazz
arrangements and have appeared with them regularly ever since. The
spin off from this was meeting a number of other band-leaders resulting
in offers of some great gigs at leading hotels, corporate functions
and private events.
My other long-term residency has been as a ‘founder member’
and resident vocalist/compere with Decahedron, and I am very proud of
my friendship and musical association with it’s leader Paul Gibens.
Paul has written some great arrangements for some of my compositions and
was MD for my CD production ‘Singin’ & Swingin’
standard of musicianship in Brisbane and the Gold Coast is first
class and many local bands provide great jazz and swing music.
These days I am very happy writing songs and getting
to sing with many of the highly talented young musos, too numerous
to mention, who are making their mark on the jazz scene here. I
am now well and truly part of the jazz scene, which is something
I wanted to be many years ago.
It still doesn’t pay big money but, hey, you can’t
If you want a perfect life, go and live in heaven!