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Amazing memories of Norwich girl's life in music

PUBLISHED: 11:20 19 August 2011 | UPDATED: 11:20 19 August 2011

mireille gray

mireille gray

Archant

Yesterday we found out how singer Mirielle returned to Norwich to be reunited with city pop pioneer Tony Sheridan at a CNS reunion, now Derek James tells Mirielle's story.

It was a career which started on the front at Great Yarmouth in Britain’s Got talent of the 1950s.

Thousands cheered and clapped as young Mireille Gray and her friends got tapping to the sounds of Neville Bishop, a great showman at the holiday hotspot.

“I had two friends who were terrific tap dancers. We were joint winners of the talent contest and Anne Shelton presented me with a set of trifle dishes. I remember she kissed me and her perfume was beautiful,” said Mireille.

Yesterday, I told how Mirielle returned to Norwich from her home in Newcastle to be reunited with city pop pioneer Tony Sheridan at a CNS reunion.

Mireille grew up on Cromer Road, opposite Mann Egerton, and went to the Notre Dame School.

She always loved singing and doing impressions of the stars of the day and in the summer she and her family headed off to Yarmouth, where Neville was the king of the old Marina.

“I’ll never forget how he would parade his musicians around carrying an upside down mop in Military style, playing McNamara’s Band,” she said.

Back in Norwich, the place to be was The Industrial Club, (now The Talk), the first working men’s club in the city. It was a nightspot with thousands of members.

“I would sit in a posh frock until asked to sing Mr Wonderful, the Number one song of the day. I was quite full of myself until my father dragged me off the bandstand because I had to get up for school the next day,” she laughed.

Her friends at Notre Dame took her to their youth club to hear a skiffle group. Nancy Whisky was top of the tops with Freight Train – and Mirielle was hooked.

She was a star attraction in pubs and clubs across Norwich and Norfolk when she upped sticks and moved to the North East in 1962. She went to work for Tyne Tees Television and married a cameraman.

“In those days nightclubs were booming and Jack Haig, later to star in Allo Allo, suggested I got a job in a new club in Newcastle,” she said.

For the next ten years, seven nights a week, she sang with the band led by Johnny Sampson, who had previously been the “Boy Wonder” with old Mother Riley.

“Those were the days,” recalled Mireille, who worked with Max Wall, The Dallas Boys, The Seekers, Nat Gonelle, Donald Peers, Freddie (Parrot face) Davis and Mike Yarwood.

“I do remember when a singer called Gerry Dorsey worked with our band as a cabaret act. He was very slick and so good looking – he later changed his name to Englebert Humperdink.

“Our bandleader told him he would never get anywhere with a name like that.” Mirielle then started work on a new radio show called Pop North, with another newcomer by the name of Dave Lee Travis, who turned into the Hairy Cornflake. “Our guest list included the likes of Tony Christie, Cat Stevens, Kiki Dee and Status Quo,” said Mirielle.

She did all kinds of work during her singing career – from summer seasons at Scarborough to cabaret. She also won the North East Clubland Award, which opened doors all over the world where she sang with international artists and broadcast on Radio 2.

But times changed. Clubs closed and Mirielle says she “came down to earth” and got a job with Newcastle City Council.

“Now, as an old antique, I am entertaining in nursing homes. Singing songs from the 1960s and earlier. The good thing about this is that my audience is compelled to stay and listen,” she laughs.

The years and the memories came rolling back when she sang again with her first companion, Tony Sheridan, at the Maids Head.

“The years have flown by and my memories are a joy,” she said.

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