Memory Lane: Big bands in a tizz over jobs

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FIFTY two years ago, enough people wanted to make eyes at Emile Ford to put him at the top of the charts and to have TV pop show bosses chasing after him.

What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For went to number one at the end of 1959 and stayed there for six weeks.

The track remains as having the longest question ever asked by a chart-topping disc in the UK, and Caribbean-born Emile became the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a 7in single.

The 60s heart throb opened that decade with a season at the Hippodrome, and during the summer run, held the record for the number of guest appearances at various local functions and charity events.

Born in 1937, he married his first wife in Blackpool in 1965, although she divorced him three years later.

Back in the 1980s, a charity ball in the resort found itself wrapped up in red tape and magnetic tape as cabaret star Emile and the Musicians’ Union fought over the entertainment.Today many performers use similar equipment, but back in 1982 loud arguments surrounded Emile’s Live-o-theque, a backing tape device invented by the entertainer, which it, was claimed, could revolutionise clubland and cabaret performances. A studio recording of the performer’s music guaranteed a big band backing without using musicians on the night.

When Emile used the device during his act, the Frank Sherry Orchestra returned to the Winter Gardens stage and – in the words of Blackpool showbusiness agent Lawrie Adam, who arranged the booking for the Kidney Research Association charity event: “The band had no option but to go on and play Mr Ford off to save the night.”

As one union official told The Gazette afterwards: “How would Emile Ford like it if bands went round playing to tapes of his voice?”