Paying tribute to Clever Trevor’s lookalike empire

Legends - montage of the tribute acts

Legends - montage of the tribute acts

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We’ve all slumped on the sofa on a Saturday night, watched a decent programme on TV, then changed channel or gone to bed and 
carried on with our lives.

Trevor Chance is clearly a cut above the rest of us.

A quarter of a century ago he was watching a new show on ITV. Star In Their Eyes. You’ll no doubt remember it. Host Matthew Kelly spoke to some plumber from Birmingham, who disappeared into a sea of dry ice, then reappeared dressed as someone who vaguely resembled Elton John.

Whereas the rest of us made sarcastic remarks about how corny it all was, Trevor saw, if you’ll excuse the pun, a chance – a chance to exploit a hole in the market.

He dreamt up the show 
Legends, lookalike tribute 
acts singing hit songs.

Not only has it been a staple of Blackpool nightlife for years and earned Trevor and wife Brenda a nice living, the show has been watched by everyone from Tony Blair to David and Victoria Beckham and changed the face of the entertainment industry.

“When this Stars In Their Eyes show came on tele, I was like most people – I didn’t pay too much attention and laughed at it a bit,” Trevor explained.

“Even the makers of the show didn’t think it would do well because at that point in time you’ve got to remember there was no tribute market – it hadn’t been done before.

“But then I suddenly realised people enjoyed it and the thought struck me that if we took the artists from the show, we could make it into a production and put a show on.

“Mind you, if I’m being honest I still didn’t really think it had a chance...”

Trevor has long been involved in showbusiness. Now in his late 60s, he was a successful musician back in the day. In fact his claim to fame was that in the 1970s he was the most used singer on BBC radio.

“But I was always a frustrated backroom boy – I used to love recording studios, or giving advice to others, so I drifted quite happily into that side of it,” he said.

He began to manage other artists (including the late, great Lonnie Donegan), helped them with their acts (“that was my early days of being a producer I suppose”), and then, 25 years ago and inspired by Stars In Their Eyes, staged two tribute shows at Manchester’s two biggest theatre’s – The Palace and Opera House.

“I stood at the side of the stage and I saw this incredible audience reaction,” he recalled.

“People were leaning forward in their seats and saying ‘wow’. They had never seen anything like it before and this was 
teenagers right through to 
elderly folk.

“I realised people were seeing their idols, or at least as close as they were ever going to get to their idols.

“At that gig we had lookalikes of Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Neil Sedaka, even Edith Piaf. But it went down an 
absolute storm and I knew
 then I had something special on my hands.”

Trevor gave the show a name – Legends – and over the next decade it toured the world, including playing private parties at the homes of celebrities who loved the idea.

“One of the most memorable was in a chalet halfway up a mountain in Switzerland,” said Trevor.

“Ivana Trump was one of the guests and it was a beautiful, luxurious house.

“It had Picasso and Matisse paintings on the wall – the genuine, originals. I remember walking into a room and one of my guitarists had hung his jacket on a Matisse. I said ‘do you know what that is?’ He didn’t have a clue but when I told him he took his jacket down pretty quickly.”

Legends played at Gary Neville’s wedding, where the Beckhams were guests, and in Blackpool to then PM Tony Blair.

“It was a party in The Tower Ballroom during one of the Labour party conferences,” 
explained Trevor.

“It was full that night and a great atmosphere. Was Blair up dancing? No I don’t think he was. But he was very charismatic.

“I remember because I shook hands with him and thought he was a very charming guy, and that was his secret I think.

“Whether anybody believed in his politics or him as a person I don’t know but he was a great showman.

“When he stood up and talked you felt what he was saying. The guy had talent. If he was performer I would have signed him up!”

Legends arrived in Blackpool on a permanent basis in 1999 with a season on North Pier, then a move to Central Pier.

It has played the resort every year since, at Easter and throughout the summer, switching to The Sands Venue last year.

The beauty of the show is that it doesn’t require too much tinkering.

“We’re lucky because we’ve got exactly the same format now we started with – you just change the cast when new stars come along,” said Trevor.

“For the line up in Blackpool in ‘99 for instance we had people like Chris de Burgh and Patsy Kline, they were big stars then.

“Now this year we’ve got Adele and Buble and Lady Gaga so that is what keeps it fresh.

“The big thing for us is making sure we have the best artists we can find and afford because there is too much tripe out there.

“It’s difficult to believe the tribute industry now didn’t exist at all 25 years ago.

“You had comedians, singers, dancers, jugglers, ventriloquists but no tributes. Now they are the biggest selling part of our industry.

“I find that quite amusing because at the start when we were talking with agents it was almost a joke.

“They’d say ‘let me get this straight, you want to get some nobody dressed as Elvis Presley – is that really going to work?’

“Everyone was very cynical, but then our product took off and within a few years every agent had an Elvis on their books.

“Everybody jumped on bandwagon and there was a point when anybody who looked vaguely like Rod Stewart or Elvis would don a costume and try it.

“Unfortunately that’s why there are varying degrees of quality out there and why we have to make sure our tribute artists are the best.”

The Chances have four children.

Three, as Trevor puts it, have proper jobs – a film-maker, schoolteacher and HR.

Their only son Richard, however, followed in his parents footsteps and is musical director of the show.

I wonder how Legends maintains its popularity, especially in Blackpool, a resort we keep being told is dying a slow, steady death?

“People say it is dead but where is the body? At certain times of the season, you can’t get a room in the hotels. Places still get good business,” responds Trevor.

“They’ve refurbished the likes of The Tower complex to the tune of millions of pounds and they don’t do that unless they are getting business, so it is alive and well.

“As far as Legends is concerned our stride hasn’t really been broken since the beginning.

“We’ve continued to grow and we are nearly sold out for Easter now in The Sands, and we’ve never known that before at this stage of the year.

“Maybe that’s just us, I mean I don’t know what business others in Blackpool are doing.

“But I think people are OK and we are great admirers of shows like Funnygirls, who have been going for ages, and a lot of things that Amanda Thompson does at the Pleasure Beach.

“I don’t know how their businesses are doing but they still seem to be alive and kicking. “And Blackpool is looking so much better.

“ It is looking the sort of place where you would want to go now.”

It’s not just in Blackpool that Legends plays.

It is performed on cruise ships and at corporate functions (“everyone from Mercedes to McDonalds,” says Trevor).

With things going so swimmingly is the time approaching when Trevor will hang up his tribute boots and enjoy a bit of feet up time? Not likely.

“Retirement? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” he said.

“If you’ve a work ethic like ours, and you enjoy what you do and you can see something still working, I don’t think you’d stop either.

“And I’m very hopeful for the future because we’ve entered a new phase with our move to The Sands.

“I like the venue, it is quite classy, and although it was a bit daunting at first, it’s paid off judging by how the tickets are selling.

“What we offer is a high production show, with great dancers, terrific lights and sound, and it is basically almost like watching the real thing.

“I still love the reaction of the audience and that feeling of contentment after I’ve seen a show which I think couldn’t have been any better.

“While I’ve still got that feeling, I’ll carry on.”