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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Web Page  No 2346
18th February 2017
Top Picture: Sheet music for ‘Like I Do’.

 Second Picture: Maureen Evans Portrait
Third Picture: On Stage

Forth Picture: With Jack Parnall

A Star from Embassy Records

Maureen Evans is a star from the early 1960s, but like many of her contemporaries her top line career was short lived. However she went on to enjoy a career in the music business that has spanned six decades.

She was born in Cardiff on 23rd March 1940 and waseducated at Caer Castell Secondary Modern School, before studying for three years at the College of Music and Drama, Cardiff Castle, where she gained a diploma.

When her aunt heard that local impresario Waldini was looking for a comedienne to join his show, she suggested that Maureen should go along to audition. Maureen told her aunt she was not a comedienne but she replied, ‘I know, but it’s a way in!’”

Maureen went to the audition, chaperoned by my mother and aunt. She was 14 and sang Blue moon and, although he wasn’t looking for a singer, Waldini immediately gave her a spot on his show.

Her first important public appearance was at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in 1955, when Dickie Valentine topped the bill. She soon became known throughout Wales after appearing on the regional television. Her first acting role on screen was as a schoolgirl in the BBC TV drama The Corn is Green, which starred Flora Robson.

She stayed under the guidance of Waldini for nearly three years. He could see her potential and she started to visit London regularly, looking for new material at the song publishers on Denmark Street and leaving copies of demo recordings with record companies.

In 1958, she was noticed by Reg Warburton at Embassy which produced budget-price cover versions of current hit sounds exclusively for Woolworth stores. She was signed for a year and had to emulate the style of singers in the top 20, so one week she had to sound like Connie Francis and on another occasion Shirley Bassey. On the Embassy label she released her first disc, the Connie Francis double A-side Carolina moon backed with Stupid cupid.

Subsequently she recorded many of Connie’s latest hits including “Lipstick on your collar” and “Plenty Good Lovin’. She soon became the most popular female singer on Embassy – which didn’t go unnoticed by Oriole executives, who upgraded Maureen to their core label. Now she could prove herself as a singer in her own right and not just as a sound-alike.

Her first recording for Oriole, “The Years Between” failed to chart. However, her next attempt, “The Big Hurt”, took Maureen to number 26 in January 1960 – gaining the upper hand over the original by American singer Toni Fisher, which only reached No 30.

That same year, “Love, kisses and heartaches” reached number 44 and “Paper Roses” peaked at number 40 as Maureen lost out on chart success to the Kaye Sisters.

Her national television singing debut came when she appeared in ATV’s Saturday Spectacular, hosted by Arthur Askey. She sang “What a Difference a Day Made” (which she recorded for both Embassy and Oriole) and also took part in a song-and-dance routine with Arthur Askey. Although she was only 5’1”, she had to take her shoes off for the dance, as Arthur Askey was so short.

In November 1960, she returned to the Embassy label for a one-off release under a pseudonym – with TV and radio presenter Brian Matthew. Together as Linda Joyce and Matt Bryant, they released a cover of the Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren “Goodness Gracious Me!”

1962 was Maureen’s year – she saw her recording of “Like I do” climb to number 3 in the charts during November. In February 1963, Maureen appeared in BBC TV’s A song for Europe. As a contender, up against the likes of Vince Hill, 16 regional juries voted for a song and singer to represent Britain. Maureen sang “Pick the Petals”, which finished third, whilst Ronnie Carroll scored top points.

An attempt to generate overseas interest, with the release of two German singles in 1963, fell flat.

Dorothy Squires penned “Acapulco Mexico” especially for Maureen. It lasted about 7 minutes in her stage act, as she incorporated send-ups of Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey and Dorothy as well.

This and many other noteworthy singles, including “Till” (later recorded by Dorothy Squires) and “Never in a Million Years”, failed to make any impact with the record-buying public. However, Maureen remained a popular guest on shows such as TV’s “Thank your Lucky Stars” and radio’s “Easy Beat”.

Her last chart entry came in 1964. “I Love how you Love Me” had reached number 18 in 1961 for Jimmy Crawford, and just three years later, Maureen took the song to number 34.  Her final disc for Oriole label, “Get Away”, was a fitting title and one of her best.

With the arrival of beat groups and a new wave of girl singers like Dusty Springfield, Maureens pop star days were numbered. She continued to release the occasional single, but now concentrated on her home life her main priority was her husband and young daughter, Lynette.

In late 1964 Oriole was taken over by CBS records and Maureen went on to release four discs for the label, including “Never Let Him Go”. Her last record to date, “I Almost called your Name”, which was also recorded by Kathy Kirby, was issued in 1968.

Maureen recorded over 30 singles, an extended play record, plus an album released in 1963 which took the title of her biggest hit, “Like I Do”.

However she didn’t give up singing entirely. Her brother Gomer owns a recording studio in Germany, where he also writes his own music – and when Maureen pays a visit she often helps out with backing vocals.

Today, Maureen has been married to her second husband, Roy, for over 30 years and they founded their own theatre school in Cardiff in 1998, teaching children aged three to 18 years old all aspects of singing, dancing and drama. “It was always my ambition to run a drama school,” Maureen says. “I wanted to give back what I received when I was a teenager, and in turn, it gives me so much satisfaction.” After Maureen turned 70 years old she decided to give up the drama school and enjoy her retirement.

However, she insists that age is only a number. “I still feel as if I’m in my 30s, so I try and keep my birthdays very low key.”

Keep in touch

On this Day 18th February 1960-1965

On 18/02/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was Some Like It Hot. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was EMI's last coarse-groove 78 rpm record was issued.

On 18/02/1961 the number one single was Are you Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 18/02/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Unknown Sean Connery cast as 007 in Dr No.

On 18/02/1963 the number one single was Diamonds - Jet Harris & Tony Meehan and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Liz Taylor films Cleopatra.

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