Date of Birth: 5 May 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK
Birth Name: Joycelyn Chinery
Nicknames: Joy Beverley
Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, a singing trio that found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
The girls, Joy and her younger twin sisters Teddie and Babs, were famous for the identical clothes in which they always performed and their carefully rollered blonde hair-dos. Millions of Britons grew up with their close-harmony rendition of songs including Ferry Boat Inn; Sisters (written by Irving Berlin); How Much is That Doggie in the Window?; and Little Donkey. For more than a decade they broke box office records as the highest paid female entertainers in Britain; they became the first British girl group to break into the American Top 10 and entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 as the world’s longest surviving vocal group without a change in line-up.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances.
In later life the sisters were sometimes described as the Spice Girls of their day, and the parallels were not just musical. When, in July 1958, Joy married the Wolverhampton Wanderers star and England captain Billy Wright, it caused almost as much hysteria as the nuptials of Posh and Becks, although the venue, a register office in Poole, Dorset, was rather more modest than the medieval castle chosen by their modern counterparts.
The wedding was meant to have been secret, but news leaked out and thousands of people converged on the town. “Police, taken unawares, were unable to deal with the traffic, despite a call for reinforcements,” reported The Daily Telegraph. “People stood on walls, climbed fences and trees and sat on roofs of cars. They sang, 'For they are jolly good fellows’ and brandished football rattles. Two girls fainted. Several others, including one of the bride’s sisters, Teddie Beverley, lost shoes in the jostling crowd.”
Like the Spice Girls, too, the Beverley Sisters sometimes gingered up their performances with more risqué fare. Songs with titles such as We Like To Do Things Like That; It’s Illegal, It’s Immoral, Or It Makes You Fat, and British pop’s first covert paean to contraception, We Have To Be So Careful All The Time (which was banned by the BBC), helped to maintain their appeal into the 1960s.
Although Joy and her sisters went into unofficial retirement in favour of full-time motherhood in the late 1960s, they returned to performing when their children had grown up. In the 1980s they emerged as icons on the gay cabaret scene after appearing for a season of all-gay nights at Peter Stringfellow’s Hippodrome in London, where their cheerfully bitchy anthem Sisters (“Lord help the mister / Who comes between me and my sister / And Lord help the sister / Who comes between me and my man”) brought the house down. They continued to perform into the new millennium, singing for the Queen at her Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002 and taking part in the the 60th anniversary celebrations for D-Day in 2004 and for VE Day the following year.
Joy Beverley was born Joycelyn Chinery on May 5 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK.
Three years to the day before her younger sisters, Babs and Teddie. Their parents, George and Victoria, performed in musical halls as “Coram and Mills”, and the family lived in a two-up, two-down in the Homerton district, near Hackney, where the girls shared the same bed until they were teenagers.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the “Ovaltinies”, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra at the BBC’s secret wartime studio in Bedford. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
In 1953 the sisters made their debut in the US, performing on NBC with the Glenn Miller Band (Miller himself being presumed dead in 1944, having disappeared after heading out over the English Channel on a small aeroplane bound for Paris). Three years later they broke into the US charts with their version of Greensleeves. In the late 1950s they made a coast-to-coast appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, their host pronouncing them “sassy, but classy”.
At the time Joy married Billy Wright in 1958, the Beverley Sisters were reportedly earning £1,000 a week. Billy, by contrast, was never paid more than £24 a week by Wolverhampton Wanderers , and in more than 100 matches for England he never walked away with more than £60. As Joy recalled, the life of a footballer’s wife in the 1950s was very different from what it became in the high-rolling 1980s and 1990s: “'We were boringly well behaved, and loyal. In marriage you have to keep telling yourself that your husband is very important. That is not fashionable now, is it? I am disappointed at the way some women behave.”
The disparity between their earning power seemed to have no effect on their relationship, however, and they remained happily married until Billy Wright’s death in 1994.
The Beverley Sisters enjoyed their late-blossoming status as gay icons, although Joy complained to an interviewer that their cabaret audiences wore “more make-up in an evening than we wear in a year”.
In later life the sisters lived in Totteridge, in three near-identical next-door houses. When in 2006 they were awarded MBEs in the New Year Honours, they turned up at Buckingham Palace in identical white suits with pink hats and scarves.
Date of Birth: 12 December 1941, Troy, New York, US
Birth Name: Timothy DuPron Hauser
Nicknames: Tim Hauser
Tim Hauser, was a founder-member of the vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, a four-part harmony ensemble which has survived for more than 40 years virtually without a break.
First formed in 1969 by Hauser (a one-time market researcher who worked on the Pepsodent toothpaste account) and three friends, Manhattan Transfer’s cool elegance and nostalgic aura enthused audiences in the 1970s, when they became one of New York’s most popular live acts.
Among the venues they played in those days was the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the basement of the Ansonia hotel which included a disco, cabaret lounge, sauna rooms and swimming pool. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Continental Baths featured a host of famous entertainers, among them the Andrews Sisters, Tiny Tim and Bette Midler (known as “Bathhouse Betty”, and sometimes accompanied on the piano by Barry Manilow dressed only in a white towel). Manhattan Transfer went on to produce a string of hits and win 10 Grammies, and continued to record and tour into the new millennium.
Timothy DuPron Hauser was born on December 12 1941 in Troy, New York. When he was seven, his family moved to New Jersey, and he was educated at St Rose High School in Belmar. Music was his governing passion from childhood, and at the age of 15 he founded a doo-wop vocal quintet called the Criterions which recorded two singles for the Cecilia Label, I Remain Truly Yours and Don’t Say Goodbye. They also performed at many R&B revues and record hops around New York, appearing alongside Dion and the Belmonts, the Elegants and the Heartbeats. When he was only 17, Hauser produced Harlem Nocturne for the Viscounts, which reached No 3 on the Billboard chart in 1959.
At Villanova University, where he read Economics, Hauser sang in a folk group called the Troubadours Three, joined the Villanova Singers and also worked on the college radio station. After serving for a year (1964) with the US Air Force, he became a market research analyst with a New York advertising agency where his accounts included Pepsodent and Micrin mouthwash. From 1966 to 1968 he managed the market research department at Nabisco’s special products division, working mainly on cereals and pet foods.
Music, however, remained his true calling, and in 1969 he formed the first version of the Manhattan Transfer (named after John Dos Passos’s novel of 1925) with Gene Pistilli, Marty Nelson, Erin Dickins and Pat Rosalia; but after recording only one album, Jukin’, in the early 1970s they broke up after disagreements about future musical direction; Hauser wanted to take the group towards jazz and swing.
And there the story might have ended, as Hauser found himself working as a New York taxi driver. But one night in April 1972 he was flagged down by Laurel Massé, a waitress and would-be singer who admired the Manhattan Transfer having seen them perform at Fillmore East. They stopped for coffee and discussed music, and arranged to meet again. Shortly afterwards, again on his taxi-driving shift, Hauser picked up the conga player for the group Laurel Canyon, who invited him to a party at which he met Janis Siegel (a member of Laurel Canyon).
Hauser, Janis and Laurel Massé decided to re-form the Manhattan Transfer, and recruited as their fourth member Alan Paul, who was appearing in the Broadway production of Grease. The group was launched on October 1 1972.
Within two years Manhattan Transfer were performing regularly in New York City, at venues such as Trude Hellers, the Mercer Arts Center and Club 82, as well as the Continental Baths. In 1975 they were signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun, releasing an eponymous album in the same year; a single from the album, a remake of the Friendly Brothers’ gospel classic Operator, gave the group their first national hit. The group was soon invited by CBS to host a weekly show, on which Bob Marley and the Wailers would make their first US television appearance. Their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, generated a string of Top 10 hits in Europe, and a No 1 in Britain and France with Chanson d’Amour.
In 1978 Cheryl Bentyne replaced Laurel Massé, who had been injured in a car accident and had decided to pursue a solo career. The first album featuring the new line-up, Extensions (1979), included Birdland, which was to become the group’s anthem. In 1981 Manhattan Transfer became the first group to win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year . The group has continued to record and tour, and in 2000 they released a tribute album to Louis Armstrong, The Spirit Of St Louis.
Hauser worked as a producer as well, and in 2007 he released a solo album, Love Stories.
Away from music, he enjoyed collecting and restoring classic cars; he also launched a brand of tomato sauce.
Date of Birth: 14 September 1914, Salzburg, Austria
Birth Name: Maria Franziska von Trapp
Nicknames: Maria von Trapp
Maria von Trapp, was the last of the original Trapp Family Singers, whose story of musical success and subsequent flight from Austria during the Nazi regime in the late 1930s was the inspiration for the Broadway show and hugely successful 1965 film, The Sound of Music.
The Von Trapps were an aristocratic Austrian family headed by the decorated naval officer Baron Georg von Trapp and his wife, Agathe. In the wake of Baroness von Trapp’s death in 1922 the family moved to a villa in Aigen in the suburbs of Salzburg. and Maria Augusta Kutschera a young postulent a woman preparing for a nun’s life from the nearby Nonnberg Abbey, was appointed as tutor to the seven Von Trapp children. She was to become the Baron’s second wife (played in the film by Julie Andrews.)
In the mid-1930s the family’s finances were made precarious by the Baron’s investment in a bank which would later fail. Hardened circumstances caused the Von Trapps to stage paid choral concerts (previously a family hobby) with Maria Von Trapp singing second soprano in the choir.
With the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, Baron von Trapp was offered a commission in the German Navy. An ardent anti-Nazi he refused and decided to flee the country with his entire family. Not, as Hollywood immortalised their journey, overnight across the Alps to Switzerland but by train to Italy in broad daylight before taking a passage to America.
Maria Franziska Gobertina von Trapp was born on September 14th 1914, in Salzburg the third child of Georg and Agathe Von Trapp. Since personal telegrammes were not permitted to be sent to those serving in the military, her father learnt of the birth by a message from his wife in pre-arranged code: “S.M.S Maria arrived”.
Music was an integral part of her family’s life. “My father played the violin and the accordion, and I adored him I wanted to learn all the instruments that he played,” recalled Maria von Trapp late in life (she would play the accordion for the rest of her life).
In The Sound of Music, Maria von Trapp was portrayed as the character “Louisa” by the Canadian actress Heather Menzies-Urich (in her debut role). On the film’s release, Maria and her siblings were surprised by the level of dramatic licence taken in bringing their story to the screen. “We were all pretty shocked at how they portrayed our father, he was so completely different. He always looked after us a lot, especially after our mother died,” said Maria von Trapp. “You have to separate yourself from all that, and you have to get used to it. It is something you simply cannot avoid.”
On settling in America, the family, continued to perform choral concerts and opened a ski lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Here Maria was to play the accordion and teach Austrian dance, with her half-sister Rosmarie, one of three children by Georg von Trapp’s second marriage. Maria von Trapp became a US citizen in 1948 and in the mid-1950s worked alongside her step mother as a lay missionary in Papua New Guinea.
In the summer of 2008 she visited her childhood home in Salzburg, on the eve of the villa opening as a hotel. Staying in the house for the first time since the 1930s she found herself haunted by memories.
“Our whole life is in here, in this house,” she recalled as she walked its corridors. “Especially here in the stairwell, where we always used to slide down the railings.”
Date of Birth: 17 July 1950, Baltimore, Maryland, US
Birth Name: Otis Robert Harris
Nicknames: Damon Harris
Damon Harris, was the silken-voiced lead singer with the Temptations, one of Motown’s most commercially-successful groups, and sang on their biggest hit single in the 1970s.
Originally formed in Detroit in 1962, the Temptations had mutated throughout the 1960s, with multiple changes in the line-up. Harris joined in 1971 shortly after the departure of Eddie Kendricks, one of the original lead singers. With the arrival of Harris and another new recruit, Richard Street, the group’s producer, Norman Whitfield, steered them away from ballads to a more upbeat style, while retaining the military precision of their choreography and finely-tuned harmonies.
Performing in the soaring falsetto register he had greatly admired in Kendricks, Harris took the lead on his third recording for the Temptations, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone, which topped the American pop charts in 1972 and went on to win three Grammy awards. Harris also led on Love Woke Me Up
This Morning, from their 1972 All Directions album, and featured on another, The Temptations Live in Japan (1975), now a collector’s item.
On Grammy award-winning hits such as Cloud Nine and Psychedelic Shack in the early 1970s, Harris proved such an effective replacement for Kendricks that many record-buyers did not realise that it was he taking the lead. Michael Jackson called him simply “The Voice”.
His four-year tenure with the group ended abruptly in 1975. According to Otis Williams, the group’s founder, Harris was fired for making inappropriate statements that affected the public’s perception of the group.
Otis Robert Harris was born on July 17 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland. As a teenager he was a fan of the Temptations, and in particular Kendricks.
Modelling himself on his hero, Harris and three high school friends formed a Temptations tribute band called The Young Tempts, but were obliged to change the name to The Young Vandals when Motown Records objected to the obvious reference to their own stars.
Harris later chose to go to college rather than pursue a career in the music business. But in April 1971 he was persuaded by a friend to audition for the genuine Temptations, who were appearing in nearby Washington, DC. The group had just replaced Kendricks with Ricky Owens, from The Vibrations, but the newcomer was proving uneven and they were again looking for a replacement.
The group’s leader, Otis Williams, hesitated before taking on Harris, who at 20 was nearly a decade younger than the others. But Harris made his stage debut with them a few weeks later as first tenor and falsetto . On joining the band, he changed his name to Damon Harris because “the group already had an Otis”.
On his departure in 1975, Harris re-formed The Young Vandals, renaming the group Impact. They made several minor soul and disco hits, including Happy Man and Give a Broken Heart a Break, which climbed to No 5 in the US disco charts.
When their album Impact flopped in 1976 the group signed with Fantasy Records and released a second album, The Pac is Back, which also sold slowly. The group disbanded and Harris moved to Reno, Nevada, to complete his college education, recording a few solo singles, including It’s Music (1978) and the album Silk. He re-released the album in 1995.
He returned to music in the 1990s and began touring, sometimes billing himself as “The Temptations Review starring Damon Harris”. Occasionally he would appear with another ex-Temptation, Richard Street, until Street formed his own Temptations tribute band. Harris also briefly toured with three other former Temptations, David Ruffin, Kendricks and Dennis Edwards, before Ruffin and Kendricks died.
Harris, who had been suffering from prostate cancer , started the Damon Harris Cancer Foundation dedicated to promoting awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease.
Date of Birth: 4 April 1941, Ardwich, Manchester, England, UK
Birth Name: William Cleworth-Piddington
Nicknames: Bill Tarmey
Bill Tarmey made his name as Jack Duckworth, the endearingly lazy husband of the nagging motormouth Vera Duckworth, played by Liz Dawn, in Granada television's Coronation Street. The former asphalt spreader began with the long-running soap as an extra in the mid-1970s, and came into his own as Duckworth in 1979. This was five years after Dawn joined the cast, and it soon helped to create a character duo that was stronger than the sum of its parts.
Vera and Jack met at Gail and Brian Tilsley's wedding. Jack later became a cellar man at the Rovers Return, whose other stalwarts at the time included Hilda Ogden and Bet Lynch, played by Jean Alexander and Julie Goodyear. The health problems of his son, Carl, led to Tarmey's departure from the series in November 2010, in a touching and memorable finale.
Dawn started to become seriously ill with emphysema in the 1990s. When she found it difficult to get out of a chair, Tarmey would modify the script so that he walked over to her instead of vice-versa.
Tarmey himself had struggled with health problems throughout his time on the programme. He had a coronary in 1976, a stroke in 1977, a bypass operation in 1986, and in 2002 a second heart attack, after which a pacemaker was fitted. He also developed sleep apnoea, disrupting his breathing while asleep.
He and his screen wife had followed similar career paths. Both began by singing in pubs, but whereas Dawn gave up smoking after a 30-a-day habit lasting 55 years, Tarmey persisted. He once said that he could make it easier for himself if he gave up smoking: "I could sit in a rocking chair. But that wouldn't be me. That would kill me sooner than the old ticker. If I die tomorrow, they'll have to prise the smile off my face because I've had such a good life."
Even in the 1990s, Tarmey carried on singing in his local pub in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester. He maintained that after the doctors had "regulated" his problems, no one need worry, though regretted the effect on his wife when he went to bed in a breathing contraption, "looking and sounding like an alien".
Another thing that he and his screen wife had in common was an unapologetic belief that they were not really actors. "I'm just an ordinary guy who got really lucky," he maintained. "I have two terrific children and six wonderful grandchildren."
In 2006 his sudden announcement that he was thinking of retiring prompted many protest letters from fans. When he relented, Granada TV announced that both he and Dawn had signed new contracts.
The sometimes stoically grizzled and bemused-looking Tarmey was born William Piddington in Manchester. His father, an army ambulance driver during the second world war, was killed in 1944 at the Battle of Arnhem. Shortly afterwards, Bill's mother married their next door neighbour, Bob Cleworth. This caused Bill, who adored his stepfather, to change his name by deed poll to Cleworth-Piddington in 1992.
His stage name of Bill Tarmey came from appearing at a club in Stockport where the manager insisted that Bill Piddington was too long to go on a poster. He had wanted to give him the surname of the singer Mel Tormé, but misspelled it as Tarmey.
He met his future wife, Alma, when both were 14 and attending the same school in Manchester. They lost touch until 1963, when she began coming to the church that Tarmey's Lads Brigade was attached to, and were married just before his 21st birthday.
Tarmey did not succeed at school. He left at 15 and then went to night school and a building college to get his City and Guilds qualification in construction, and was apprenticed to a building firm, for which he worked as an asphalter.
But he had not been a complete stranger to the performing arts. From the age of four, his grandmother taught him to harmonise, and by the time he was nine he was appearing with a singing group called the Songsters, who performed for local charities. In the 1950s he was in a skiffle band, playing in pubs while also working in his in-laws' greengrocery.
While he was still in the building trade, his wife persuaded him to sing in pubs and clubs. He accepted the challenge, though did not warm to the occasions when he found himself upstaged by the bingo caller.
Always devoted to Alma, he sang the song The Wind Beneath My Wings when he featured on the TV show This Is Your Life in 1992. Colleagues from the cast of Coronation Street in the studio were reduced to tears.
He started in television when a friend encouraged him to seek work as an extra, getting small speaking parts in series such as Crown Court, Strangers, The Ghosts of Motley Hall and The Glamour Girls. In a BBC Play for Today about a black pudding festival, Thicker than Water (1980), he played a slaughterer, and in the series Rising Star he sang with his own group, Take Ten.
An opportunity to expand his range came in King Lear with Laurence Olivier, in a production commissioned from Granada for Channel 4 in 1983. His agent had been asked whether Tarmey rode a horse. Of course he did, the agent replied. In fact, Tarmey's only relevant experience had been riding a donkey on Blackpool beach when he was four. Tarmey practised for 10 days before the first rehearsal with Olivier. The horse reared and bolted, and the last thing Tarmey remembered of the scene was Olivier saying fatalistically: "Bye, Bill."
In Coronation Street, he had a brief speaking part as Jack Rowe in 1978, and the following year reappeared, now as Jack Duckworth. The idle Stan Ogden was written out of the script, but Tarmey soon established himself as a substitute national anti-hero and helped stabilise the show.
Bill Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since it started, said: "He was the downtrodden loveable rogue who never got anything right but was loved by everyone. This was down to Bill's skills as an actor. He had amazing comic timing and was a genuinely warm and wonderful human being."
In 1989, the year of his appearance in the Royal Variety Performance with Dawn, the two of them released a single of I'll Be With You Soon. In 1993 he made another single, One Voice, for charity, with the St Winifred's School Choir, from Stockport. He produced an autobiography, Jack Duckworth and Me: My Life on the Street and Other Adventures, in 2010.