A tribute to Bernice: The “little Girl with the big Voice.”
Remembering a great Scottish singer and personality who was a star attraction in Norfolk in the 1970s.
The singer the Evening News described as the 'little girl with the big voice,' and a star attraction in Norwich and Norfolk for many years, Bernice Bell (Breslin), has died, aged 60, after losing a battle with cancer.
In recent years Bernice has been living in Carlisle with her husband Chris Bell, former drummer with the cult Norwich band Precious Few. 'Bernice was not just a singer. She was a great dancer, comedienne, mimic and she loved people. She will be greatly missed by everyone who met her and most of all by those who loved her,' said Chris.
Bernice was born in Motherwell, Scotland, and one of five singing sisters. She sang in clubs and pubs before embarking on a real adventure – by travelling all the way to Lowestoft after being offered at a holiday camp.
It turned out there was no job, but while her friends went back home, she stayed on and got a job as one third of the Don Robb Trio at the Tower Casino with Karen Kay and Julie Grant. Then she went on to work with the brilliant and much-loved Trevor Copeman Band alongside singer Danny Macmillan at the Tower Ballroom.
It was there she met and fell in love with Chris, the Precious Few drummer who went on to play with the Curly Heinz Trio with David Hindes and Roger Pymer, also playing at the Tower.
'The season was hard work but there was a great atmosphere between the band. Bernice loved it and the audience loved her great voice and electric personality,' recalled Chris. They married in 1971 and lived in Portland Street, Norwich. They played in the Trevor Copeman Band across the region and then formed Masquerade, working in Europe entertaining American troops, going back and forth from Vietnam at the time, and at the NATO base in Naples.
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They then toured this country before coming back to Norwich where Bernice joined the Ken Stevens Band and was a star attraction at the old Samson & Hercules. She appeared alongside the likes of John Tuttle, Derek Overy and Dave Quinton.
Bernice left the band when their son Alex was born in 1975. Within a couple of years she and her sister Marie were entertaining at the dear old Savoy on Prince of Wales. By the early 80s they were touring this country, Europe and Russia with the Forever Elvis show. They also appeared on the Wogan show with Big Jim White, the lead Elvis in the musical.
In 1987, Bernice, Chris and Alex left Norwich for South Wales before moving to Barcelona and the ending up in Carlisle.
'We celebrated our ruby wedding anniversary by performing as a duo in a church hall at Motherwell,' said Chris.
'We found out about the cancer in October 2011 just after Bernice's 60th birthday. She had two operations and chemotherapy but lost her battle for life a few weeks ago.' said Chris.
'She was a warm, selfless, affectionate, caring mother to Alex and all those things and so much more as a wife to me,' he added.