Bits and pieces from a full life well lived
Portions extracted from the London Daily Mail
from an article by June Southworth
Josef Locke is briefly back in London, back from the
'dead' and firmly in the limelight for the premier of
Hear My Song, a modest £2m film which features
Ned Beatty In a role firmly based on Josef himself.
Did this 6'3" ladies' man enjoy his encounter with
Princess Di at the Premiere? What did he think of her
legs ? After all, they had reputedly lured him from
what is now a self-imposed exile in County Kildare to
the bright lights of London he never thought to see
"Sure now, isn't every man one for the ladies? I had
Princess Diana come to see me, and I'll tell you she
has a beautiful figure, a beautiful face and a beautiful
nature. Yes, her legs are very fine too"
"She couldn't have been nicer, such a lovely sweet
personality and not big-headed at all. She'd read I
had a bit of a throat, and so I had. She said she'd
read about it in the tabloids.
"I sang Danny Boy to her and it seemed to go down
well. In fact I had a standing ovation. At least I
thought it was for me. I went over so big I thought
she'd not mind if I sang another song. I was just
going to start If I can Help Somebody as a tribute to
her work. The pianist played a chord, I opened my
mouth, and there was Michael Aspel * with the red
book, and every beggar seemed to know about it but
This Is Your Life would be a perilous enterprise for
someone with such a chequered past. Jo, after all,
was a very naughty boy.
With such a colourful background, perhaps the
biggest surprise is that it took so long for his story to
make it to the big screen.
In fact, ex-actor Peter Chelsom, who devised and
directed Hear My Song, heard a tape of Jo singing
as he drove to Blackpool and thought there would be
quite a life behind that voice.
"It was beautiful, sentimental, outrageous, even a
little ridiculous" he says. "I thought someone ought to
research that man - madman that I am. Jo had
become a myth. Apart from some dreadful films he
made and some crackling records, only the legend
existed and the memory of his stage performance."
He originally wanted Jo to appear and sing in Hear
My Song, but to get the financial backing he needed
a name actor, and Jo's voice today, great though it
still is, did not quite fit Ned Beatty's face.
Tthe recording quality of Jo's original tracks would
have been impossible to mime to, and so it went on.
persuading Jo to lend his name to the enterprise was
"I only saw Jo genuinely thrown twice" says
Chelsom. "Once was This is Your Life, and the other
time was when I tracked him down to a bar in Spain
after he disappeared without signing the contract for
Clearance Rights that would have allowed us to
make the film. I had to have him. He was the dream-
"In the film he is watching some young girls dancing
and says "Would you like to be responsible for their
"It carries responsibility being the leading man. I
used to tell Ned Beatty all the time that he was
playing a universal commercial showman and there
was no such thing as going over the top. Then he
saw Jo perform in Ireland and said he could have
"What does Jo get out of it? Well. it's a genuine
celebration of his career. He gets some money, but
very little. Everyone gets pathetic fees. I deferred
nearly half my fee and it all went."
From the Blackpool Evening Gazette, March 1992
by David Pearce
Showman and singing star Josef Locke returned in triumph to
Blackpool where he made his name.
And he quickly turned back the clock to put audiences where
they always ere - in the palm of his hand.
But the Irish tenor slipped away from his seat at the Cannon
Cinema in Church Street as soon as the lights went down.
After all, he had seen the show before.
Written and directed by Blackpool man Peter Chelsom, Hear
My Song is a delightful movie loosely based on aspects of
Josef's colourful lifestyle.
After a soothing pint of Liffey water to ease a bad chest caused
by 'flu, the 75-year-p;d entertainer returned to the auditorium just
in time for the credits.
Nearly 700 people packed the cinema, which stands on the site
of the Hippodrome where Josef played seven of his 19 seasons
in the resort.
"Blackpool was my second home" Joe told the audience, which
included locally-based stars of today like Les Dawson and Roy
They had come to help raise around £7,000 for the cancer
research charity Friends of Rosie.
Peter Chelsom confessed "I'm nervous. Whether a local boy
has made good lies in the opinion of his home town"
The applause told him the film had received another rave
review. Audiences all over the world are voting it a big hit.
Stars Shirley Anne Field and Tara Fitzgerald got a warm
welcome.Shirley Anne, who had flown from Los Angeles
especially for the northern premiere of the film, remembered
when she turned on the illuminations.
"You switched them on for me tonight" she said.
Then there was a standing ovation when Josef Locke walked
the catwalk decorated with his initials.
Complete silence awaited a faultless unaccompanied
performance of the folk song She walked through the Fair.
Afterwards, at the Imperial Hotel, Joe confessed "I had the
words in my pocket because I was worried I wouldn't get it right.
Blackpool has been good to me. It's a great town but I'm looking
forward to heading home to Ireland".
Turning back the clock
Willy Kavanagh, Managing
Director of EMI (Ireland)
presents Josef with an award
for his 1992 best-selling CD
Hear My Song.
This is the house Josef lived in while
performing in Blackpool. He sold it
to George Formby, another great
British performer, who lived there
until his death. (Picture by kind
permission of Peter Pollard, George
The Queen's Theatre, Blackpool,
where Josef enthralled summer
season audiences. Before it was
renamed, this is the theatre in its
hey-day, when it was known as
Josef’s birth certificate
This unique card was part of the management records at
Moss Empires. It charts the dates, and observations of
theatre managers, of Josef's performances at various Moss
establishments around the country. This card, from the latter
end of 1957, also indicates how much of the house takings
Josef was paid - in the case of Leeds he received 57 per
cent of a takings bordering on £350. By today's standard,
that would be equivalent to an appearance fee of some
Here are what the managers thought:
Morecambe 23/9/57 Very good reception, this artist is still in
good voice and is doing a much more straightforward act
than on his previous visits, which is a great asset. Hils
milking of the audience at the end of the act is still very
much overdone and pointless, nevertheless he is working
Leeds 25/11/57 Exceptionally well received although this
artise seems to have lost his hold on the public which he
had on his last visit. He is nevertheless in excellent voice
and appearance, singing songs from comic opera together
with the old Irish and sentimental numbers. He was
exceptionallyt well received and undoubtedly a personal
Sunderland 9/12/57 Well received. He is singing very well
and all of his numbers, though mainly old, are being well
liked in all parts of the house. His pianist accompanies him
well. He is no longer a strong favourite here.
Notts 23/12/57 Very well received. The artiste again gives a
bright and entertaining programme. His voice remains good
and his repertoire is well chosen.
Moss Empires - managers' comments card