strike a chord

OUR clubland tenor topic certainly struck a note with former 'turn' Frank Laird, who promptly solved a little singing mystery.

In earlier recollections about the halcyon days when northern audiences liked a rich mix of classical singers included in their concert room diet, Newton-le-Willows reader Eric Wilson had mentioned an operatic duo with a special gimmick who had hit the top notes about four decades ago.

Eric had recalled how they would begin their performance with the once popular 'Indian Love Call' number - the soprano half of the act entering first on one side of the stage, with her tenor partner gradually emerging from the other direction, or even from the dressing room or body of the concert room. The name of the pair had eluded Eric's memory.

But Frank Laird, also from Newton, and one-time half of the Alvin Brothers successful comedy miming duo who performed from 1956 into the 1970s, reveals that the tenor was Jimmy Whelan, father of Dave Whelan, millionaire businessman of supermarket and JJB Sports fame.

Frank, of the well-known Fingerpost photography business, which carries his name, adds: "I think Jimmy sang with his daughter, although I'm not entirely sure". He was, however, able to add to Eric's earlier, and quite lengthy, cast-list of operatic-style acts from the golden past. "There was the Newton man and wife team of Joe and Hilda Smith. Joe only joined in the act occasionally, while Hilda, possessor of a strong soprano voice, regularly appeared solo".

Then there was Frank's present near neighbour, Mike Woodhouse, a tenor who won many 'performer of the year' titles on Merseyside and within the Manchester club circuit. Frank informs us that Mike's still tuning up his tonsils with the famed Haydock Male Voice Choir.

And he signs off with a classic yedscratter. Some time around the late 1950s, a handsomely boyish Ashton-in-Makerfield tenor won a Mario Lanza 'sound-alike' talent show on national TV. "I wonder", says Frank, "how many others can remember him and are able to say what happened to his singing career, or perhaps can tell us where he is now?"