PEOPLE think I come from Italy. In truth I am from Londonderry. I’m not the sort of chap who likes talking about myself — singing, not talking, is my mission in life — but in fact I must give you a pen-picture of my life in song if you are to appreciate my special “angle” on television.
  Song to me has always been a vital, human expression, embracing the emotions: not just a way of filling in time, or of making a pleasing noise.
  Although I have eight brothers and sisters I was the only one crazy enough to take up a stage career. As a boy I sang in the local church choir, and when, barefooted, I ran through the streets of Londonderry I never dreamt that one day I should have a success story to tell.
  My real name is not Josef Locke. Friends who have watched me along the road of song may have said to themselves: “Isn’t that one of the McLaughlin boys—isn’t it young Joseph McLaughlin?” And bedad it is one and the same indeed!
  I was born Joseph McLaughlin, but it was a long time after—1944, in fact—that my name was changed for me. Here is the story of those years: —As a youth I joined the Irish Guards, becoming sergeant about eighteen months later. I was keen, and had a good physique. The Guards brought me to England for a time, but when the tour of duty was over I went home, and joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
  That was a grand adventure, too, and all the time, just as in the Guards, I loved to sing. When I’m happy I sing. When I’m unhappy I sing to cheer myself up. I hate to be caged, and it is almost impossible to silence me!
  My friends nicknamed me “The Singing Bobby,” and to earn a few shillings I was always glad of the chance of singing at smoking concerts and clubs. I was never on what you could call a stage—at best only a platform, or perhaps a table! We were all good pals at those smoking concerts, though none of us had much money.
  One day, tramping a beat in Belfast, I saw a poster advertising auditions at the Empire Theatre.
I went along to try my luck—and came out with a contract for £7 a week.
  Yet this was to be only the first of my disillusionments—f or I soon found that they wanted muscle as well as melody. I had to sing—and shift scenery too.
  But I so loved the life of the theatre that I didn’t care what I did so long as it was the right side of the footlights. Just then came one of those lucky breaks. I was introduced to the former singing teacher of the great John McCormack, and a little later McCormack heard me singing in opera and complimented me on my work. I learned the golden secret of success. You must get right to the heart of a song. In the profession we hear a lot about “putting a song over.” I think something more than personality is needed; you must have sincerity.
  Although John McCormack’s  t u t o r helped me to develop this gift, I was still a long way from financial success, and early in 1944 I took the plunge and came to London. The little money I had been able to save from my concert work in Ireland began to dribble away as I went the rounds of auditions and disappointments.
  To “make ends meet” I went on a diet - often just a cup of tea. There were sleepless, nights of worry, and these must have reflected themselves in my singing. But my lucky break came when I least expected it. Jack Hylton offered me an engagement at the Victoria Palace.
  Everything was fixed. The contract was signed. Two days later when I arrived at the theatre my name was not on the bill. In place of McLaughlin a “Josef Locke” was billed to sing. My heart turned over. Had Hylton changed his mind?
To this day I can’t forget that moment, when the heart-pang changed to laughter and they explained to me why the billing was done this way.
  “There are ten million Londoners who don’t know McLaughlin is pronounced ‘Mac-Lock-lin’,” they said. “And, anyway, there wasn’t space on the bill. So we kept in the ‘Locke’ part.”
  “B-but why Josef?” I asked.
  “We don’t print show-bills with rubber type,” they said. “ ‘Joseph’ is just one letter too long, so we turned the ‘ph into an ‘f’. Like it?”
I   liked it. The name Jack Hylton gave me has since proved so lucky I see no reason to change it.
  But when the engagement came to an end I found it just as heartbreaking as ever trying to get work.
  I was still going the weary way around the agents’ offices when luck came once more.
  I was signed to appear in a big Tom Arnold production in Blackpool, ‘with George and Beryl Formby topping the bill. Not only was that show a wonderful success, but George and Beryl were so impressed by my singing that they introduced me to Columbia records. I became a microphone “discovery,” and in the short space of a couple of years over a million of my records were sold in this country alone.
  This was flattering to me as a singer, but I felt, and still believe, that TV is my real forte.
I feel that action and gestures help to make a more sympathetic link with the audience. The concert singer should be seen as well as heard.
  I would like to do more TV, but already my plate is rather full. Joseph McLaughlin of Londonderry was glad to take a £7-a-week contract, but Josef Locke has all the business worries of netting over £1,500 a week!
  The one thing you can be sure of is that none of this has changed the Jo McLaughlin who knew that tiny attic in the house overlooking the crest of the road in Londonderry. I’ll not forget old Ireland, be it fifty times as fair.
'George and Beryl Formby were so impressed by my singing that they introduced me to Columbia records'