Favourite back in spotlight
AN entertainer of the old school, Joe Longthorne brought a bit of showbiz dazzle to our TV screens throughout the 1980s with gutsy renditions of standards and spot-on impressions of the great voices.
After a touch-and-go struggle against leukaemia, Joe is back on top form, and this year he was appointed MBE in the honours list for his charity work and for services to music.
He heads to Swansea's Grand Theatre on Wednesday.
The son of an Irish travelling family which gravitated to Yorkshire — "My mother was born under a tarpaulin under a bridge in York," and of Romany descent, life on the road is in the blood for Joe. And performing is something he has done since childhood.
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"Dad was a good piano player, and he and Mum used to sing in pubs and clubs. My mum would send me to the pub to bring dad out when it was time for him to come home.
"When he saw me in my boots and braces, he knew it was time to leave, but they used to get me to sing for them before I went."
He says those early days gave him an apprenticeship in performing that performers today miss out on.
"I'd sing Sugartime for the people in the pub.
"Then later workingmen's clubs were my college, but we don't have workingmen's clubs now because we don't have working men, we have lap-dancing clubs.
"I feel sorry for young performers now because there are so few places they can learn the trade like I did."
After he polished his act in the clubs of the nation, Joe's big break came in 1981 when he was a finalist on London Weekend Television's Search for a Star.
And that took him to appearances at the London Palladium with Bob Hope and at The Talk of the Town.
But for many he is a face of 1980s TV, with those snakey-voiced impressions of Shirley Bassey, of which she says: "Joe can do me better than I can do myself."
Wednesday's show starts at 7.30pm and he is always a draw at this venue so fans are advised to book tickets their in advance.