Denise - Denise Nolan - The Official Website

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It seems strange to think, but I have been a professional entertainer since I was eleven years old. That's sixty years!  My parents, Tommy and Maureen Nolan had been successful performers in Ireland, with their act  'The Sweethearts Of Song'. This was mainly in Dublin in the heyday of the big band. One by one a total of eight of us children were born, I was the second eldest daughter. In the early 1960s my family relocated to Blackpool on the UK's North West coast. My Mother had been to Blackpool for a holiday and was shown the many entertainment venues there. When she came home she told my Dad all about the fantastic opportunities that the town had. She explained to him that beyond the town itself were thousands of clubs that could give the act, and therefore the family a very healthy income. In 1962 the family boarded the ferry and found ourselves in Blackpool. We stayed with a friend for a short time, before finding our new permanent house on Waterloo Road, in the South Shore district of the town. Very quickly, my parents found loads of work. Blackpool had a system of block booking artistes for the summer season by holding auditions at a single venue - A bit like the X Factor I guess! In the first year my parents were booked solid -  "The Sweethearts Of Song" made a decent living touring the Northern club circuit. It was tough though with seven kids - Coleen hadn't been born yet! Dad took a job in an office as well as workinng almost every night at a club. The fact that some of the cliubs were quite a drive away meant that Dad had a lot of trouble getting up each morning and was prone to more than the odd 'sickie'.
From time to time, Mum and Dad would take one or two of us to gigs - I loved those nights out and I always made the biggest fuss when it wasn't my turn! That continued for a while,  until one evening, a child minder let my parents down and the entire Nolan family had to accompany Mum and Dad to their gig. One by one each of the family appeared on stage that night and sang a song. The audience went absolutely crazy, cheering and clapping. That night, The Singing Nolans were born. The line up featured an early version of the Nolans with my sisters Anne and Maureen and myslef singing three part harmonies, as well as solo performances from Anne and myself. We were knon as the - The 'elder sisters', My Brother Tommy played drums and Brian sang. The younger section consited of Linda and Bernie, later on, it included Coleen -  Plus of course, Mum and Dad....
We were often very late home from gig and, similar to my Dad, we hated getting up for school and more than once, we fell asleep in class. We didn't really want to be in school, we wanted to be on stage. We would travel to most Lancashire and Yorkshire towns for one night engagements. As our reputation grew we would go furhter afield to places like Wales and Scotland for a weeks worth of bookings. We piled in the van and stayed in Bed and Breakfast hotels. If e were working nearer home, Dad would stay for a drink after the show, chatting with club-goers and committee members. To be honest, he drank far too much to drive, but it didn't stop him. I was instructed to keep talking to him as he drove us all home. Quite a few times he fell asleep at the wheel and I had to shout at him to wake up. It was not ideal to live this lifestyle when we were kids, but I don't recall anyone making much of a protest about it. In fact, to me it was normal. I have always been family orientated, the fact that we were all together was enough for me. This constant slogging around the country went on for more than a decade. At school we did say that we would get a job when we left. I was good at English and fancied myself as a journalist. We had ambitions to be Air Stewardesses or Beauticians. I remember Anne saying in the early years that if nothing happened in our careers 'soon' that she was going to 'pack it in' - Maureen felt the same, but I don't think that was ever a realistic proposition.
In 1972 we ventured into the recording studio, and in two days we completed the recording of our debut album. 'The Singing Nolans' - it was pretty basic, even for 1972!  To us though, it was fabulous to be recording and album. Soon after than we recorded a Christmas EP. The records were sold at our gigs, although they never were commercial successes. The record only had an organist to accompany us. We had a photo taken at Stanley Park for the front cover.  Many years later, at the height of the Nolans success, a small label re-released the album - much to everyone's embarrassment.
By now we had performed at some fairly prestigious shows, including appearing  the clubland command performance at the Opera House in Blackpool, and we had appeared on cruise liners as the cabaret artistes. We did have ambitions to make it as pop stars, and the lack of us being discovered did get us down. Our Dad always said that if we had had enough we could just leave the act. There never was a contract, so we were free to go at any time. One of our biggest thrils in 1972 was recording the theme song for Blackpool Football Club. My Dad rote the song and it featured lots of different instrumentts, courtesy of a local brass band. It was backed by a catchy song called 'Apple Pie' which was a bit like the New Seekers. The song only featured the Sisters and I hoped it might make it to the radio - It didn't! Incidentally the Blackpool song still gets played now at home games, Which is both an honour and a little embarrassing - when you are sat on the terraces with some of your Sisters! - Blackpool, BLackpool, see the way they play - Blackpool, Blackpool, we're with you all the way......' I can't see why it wasn't a smash hit all over the world.
As an act we contunued touring the Working Men's Clubs around the UK and even a prison in Ireland. The constant working did take its tll on my schooling, as I said earlier, it was not uncommon for any of us to fall asleep in class. One of my teachers once said 'Ah here's Denise my favourite malingerer.' as I walked in the classroom.  I was actually thrilled to be given such a title - until I found out what malingerer meant! Sometimes the clubs were grubby and the dressing rooms were often the pits - especially when there are eight kids and two parents crammed into the room. Concert secretaries in Blackpool had booked us for lengthy summer seasons throughout the early seventies. We appeared for long stretches at Layton Institute and a full season at The Central Club with Freddie Starr in 1971. He was pretty much unknown then and was really lovely to us. In 1972 and 73 we were booked for the full Summer at a Blackpool Club called the Brunswick Club. This was a big deal for us. It was one of the biggest clubs in England with seats in the concert room for nearly 2000 people. It's hard to imagine these days with so many pubs and clubs closing that a club like that could exist, but it did. Our reputation had grown a lot by then and club goers would start to queue up at the Brunswick from about 5pm, even though the doors didn't open until 6-30. We would go on stage two times through the night with bingo played in between our sets! It was amazing walking up to the club and hearing people mutter under their breath how fabulous we were. They would often say things that we overheard - things that didn't mean to hurt - but they did...Things like "Here she is, this one is not so pretty but she is an incredible singer." which was about me! Or about Maureen, "She's the pretty one with not much of a voice." Of course, we all had good voices!
In any case, even as early as this in our career, we had established a well rounded, professional act.  Our show used to feature Coleen and Bernie in the first half, so they could go home as they were too young to stay all night. The law said they had to out of the venue by 9pm. That law was routinely broken. Not because we were deliberately breaking the rules, but because clubs and their patrons wanted to see the whole act. Often,  we were all there the whole night. It made sense, because at the end of the act our Dad used to sing 'Thank Heaven For Little Girls' where we all came out, one by one, to take our bows. More to the point, there was no one available to take the young ones home and sit with them. So they had to stay.


Our Dad always made a point of not working on Christmas Day. It was always a great time for us and we enjoyed the family being together. However, in 1973 the phone rang early on Christmas Day. The Cliffs Hotel in Blackpool needed an artist for the next day as the one already booked had cancelled. My Dad refused at first, but before long they were back on the phone asking him to "name his price". Dad asked for, what for us was, an astronomical fee of £80. Confident they wouldn't want to pay such a large fee we settled down to enjoying our Christmas. Dad was horrified, moments later when the phone rang, this time the hotel were offering us the money!  Dad still didn't want to do the gig, but Mum felt obliged to fulfil the booking. She started to get ready and Dad carried on with his festivities! One by one we all joined Mum and before we knew it, off we went in a taxi - Christmas Day - Working!  The booking was a big success and afterwards one of the audience approached us and started chatting about show business. The man was called Joe Lewis, and he claimed to work as a music impresario and nightclub owner. He said he wanted to offer our family work in London. Not only that, but he was offering us a residency in a new ighclub.  When we got home we told Dad. He was not so impressed.
Dad was a big fish in Blackpool and I think the thought of us being taken away to London was a scary one for him. He wouldn't be so well known there and he wouldn't have control over the act. I think, in his own way he was scared of the risks for himself as well. He had plenty of work in Blackpool, he was a popular person, so why go to London?
Another thing on my Dad's mind was that he was used to people offering us unbelievable work and they always turned out to be just that -  unbelieveable! This job offer in particular was incredible. He wanted the five Sisters and our Parents to headline six nights a week at a new club on Drury Lane in the West End of London. The Company concerned was called Hanover Grand, and not only were they offering us great money but the chance to go on TV.  Joe came to our house the next day and repeated the offer. Dad was still reluctant and Joe left without an agreement. To our absolute astonishment he called the next day, once more, repeating the offer. As Anne, Maureen and I were old enough to sign up we were all set to go ahead without our Dad's consent. Mum was in agreement and said that she would sign for Linda and Bernie. Eventually my Dad agreed to appear at the club and sing for a two night booking to see if it was going to be as good as it seemed. After the two nights Joe travelled back up to Blackpool and appeared at our house once more, this time he was accompanied by a solicitor and a contract. We were so excited.  We practically bullied Dad into signing. The contract was for ten years. Thinking back now - that was a long, long time, and although the money was good, it didn't account for how popular we were to become. How much money we could make for them or  any other changes in our professional lives. Our Dad was reluctant because work was plentiful for the act already and the younger members of the family had schools and friends in the area.  Dad finally agreed, I think Mum had a hand in that as well. She said she would come and stay with us initially. Four months after signing the contract we were on our way to London. Our Brothers had decided not to join us, instead they chose to stay in Blackpool and look after our house. They were seeing local girls as well.  They later said in an interview that is was the biggest mistake of their lives.
Initially my Sisters, my Mum and I went to London on a train! Joe Lewis had arranged for us to stay at his home which was incredible! His house had a tennis court, grounds with ornamental gardens and a swimming pool, and there was us - from a council house in Dublin - to a terraced house in Blackpool and now this!
The London Room would be our new working home. The family had worked out how we would present the act as we did a preview show one afternoon. Joe had brought in Stewart Morris, the head of light entertainment at the BBC to give his critique. He spared none of us his thoughts. He said our patter was weak, as was our dancing and presentation. He also said our harmonies needed sharpening. He didn't like our choice of songs either, or our outfits. I wonder if he liked anything about us. We dropped 'The Sound Of Music'Medley' and traditional songs like 'Danny Boy' that Stewart considered to be twee and lightweight. Instead we included songs like 'Reach Out I'll Be There' and a funky 'Philidelphia Medley'.  Joe Lewis then brought in choreographer Nigel Lythgoe, who you might remember as a judge in TV's 'Pop Idol'. Some of our new songs were arranged by John Coleman who was also a huge name in the BBC. Others were worked on by the BBC's Alyn Ainsworth who also worked out our vocal harmonies. He was one of the World's most famous conductors. Our manager was still, officially, our Dad, who had now moved to London as well. Joe Lewis employed the services of Robert Earl as our regular management. He was very dashing, and had had hits of his own as a singer. His wife was called Daphne and she was very posh. She took us to have new hair styles at John Frieda's salon - I hated mine! Then she took us to really smart dress shops to buy us new outfits - Jaeger ones. They were very expensive. The problem was that we ranged in age from 13 year old Bernie to 23 old Anne. The outfits she chose for us to wear would have suited our Mum more! They were AWFUL. Then they wanted us to wear the same clothes off stage and onstage, which was a nightmare. I think he wanted us to be like the next generation Beverley Sisters. Which is fine - but that was in the fifties and here we were, young girls in the 1970s. Our stage wear came next. We weren't too upset with the first ones. They were red cat suits with the letters "N S" Stitched on the shoulder. they had red sequinned jackets. The trousers had huge flares and red platforms. I'll tell you a story about the platforms in a while... We wore the red suit for the start of our show, then we changed into a yellow floaty dress that was vile - it had a butterfly on the chest! A later outfit was a white trouser suit with flowers on it!.


For myself and my Sisters, the London Room was a real eye opener. It was very luxurious, especially when you consider the Working Men's clubs with tiny dressing rooms that had to be shared by the ten of us. There was the added bonus that there wasn't any bingo in between to cope with either, although I am a massive bingo fan, I preferred not having it when I was performing. There was a resident 5 piece band too, and a great sound system. Most of the time we would never have such luxuries. Clubs usually had a keyboard player and occasionally a drummer. We did have our own keyboard player and my Brother Tommy played the drums. We simply were not used to this richer sound. In total, Hanover Grand had four night clubs. The premier one was 'The London Room'. Another was 'The Cockney' which, as the name suggests, had a London feel to it with Fish 'n' Chips, Pearly Kings and Queens and so on. there was also 'The Caledonian' which had a Scottish theme with bagpipes and the like. I think there was also one called 'The Hanover' and 'The Beefeater'. We were headlining in the 'London Room'. Sharing the bill with us were dancers who wore Busby hats and there was usually a comedian as a support act. It was so fabulous for us. Often celebrities were in the audience and that concentrated the mind I can tell you! The club was 'In the round' which meant that the audience were on two levels and were able to sit all around the venue, almost behind us as well as in front of us. Someone from the band (Usually Tom Anderson, the drummer, and later my partner) would have to pull the stage out from under the band. It was a large stage and so it covered much of the dancefloor. After our act they would push the stage away leaving club goers space to dance again. We had to remember lines in varous languages to greet guests. I was always keen on singing solo and so each night I was featured singing a solo song. The one on the London Room album 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' was a favourite, as was 'Never Never Never'. If ever we were having a bad night, hasty arrangements were made by my Sisters for me to go out and deliver a big ballad such the Bassey Number! That usually got the crowd in a better mood. Being in the heart of Theatreland in the West End meant we had many foreign visitors in the audience the Spanish and Italians loved big ballads! We worked six nights a week. we had to be at the theatre by eight pm and the show was over by 11. The elder Sisters would then hit the town, visiting our favourite club, the Val Bonne. We could then enjoy breakfast before heading home to bed, passing the milkman outside our door.

I'm jumpaing ahead a bit here, before we even opened the show, we had a few months of very hard work. One of the first things that Stewart and Hanover Grand decided to do was to retire our Mum and Dad. They said the act had more scope with five sisters than with five sisters and their parents. My parents didn't make any song and dance about it. They just accepted it. My parents were wonderful singers and it must have been difficult for them to step down. With hindsight, I think it was the right decision. In the meantime, we had to rehearse all these new songs, learn choreography and how to use the cables on the microphones so they wouldn't get tangled. As well as working out what to say to the audience. After all that hard work  Stewart Morris was able to tell the bosses at the London Room; that the group was now World class and that  "They are as good now, if not better than any girl vocal group that you have ever heard or will ever hear". Stewart was the one who felt we were good enough to accompany Frank Sinatra on his European tour. More about that later! Although Stewart was a very very difficult task master, (Check him out on You Tube), he was also responsible for making us the act we became and for giving us our biggest breaks. He was able to work with our music to further improve the act. We didn't mind any of the hard work, it was exciting that we were being moulded into a pop group with a long term goal of making us stars. The original contract with Hanover Grand was for ten years, with the option of making changes after five. The company soon became our sole management. This was difficult for our Parents to accept,  especially my Dad. Although he didn't say so, I think Dad must have felt that all the things he dreaded were happening in front of his eyes.  He hadn't come to London with us initially, but when he did move down south, he must have been sad at what he saw. Mum didn't seem to mind much, she acted as a chaperone to the younger Sisters and saw to our every day arrangements such as cooking and laundry.

Whilst we were staying at Joe's mansion we had a freedom that we had never experienced before. We could come as go as we liked, and we did. We were never ravers, and we didn't bother with drinking much. But we did party and chat to fellas. It might seem strange to a twenty two year old today. But we were never allowed boyfirends! We couldn't wear make up or tights or have our ear pierced. We wore make up on stage, but then Dad insisted  we take it off. If we went out on a date in Blackpool, one of our brothers would often come running to us to tell us Dad had left the club and was on his way home. That would give us a few minutes to say our goodbyes and run back home"
By the time Dad moved to London full time we were in a position to buy a home. Even this didn't seem to alarm my Dad. We began seraching for a home of our own. We settled on a former Dr's surgery on Granville Road in Ilford.
The house had a lot more space than our house in Blackpool. It was double fronted with five bedrooms.  Linda and Bernie shared a room, and Maureen and I had a room. Anne had a room of her own. Coleen had decided to stay in Blackpool with our Auntie.
In many ways we were treated like children by our Dad. even though,  for the first time in our lives we felt like grown ups. By the time Linda was fifteen, she looked a lot older and wanted to come to the Val Bonne with her sisters. We had a driver who would pick us up and Ilford and drop us home after the show. On one occasion Linda phoned home and told Dad - She didn't ask him - she told him that she was going with us.  He got nasty on the phone with her saying 'You are not going' 'You are too young' and 'If you don't get in the car with the driver, you will be for it' She just , matter of fact, replied, 'Yes OK Dad, I will see you tomorrow.' before putting the phone down. Dad was furious, but he didn't challenge her in the way he would have the three older girls. We would simply not have had the guts to do it. Dad was nearly fifty now and he had mellowed quite a lot.

Audiences at the London Room were generally great. Customer were charged £8 a head for a welcome drink,  a three course meal, with unlimited wine and the show. The venue had about 500 seats in, so it is safe to say that the venue was profitable. We would have parties in from Japan, America and Russia. The crowds were mostly tourists. We noticed that the Spanish and Italians liked a big ballad. The Americans liked more contemporary music and the Russians, we couldn't tell, because they didn't give anything away with their faces! I remember one night, we opened the show wearing the red catsuits, and then we had a change into the floating yellow gowns. During the quick change I had accidentally picked up Bernie's dress and she had put mine on. When we realised, it was too late as the music had started.  We said it would  be ok - there's only a couple of inch difference in our height and we didn't have time enough to change. As I walked on stage I began to notice that the dress felt a lot lot shorter than it should, but I thought the audience wouldn't notice. Then I saw them pointing and laughing. I started to get a bit upset. It was then that I realised, instead of the dainty shoes that we wore with  the yellow dresses - I had left on my red six inch heel platform shoes from the catsuit! I must have looked frightful clomping around the stage!

Cliff Richard was, and is, a super star. When we were told that Stewart Morris had arranged for him to come and see our show we were so excited. On the actual night we were completely frozen with nerves in the dressing room. But, by the end of the show he was cheering us along and whistling. Cliff's own BBC prime time show 'It's Cliff' had already enjoyed success on Saturday nights in previous years. He was to return to the screens in Winter 1974 with a brand new series. After seeing us, Cliff had agreed with Stewart that we were suited to the show and the BBC offered us, via our management, a six week run. The format of the show was different to most shows of the period. Usually guest artists go on, sing their song, take their bows and leave. This was not the case with Cliff's show. Of course, he was singing, but this show would have other regular artists too. Hank Marvin and Bruce Welsh from the Shadows, Pearly Gates, Roy Kineer and us! Other artists who came on the show as one off  "Guest Stars" sang with Cliff, or with us, and at the end the whole company would sing a full production number along with the dance troupe. This was totally different to anything we had ever done before, it was so exciting to be in a TV studio. One minute we could be singing an Abba song, the next, a soul number like 'Love Train' or 'Be My Baby'. We had freedom of the BBC TV Centre on the day of recording and we were so star struck to see all those household names like Morecambe and Wise in the BBC canteen.
Before we were due to start rehearsals we were told that we were to make a single that would be released on the EMI label.   We headed to the recording studio at EMI to record the first Nolan sisters single; 'But I Do'. We also recorded the B Side; Now I'm Stuck On You. Coleen was to make her debut in the act for the Cliff show, and whoever the powers that be were, decided that she should sing the lead vocal on the single. In my opinion, and this is not a reflection on Coleen's ability, but I thought the song was not the ideal for showing us as a pop group of young women. It had a novely value certainly, but I did question it's commercial  potential. I kept my feelings to myself. The B Side, was more suited to how we wanted to come across.
Coleen was not a full time member of the act by any means then. She much preferred being at home in Blackpool with friends and her pony. She was thrilled to come to London for recording and filming, but she had no ambition to be part of the act.  But for us, recording two songs and taking part in the top rated light entertainment show - This was huge! It was even more exciting for us when it would be aired, thinking that we would get recognised in the streets! To co-incide with the launch of the show we were asked to do a four page spread interview and photo shoot for the Radio Times. Our house was festooned with Christmas decs. Christmas is such a special time to us, and the best gift of all was that we were on our way to being famous.
The Cliff Richard Show may have been glamourous prime time TV for the public. For the Nolan Sisters it couldn't be further from reality. It meant us getting up at 6am and travelling on the tube from our new found home at Ilford on two tubes to the the BBC rehearsal rooms at Acton. It was a totally new experience for us, and a great learning curve. We learned about hitting your mark and which camera we should look at. We were mesmerised at the little monitors that showed what the camera was filming. Linda would often get told off for looking at it as we sang. They are not there for our benifit, they are there for the crew to check how things will look on screen. We just kept lookinng because it looked like we were on telly!  We would rehearse Monday to Thursday and then record the show live on Friday. The show featured some comedy routines that were filmed in studios with a 70s version of a green screen. On more rare occasions the show had outside filming. The show then went out, as if live on Saturday night. In 1974 video recorders were not in household use in the UK, so we had to settle with our entire family being huddled around the TV watching it. Sadly, some of the shows we actualy missed because we were working. That might sound crazy, but Hanover Grand wanted us to perform at the London Rooms straight after rehearsals in Acton. One thing my Sisters and I have always agreed on - the costumes we were told to wear on 'It's Cliff' were dreadful!  They were not very well made and didn't fit properly.  Artistes had the option to buy cotumes made for them afterwards, and without our knowledge, the clothes were being bought for us. On our first episode of 'It's Cliff' we got to sing both sides of our newly recorded single.
I don't know if I was expecting it to be a hit, I hoped  it would be, and people told us it would be. The BBC had selected the outfits, which, if anyone has seen the clip - were horrendous. Bernie  was the first to complain, saying 'It's vile - I'm not wearing it, my friends at school will laugh at me.' She had a point, Coleen was nine and wore shotrt version of the outfit with knee length socks! Bernie was fourteen and her dress was the same as Anne's who was twenty four! The drresses were long bottle green things made of a spongy, velvety material. They were quite flared and had a ghastly neck bow thing on. The idea of people of such age differences wearing basically the same dress was hysterical. The review the next day said something like 'The Nolan Sisters made their TV debut last night, wearing long green curtains'.
We had no say in any the outfits, they dressed us in these awful blue dresses that had a yellow neck tie to sing a Bob Dylan song, pink romper suits for Abba, and some sky blue creation. On one occasion the Three Degrees were special guests, and they looked so glamourous and sexy. They obviously had a say in what they wore.Each time we were presented with these gowns we were told by the BBC that "They knew best". That it didn't matter that Bernie was 15 and Anne was 25 and wearing the same outfit! Bernie protested very loudly moore often than not, saying  "I'm not wearing that" Daphne would say  "Now now - we'll have no Sarah Bernardts from you dear." Each time we backed down and wore them.

'But I Do'  sold quite well, but in those days for a song to crack the top forty it would have to sell almost a hundred thousand. We even got to sing the song a second time on another show, but it never got off the ground. Artists needed Radio One to get behind a song for it to be a hit. There's no way that they were going to support a song with a nine year old on lead vocal.

Dad managed us on a personal level which was good for us. He would sort out household bills and had sorted out our salary - £175 a week. The younger girls got slightly less. To us it was a fortune, we didn't have a single bill to pay. we were fed, and laundry was sorted out. We just used our salary for clothes, make up and going out.
Because of strict laws Bernie and Linda were only allowed to do two or three shows a week, as well as all the TV's. On early week nights the act was supposed to have four of us appear, and weekends the five of us. I am sure lots of the rules were broken. Becasue I don't really remember a time when there were just four of us. When we were filming at the BBC, a tutor was provided but really it was a big con. She would set some work to be done, and it was never checked properly. Most of the time, the young ones just read books she gave them. In February 1975 Linda turned sixteen and therefore could be a full time member of the act. Those weren't the only rules being bent, Bernie soon wanted to join us night clubbing. Trying to control Linda was pointless. She came with us all the time now and stayed out as late as us. When Bernie was fifteen in October she regularly joined us too I think by that time he had realised that we had grown up and there was not a lot he could do about it. After all - we were on TV as stars in our own right and earning the money. So it would seem absurd that our Dad would be telling us what time to come home.

We recorded an album featuring songs from the show that went on sale at the venue. It's very rare so I am told now, and collectors pay a fortune for it. The album was basically the whole of our set from 1975, recorded in the right running order. In fact, not many people know this but it was recorded 'Live' We simply went in to the studio with the band and a couple of session musicians and recorded it. Obviously we had breaks for drinks and so on. but it's more or less live! That's for anyone who likes a bit of trivia!!  Stewart Morris was still involved with us in the early London Room days.  He was such a good mentor to us. Although he was a very tough on us. Our act was getting good reviews in the press and the show had proved to be a success. In February of 1975 Stewart Morris brought a showbusiness friend with him to see our show. He told us to be extra good that night. He wanted to show the man that we would be ideal for a show that Stewart had been asked to be involved with.
Late in 1974 we recorded an episode of 'The Harry Seacombe Show' We sang a song on our own and then joined Harry for a number. Coleen looked gorgeous with her hair styled in ringlets for the appearance. It rounded off a great debut year for the act.

Our Dad was a huge fan of music, his choice of music has heavily influenced all our family. Our whole family are Frank Sinatra addicts - we were reared on him. Our Dad played him almost none stop. Our house had always rang out with music from that era. Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Andy Williams, Jack Jones and Judy Garland. Dad knew Sinatra was going on tour and had paid a ridiculous black market price for two tickets to see him at the Albert Hall. The normal priced tickets had sold out before even we could get hold of any. Dad was going to go with his acquired tickets and he was going to raffle the other between us Sisters.

One day, a couple of weeks after the mysterious man had watched us at the London Room we received a phone call that would change our lives forever.  later, Anne, Maureen and I were at home with our parents relaxing. Linda and Bernie were at school.  On that particular, fateful day we had a phone call from our management telling us that we had been selected as the support act for Sinatra's European Tour! Stewart Morris had been asked for suggestions. He had sent tapes of (So we believe) The Brotherhood Of Man, The Three Degrees and Us! Sinatra had listened first hand and chose us personally. Stewart Morris was involved with the tour production and had been in talks with Sinatra's people. After Frank had heard us, the mystery man had come to watch us perform, to make sure we were suitable. When the news sank in - we were wild with excitement. We had only short time before we had to start rehearsals. The tour would take us to most European Capital Cities. Paris, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, London, Vienna, Madrid and so on. We had our regular five piece band with us and at the appointed time we all went to the rehearsal space. Sinatra himself gave us permission to use his full 60 piece orchestra and when he found out that we were travelling from the venue to the airport or the hotel in a coach he stepped in and made sure a limousine of the same standard as his was made available for us. The tour took us to these cities and these fantastic venues including the opening concert in the Palais Des Congres in Paris.  Coleen decided that she didn't want to tke part in the tour, which was a shame, because like the rest of us, she was a huge fan. She mentioned on TV recently, how much she regretted the decision. By the time we reached London, Bernie had developed a tickly cough and was able to supress it for most of our opening set. However, when we sang the song 'Scarlet Ribbons' we ran into problems. The song is sung a capella. For those of you who don't know, that means there is no musical accompaniment. We were singing the song, with Anne on lead vocal. All the way through Bernie coughed and coughed. If that wasn't bad enough, people in the audience started to laugh. Bernie was very upset and tears were shead backstage. Sinatra walked towards us and said "Which of your girls has a nasty cough?" Bernie confessed it was her and the great man put his arm around her and comforted her, telling her that it happened to everyone and not to worry. Although Sinatra wasn't in and out of our dressing rooms he did chat to us backstage. He would say things like "How did it go tonight girls?" - I was so star struck that I could hardly get any words out. I mumbled all the time to him. He said to us during a sound check once that "You kids are too young to know these songs." Of course, we knew every word but we didn't dare say so in case he thought we were just fawning over him. He was so complimentary about our set each night that he went on stage he would say to the audience "Don't the kids sound great?" Which got us an additional round of applause. We would watch every night from the wings. After the tour he presented each of us with a key Bracelet that was inscribed 'Peace and love - Frank Sinatra' A few years later I was devastated when we were in a recording studio and the sound engineer said the bracelet made a noise against some other jewellery. He said I should take it off. I placed it on the side and as soon as I was outside the studio I realised I had left it. I ran inside the studio and it was missing. I still have my backstage laminated access all areas pass. It might sound sad but I carry it almost everywhere. Only Maureen still has her bracelet, which is such a shame. To be so close was the biggest thrill in my entire career. I have often been asked if I was jealous that I left the Nolan Sisters act when I did and then seeing them go on to have Worldwide fame. I always reply honestly that I don't resent any of their successes, I am proud of them. If I had left before the Sinatra tour then I would never have got over it. Such is my admiration of Frank Sinatra.

Upon our return from the tour we went straight back to the London Room for our residency. We were invited onto Roy Caslte's TV show and wore the same outfit we wore for the Sinatra tour. We sang a Eurovision Medley from our album, which featured the winning song 'Dinge Donge' and the UK entry, 'Let Me Be The One'. After we finished the number, we were invited to sit and chat to Roy. It was our first ever TV interview. We also recorded our second single (Won't You) Make A Little Sunshine Shine, which had been written by Roger Cook andd Roger Greenaway, who had achieved success with lots of singers and groups. The song was a catchy song, and it received radio airplay. The B Side was one of the entries for the UK heat of the 1974 Euroovision called 'HAve Love Will Travel' which was originally recorded by Olivia Newton John, the same song-writing team were responsible for the song. We featured it on an appearance of the Basil Brush Show and also on the Vera Lynn Show. We joined Vera to sing 'Scarborough Fair'. Vera was very quiet, I think she a shy person, somewhat like me. I'm not sure what she made od us lot, other than she said that we sounded so loud when we sang. This time, the record was released on the Target label which was a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and despite considerable airplay and TV appearances, the song didn't make the top forty. Only the top 40 was published to the public. We were told that the song was in the 50s and had stood a chance to make it. Sadly it wasn't to be. One thing was certain though, the TV appearances did instantly raise our profile and cabaret clubs around the country wanted us to appear. We rounded off the year with an appearance on Vince Hill's 'Muscial Time Machine' as well as being a fabulous singer, Vince was a lovely man. during the recording, the producer of the show, Stewart Morris was sat in 'the box' with all the technical team of producers and directors. We were on the studio floor and had to do an announcement in between the two songs we were performing. Stewart asked us to pick which one of us was going to make the announcement between ourselves. It was decided that I should do it. So, after we had done our first number. I moved forward to make the announcement and said maybe one or two words, before Stewart bellowed out  "No no no - not her, I don't want her to do it. Get someone else will do it?"  I was mortified. I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was also struck dumb. Anne moved forward and I think everyone thought she was going to make the announcement. Instead she yelled into her microphone "How dare you speak to my Sister like that. Why are you being so rude? Well we won't put up with it."
My Sisters, myself included are all wimps really  - with the exception of Anne! Stewart actually apologised that day. Which must have been a first.
We recorded an episode of Sez Les in Yorkshire for transmission in March and went back into the recording studios to lay down the vocals for our next single 'Rain' with a song called 'Hey What A Day ' at the flip sde. Linda did lead vocals on both of these tracks. I must say, that when I was asked by Adam about the song, I couldn't really remember either of them. It seems strange now, knowing how much hard work that entertainers put into promoting a new single, that we didn't really do any. There didn't seem to be any example where we sang it on TV or talked about it to the press. I don't even recall anyone coming up to me and telling me that it had been released. The songwrites had achieved a great deal of success with other artists and I am sure that with the right people pushing our songs, that they would have been hits. There was nothing wrong with the songs or the vocals. It wasn't a great surprise that the single didn't do well.

Early in 1976 we flew to South Africa for a six week tour with Rolf Harris, Stu Francis and Ray Allan & Lord Charles. The tour would take us to some of the most prestigious theatres in South Africa, including the President in Johannesburg.. There had been protests about aritstes who had performed in South Africa, Apartheid was as repulsive to us and it was to any normal person, but no-one asked us for our opinion. We were just told the tour was booked and off we went. We had a wonderful time and stayed at some of the best hotels. In one hotel we made use of the facilities, that included a sauna. As we entered the steamy room we saw a man sat there with just a towel covering his modesty. The man was Tom Jones - who was appearing at The Three Point Theatre nearby. He recognised us - which was a thrill enough. We sat with him for about fifteen minutes, talking about show business. He said he had seen us on TV and that he thought  our harmonies were fabulous. Here was this superstar who we thought was amazing, being complimentary about us.  He invited us to a party at the hotel later on, Linda went and loved every second of it.

Above: On the Roy Castle Show & With Frank sinatra

We sang 'Scarlet Ribbons' on the Marti Caine show which was a great thrill. We had sung it many times in our career, but this was the first time we had performed it on TV. The song is a-capella. It is not easy to sing a song with such complex harmonies without any musical accompaniment. It's a beautifu song and I am proud of it. The management at Hanover Grand and Stewart Morris had made sure that we were on lots of TV shows and they knew that we were a capable live act. There had been talks of us going on tour in the USA, but we were told early in the year that it was off. In it's place we went on the South African tour. In spring we revised the London Room show and added new songs, taking away others. We were having the best time living in London and working, doing what we loved. There was another highlight that year when we learned that the USA thing was going to happen after all. It wasn't to be a tour though. We were to be the support act for Engelbert Humperdinck in New York, playing at the Radio City theatre. We could not believe our luck. Stewart Morris was involved, so we had another thing to thank him for. I can't say that I was fond of Stewart, he was terrifying! But he did give us some great work. Not that it helped our bank balance, because we were salaried. By this time, I had been with my partner, Tom for a year. We had a bit of a rough patch early this year and that wasn't helped by being in South Africa for six weeks while he stayed in London. He was the resident drummer at the London Room, and wasn't included in the tour. I wanted him to come with us to America. In fact, we thought he could come as one of the musicians. That wasn't to be the case. We decided that Tom should come as we are all America fans. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We did all the obvious things in New York, like the Statue of Libery and the Empire State Building, during the day, and at night time we were on stage. We had heard all the stories about women throwing their underwear on stage at Engelbert. He was very dashing and the women loved him. We got to meet him before the show and during sound checks. He was very much the super-star and had an American accent, even though he was from Coventry. Because we were so aware that the audience would mainly females who adored Engelbert, we went on stage with a certain amount of trepidation. Thinking that they wouldn't be interested in us. We were pleasantly surprised. The audiences seemed to really like us. Theatre audiences are, on the whole, a lot more responsive than a cabaret audience. For a start, they have paid to visit to the venue, specifically to see the person on stage. Then there's the fact that the show starts earlier, and the crowd usually have only had one drink in the bar before the show. In a cabaret venue there is a constant bar service. It makes the room more rowdy when people are eating and drinking. It is a pleasure to play in theatres.

Above: Morecambe & Wise Show and with Tom Jones.

After the USA trip we recorded our next single; 'Thanks For Calling'  which had a song called 'Oh My Darling' on the B side. There had been talk of the B side being released a single in its own right in America. Some demonsration discs were cut and sent to America under a different label; 'Oh My Darling' did have a sort of country sound to it. In any case, the song can't have ade much of an impact State side, because we never heard about it again. It was frustrating that we were recording and releasing songs that were not charting. We were on TV such a lot, but didn't get the chance to sing our latest release. Much of the time, TV shows are recorded months in advance, so by the time the show is transmitted, the song was out of date! The rules surrounding Top Of The Pops meant that unless a record was actually in the charts, it couldn't be featured. At the start of our career, our manager, Robert Earl had sent A&R people from record companies to see us and we were signed to the EWarner Brothers subsidiary, Target Records and for whatever reason, they were not pushing us. The BBC meanwhile wanted us to record some radio specials with the BBC concer Orchestra. That was a joy. Alyn Ainsworth was the musical director and he did a marvellouus job with our selections. We featured Andrews Sisters songs that Alyn did incredible vocal arrangements. We then hit the studios to record the next single 'When You Are a King' which, strangely, was back with 'Oh My Darling' again. The song received considerable airplay and we were able to sing it on two TV shows right in the middle of its promotional period. We sang it on the Les Dawson Show and on Morecambe and Wise. Both of these shows had massive ratings, with Morecambe and Wise being watched by more than twenty million people. I have learned recently that back then, the charts were made up of a panel of shops that just announced to the chart maker how many of each songs they had sold that week. From that information, they worked out what an average would be. This was far from what was actually happening. I was shown a chart of actual sales during December 1976 and I was shocked to see that our single had actually made the top twenty and was sitting comfortably at number fifteen. The following week it was at number twelve. There was nothing that we could do about it, nor any of the other atcs who's songs failed.
I had discussed with Tom, and my Dad, the possibility of me leaving the act. It had nothing to do with my Sisters or the songs we were singing. It did have a lot to do with how we were being treated and managed. No-one treated us badly, but we were given clothes to wear, told what to sing, where to turn up and how to dance. When we had meetings I would be the one who spoke out. My Sisters all felt the same, but they were not vocal about how they felt. I got the impression that every time I voiced a concern, they would be rolling their eyes and saying 'Oh here she goes again' and 'It's always you Denise who is not happy'. But I was unhappy - we all were to some extent. I never really liked the choreograhy. an dance, but it took me a lot longer to learn some of the routines than some of my Sisters. Bernie was a wonderful dancer and she learned the routine in a flash! I am very self conscious and insecuree boout how I look. There is no doubt that I felt less attractive when surrounded by people I considered gorgeous. It weighed heavy on my mind. My Dad discouraged me from leaving the act, Tom never interferred, he only supported me. There were some meetings about me leaving, but it was put to one side.
1977 was the most hectic of all the years that I spent in the Nolan Sisters. We started the year straight after Christmas recording the entire series of Vince Hill's Musical Time Machine. The concept was simple, one of the cast would stand next to a computer and say a link about a song from a time period. Then press a button on the machine to be transported to the era. On one epidode we went back to the twenties to sing 'Nagasaki' We were dressed in Charlston dresses with cloth hats on. It  was a complex routine but it looked impressive. Rehearsals were in Acton once again, so we were back to travelling to the studio and then to the London Room, although by now, we had a car take us!
In February we went out on our own tour.  It was a fairly small scale tour of Scotland, but we did sell out the venues we appeared in. Just a month later we were the interval act for Miss England, broadcast live from London. By this time we were well established as TV stars. Although we hadn't any hit records to our name, we were being sought out for live cabaret and concert appearances. The Scotland our had gone well and that opened to door to a lot more dates. We We were booked just about everywhere in the country and even for overseas shows.  Adam, my webmaster has been working on my biography, and as we fill in the dates I can see that in 1975 we played in just about every major cabaret club in the UK. Venues such as The Birmingham Night Out, The Fiesta in Sheffield, Batley Variety  Club, The Willows in Salford, Ceaser's Palace in Luton, The Golden Garter in Manchester, Wakefield Theatre Club, Bailey's in Watford, Club Fiesta in Stockton, Double Diamond in Caerphilly and a thousand other clubs.
On one occasion we went to Rome to support Tommy Cooper in a corporate show. We didn't really mix with him, he was on the same flight as us, and we met again at the venue. We went on stage and completed a half hour set before taking our bows and exiting the stage. When we got off stage Tommy Cooper was on the floor being attended to by medics. Naturally, we were were upset and worried for him. The company manager said to us 'Go back on stage and do some more...' Anne said to him 'We haven't got any more - that is our act'. Which was true, although we had many more songs that we knew and had performed, we didn't have the music for them and there wasn't an vocal arrangement that could just be cobbled together whilst musicians busked. The company manager gor a bit stroppy and told us to 'Do it again!' Which was slightly embarrasing as we had to go on stage and do exactly the same as we had done moments before. We did explain to the audience that Tommy Cooper was unwell, and the reasons why we were doing the same stuff twice and they seemed to accept it. It turns out Tommy Cooper had had a heart attack just before he was due to go on stage. He conveleced in Rome, and the story made the press. It still came as a shock, when just a few years after, he died on stage, live on TV.

We recorded two singles in 1977 and both stand out for me. Firstly 'Love Transformation' which was recorded as an anonymous soundtrack for a TV commercial for Dulux paint. We were not expecting it to be a single. When we recorded it the producer said he wanted me to sing the soprano notes.Which I was comfortable doing. The song has only has about eight lines of lyrics in the last twenty seconds or so. The rest of the song is a gorgeous blend of 'Oohs and ahhs' It almost sounds Chinese or Japanese. So, each time we went to record the song, he kept asking if I could sing it a higher. It was an almost impossible feat. I was really stretching my vocal ability.  Eventually, after many takes,  both he and I were happy with the result. The advert was on TV all the time and people began asking writing in to ask who had recorded it. The next thing we knew it had been released as a single. The song 'Oh My Darling' was the B side - the third time the track had been used as a B side! The singlewas given a poster campaign, annd it was played on the redio a lot - Sadly there was no promotional video and no TV appearances to support it and the song never made it to the top forty. The follow up single was 'Love Bandit'  I was to be the lead singer for the song, with a punchy song called 'Don't Take Your Love Away' on the flip side. Both songs were actually quite contemporary and we were mildly confident of a hit. On the chart day it had almost entered top forty, and had sold almost 60,000 copies. Today, this would have put the song at number one for months. It had entered the charts at number 54 and rose to 50 in the mid week chart. But at the time only the top 40 was published to the public.  We were able to sing 'Love Bandit' on an episode of the Two Ronnies - several months after the release!!  It was a great song. I found out recently that the sales had given it a chart position, but once again, in the record shops that made the chart panel, the song hadn't done as well. When we performed the song on the Two Ronnies,  it was accompanied by an orchestra, so it didn't quite have the same funky sound. Perhaps that hampered it. That and Radio 1...the one radio station that mattered most of all. Of course, they refused to play it. If Radio One didn't have you on at least their B list then your song didn't stand a chance. Millions of people listened to Radio One at that time. They always wanted to chat with us about our career, but never promoted us.. Songs on their A list were sometimes played every hour. It turns out, a team of about six people chose what the country listened to. Even when the act did make the charts a few years ater, Radio One only played our singles  once a week - On the chart show! Nowadays Radio Two has broadened its appeal and local radio is playing a bigger part in what people listen to - In the mid 1970s the only local stations were BBC ones -   It was depressing that an act that was a household name couldn't get a hit. Naturally we were devastated that it didn't have the impact we had hoped for. Most of the singles made it somewhere into the top 100 chart.  'Top Of The Pops' was the biggest music show in the country and an appearance on it, I am sure it would have helped 'Love Bandit' get a solid chart place.
Target and ouor management must shoulder some of the blame. 'Love Bandit' didn't even have a picture cover! They didn't seem to be pushing us in any direction other than TV. When I look back  and watch the 'Top Of the Pops' re-runs I am often shocked at what rubbish did actually make it into the charts. Sometimes songs that were barely even songs had praise heaped on them by DJs, mainly I think, because of who they were, not what they sang.
In 1977 we were invited to appear in our first Summer Season Show at Eastbourne with Ronnie Corbett and Janet Brown. It was a fairly short, eight week season, but we enjoyed it enormously. Ronnie was a lovely man, but very quiet and he tended to keep himself to himself. Janet was also really sweet with us. The Tiller Girls provided the dancing. We had a great time living in rented digs. Our parents had stayed at home, so it was good fun to be left to our own devices. Eastbourne wasn't the nightclub capital of the World, but we still had a ball. During the run we had to cut down our appearance for two nights as we were recording an appearance on 'Summertime  Special' where we got to sing two Andrews Sisters songs, wearing identical outfits - So much for the contemporary look we had emraced for 'Love Bandit'

In Eastbourne with the cast of the Summer Season Show.

The Nolan Sisters
By the middle of 1977 I had started to seriously think about a solo career. It had crossed my mind several times over the years. I was at my happiest on stage when i was singing solo. I was torn because I also loved singing harmony and loved singing with my Sisters. I had those hang ups about the way that I looked and felt dumpy next to such gorgeous sisters. It didn't matter who told me that I was just as pretty or just as slim, I didn't feel that way. My own insecurities stopped me having as much fun as my Sisters were having. I would complain about some of the ridiculous timing schedules people would impose on us. We would be sent on a series of dates around the country, then we would get back home and be expected on the stage at our residency that night. On more than one occasion we were taken to a town to record a TV show and then flown by helicopter to be back on stage an hour later. I know that show business can be hectic and demanding on your time, but I was well aware that we were not getting any of the rewards that some other people associated with us clearly were getting. Don't get me wrong, our wages were good when you compare them to a factory worker or a nurse, but when compared to other people who were on TV as often as us - we were being paid a pittance. I met up with people who had lavish houses and cars. Our financial situation was nothing like that. None of us were in a position to buy a house and this was after three years of constant work, literally three days off in six months.
People have asked if my partner, Tom, was instrumental in my departure from the act. I can tell you; NO!! If anything, Tom was a steadying force who left me to make my own decisions and only wanted to make sure that I was doing what was best for me. I knew that the press would pick up on me leaving the group and there would be raised eyebrows in show business circles, but I wanted to be on my own. Tom did point out that if I left the act that there would be a lot of things to do. Denise Nolan as an artiste in her own right hadn't existed until now. There would be no bookings in my diary, so I would have zero income. I didn't have a record deal. Even the songs we had recorded had not earned us any royalties, as we were salaried. If they had made money - it went elsewhere. As far as a solo artist was concerned, I knew the songs that I wanted to sing, and I knew how I wanted to present my act. Getting the opportunity to do it was a whole different game. I would need good management,  Tom was ideally placed for that. Tom has a very extrovert personality. He knew loads of people in clubs and pubs. Being a musician meant he had contacts in lots of places. I finally decided that I wanted out. Although I had discussed it before with my Dad, Sisters and Hanover Grand, they all thought I had decided against leaving.
At the time, only Tom and I knew I had made the final decision. I carried on with my Sisters in the act and gave it 100% effort. We did a two week run at London's Palladium Theatre, support Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons which was a great thrill. His voice was sensational. We would sing the Andy Williams song, 'Happy Heart' as a opening number. The choreographer did a routine to go with the song that finished with us in different positions. He had worked out that I needed to be on one knee with one arm outstretched, in front of my sisters as the song reached its crescendo. I begged him to alter it, but he insisted everything would be fine. It was during all the rehearsals. On the first night, we were all wracked with nerves. It was the Palladium after all. When you first go on stage, most people are always a bag of nerves, and I was no exception. My hands were shaking, but we were doing fine. At the end of the song, I get into place, dropped to my knees and extended my arm.....The music stopped and I started to wobble. Then I promptly fell over. Of course, the audience laughed and I made up for it by laughing along with them. Inside, I was dying of embarrassment. I told that choreographer!
Towards the end of 1977 we had been booked to appear on the entire series of The Two Ronnies, which was a hugely popular show with eighteen million viewers. In January 1977 we were on the road again. Working at Sheffield, Nottingham and Brighton.  
Whilst we were away working, our management had sealed the deal for a Summer Season in Blackpool and the recording of an album. The record company had carried out extensive research to find the twenty songs that were currently the favourites among a certain age group. They had also researched what act they think should sing them.
When we came back home we had a meeting with our management and the record company to see what we would record. They were also kind enough to ask if there were any particular favourites of our own that we could add. All of the songs had been huge hits over the last few years or so. At the meeting we were told that the studio had been booked out for a week....A WEEK! That's five days to make 20 songs! When you listen to iinterviews with David Bowie and Elton John saying that they went to Barbados or wherever for a few months to write and record their latest album, it is incredible. Granted, we didn't have to write the songs, but singing to the standard on that album was a tall order in five days. That works out at four songs a day - obviously!

So we came came home to find that the very next week we were to be in the recording studio. Fortunately the studio was in London, the fabulous Wessex Sound Studio. If I may be a little self indulgant, the studio is important to me. Even though we have recorded in Abbey Road Studios. Wessex Studios was built as the church hall of St. Augustine's Church.
From 1946 to 1949 the hall was the home of the Rank Organisation's 'Company of Youth' - more popularly known as the 'Rank Charm School' - where future stars of British films, such as Diana Dors, Christopher Lee, Barbara Murray and Pete Murray,  were tutored. Rank had a film studio in the  former Highbury Athenaeum building up the road at 96a Highbury Park  where supporting features (B-movies) were made; That was closed in  1949.
In the 1960s, the Thompson family converted the church hall into a recording studio. They named it Wessex because their previous recording studio had been located in what was historically the kingdom of Wessex. The song-writer Les Reed, who wrote "There's a Kind of Hush"  along with Barry Mason and the Beatles, bought the building in 1965. In 1975, Chrysalis Records bought Wessex Studios and George Martin's AIR Studios; Martin became a director of the company. Bill Price was one of the producers who used the studio and became the managing director. The studio had fabulous accoustics and we were excited to be recording there.

The recording of 20 Giant Hits was a lovely experience, even though it was a daunting task. The end product is something that I am very proud of. There were some really talented people involved in the music and production of the record.  The studio time was exhausting, we were there so many hours.  One track springs to mind; 'Your Song' which was originally a hit for Elton John. The producer wanted us to sing the entire song in unison. Which, for those who don't know, is without any harmonies - all of us singing the same notes - at the same time. For a group famous for their harmonies, it was a strange request. We sang the song, and then we sang it again, and again and again. The producer kept on saying that one of us sang a word a split second before the others did. Or that one of us sang a split second after the others and he wanted it to be in total unison. It seemed to go on forever.  Eventually we managed to get it exactly right. But it was not without a lot of pressure. We  also recorded 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' in a similar way.
Only for the last minute of the song did we burst into the beautiful harmonies that had been arranged for us. I made my feelings clear that I thought that the song should have been recorded with harmonines throughout. Once again though, I was told that someone else knew best. It didn't ease my mind that I was singularly the one who was speaking out in protest.  I knew it was ruffling feathers within management. Shortly after recording was finished we filmed a TV advert for it. I had a good feeling about album's chances. We wore tartan to mime 'Mull Of Kintyre' top hat and tails for 'Money Money Money' and french onion seller outfits for 'Chanson D'amour'  There was a giant plastic '20' that we were to drape ourselves over for the record cover. Our bossses told us the album was going to have a full advertising campaign with adverts shown in between programmes like Coronation Street and Crossroads.
It must have come as a shock, when in the middle of all that was happening, I announced that I was definitely leaving the group. I would complete the next set of cabaret engagements at Blazer's in Windsor and Talk Of THe North in Manchester, and I would come back to fully participate in promoting the album. The Nolan Sisters would be at the ABC Theatre, in a lengthy Summer Season Show, but I would not be with them.  In May we recorded the Morecambe & Wise Show that would be transmitted in December. We sang our latest single 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue'. The decision to choose that song as a single was a mystery to me. It had been a massive hit for Crystal Gayle only a few months previously. There were plenty of songs on the album to have chosen that had been hits quite a few years ago, that might have appealed more, given a fresh recording. The single had the Cilla Black hit  'Something Tells Me Something's Gonna Happen Tonight' as a B side.  

The album was released in July and was a massive success, and I have to say that I was so thrilled to have been a part of it. I experienced the thrill of visiting record shops to do record signings. The Nationwide TV show followed us on one such promotional visit. I am not being bitter when I say that all of this should have been done for all of our single releases. We were not given exposure to music magazines such as the NME or Record Mirror,  instead, when we did do interviews, they were for Radio Times and Titbits Magazine. I think Robert Earl and the people at Hanover Grand were only too happy for us be on TV singing Andrews Sisters songs, and flogging ourselves half to death touring all year as well as at the London  Room because that earned them money, whilst not earning us anything but a salary.
20 Giant Hits went into the top three of the album chart. The TV campaign was a complete success. In a short time the album achieved Gold Disc status. We were all presented with a Gold Disc - complete with details on a plaque of how much money it had grossed. Whilst still in the top three, sales had amounted to £350,000, which in today's money is well over £2,000,000. We never saw a penny of it. It was more than a little annoying to see that some people had clearly made a lot of money from it. There seemed to be no end to how many promotional appearances we made to make sure it went higher up the chart. We did TV, radio, shops, newspapers and magazines. It helped to consolidate my decision to leave the act, knowing that people had become rich off our labour.
I was also a lilttle upset that I wasn't given the opportunity to dip out and dip into the group. That would have been a perfect solution to me. But the powers that be stated that if 'You left the act then you've left the act'  There would be no return. Many years later,  under different management and record companies Anne and Bernie were able to do just what I wanted to do. I did say to my Sisters that if they thought the act would suffer with me leaving then I would stay. My family gave me their support and blessing, and I left. The act really did suffer - They went on to have hit albums and singles galore and toured the world! On the plus side, it would mean that I would be able to accept bookings in my own right, reject work if I didn't think it worked to my advantage, be able to wear what I wanted on stage and sing what I chose. I would finally shake that feeling that I wouldn't be the one, complained that I  didn't like what we were wearing or how it looked on me, and moan about the song choice.

I was still living at home in Ilford when I left the act. My chap, Tom had a house in Northolt and I spent a lot of time there anyway.  When I first left the act.  I thoight that it would have been a bit weird watching my Sisters prepare for a TV show or a concert with me sat in the house in my day clothes. When I did see them rushing around getting ready I used to say 'Have a nice time' as they rushed out of the door. I started to spend more time at Tom's place.
To be honest, I didn't know how to start making a solo career. Up until now, everything had been done for me by other people. As Stewart Morris had been so instrumental in our initial success, I thought that he might have been a good starting point - That was my first mistake!
I arranged to see him and at the meeting he dismissed me out of hand saying 'Not interested in Denise Nolan' Stewart had been a fan of my singing. He always said the nicest things about my voice. But with a wave of his hand he boomed that I was a fool to leave the act and that I would never make it on my own. He said he had no time for me, and that I was being so silly leaving a successful act. He wouldn't book me for shows and he didn't have any ideas who would represent me either. I was very upset. Stewart was so controlling over everything we did at the BBC. He once went mad at me, when we covered the Tavares song 'Don't Take Away The Music' Shouting 'I don't want you to sing it like Denise Nolan, I want something else' I couldn't understand what he meant. He was asking Denise Nolan not to sound llike Denise Nolan. But after all we had achieved for him and all the work we had put in at the BBC, to dismiss me in such a way, really hurt. I retreated home and into my shell. I was not in a financial position to sit around the house all day, living a life of leisure. Despite working in the act solidly for four years.

To be honest, it was eight months before I was able to make my professional debut. I had been doing the odd bit of singing in London bars to gain some confidence. I was badly affected by nerves. Tom was regularly booked to work in clubs around London, and he was the one who was an emotional crutch as well as providing finanical support.  I would accompany him and sit with friends and his family while he worked. Often the band would invite me up to sing and I was, on the one hand, so eager to get up and sing, and on the other hand, petrified with nerves. At times I was given to sing with my back to the audience and look at Tom for reassurance. His face always showed encouragement with a wink or he would shout "Go on girl". Eventually my confidence grew and I was able to face the audience for these inpromptu gigs. What's more, these gigs were unpaid!  They were, however,  providing me with very valuable experience.
Soon after, I began working professionally as an uncredited singer in pubs and clubs. It was tough I will admit. I could not command the sort of fee that my Sisters could - even though they were not being paid anything like their fees. Some of the places I worked in did not have a dressing room and there would not be a car to take me to a TV studio, provided by the TV company.
I definitely knew I did not want to go back to the days of working men's clubs, but no one was coming to me offering me huge shows and big financial offers. I spent a lot of the time lazing around as well. I don't know if it was a form of depression, but my mood was very low. I stayed at Tom's place and enjoyed being with my Sisters when they were at home.  It was just a few months after me leaving the act that our Dad told me that following the success of the album, and a general feeling amongst the girls, that they were going to try and get out of the Hanover Grand contract. That would be no easy task. The contract was for ten years, with a re-negotiatian after five. There were still about eight months to go until the re-negotiation. If they were goinng to get out of the contract it was going to cost them.
They were not alone in worrying about money.  I had only meagre savings and I was not entitled to any pay out when I left the Nolans. I asked about finding a booking agent and after a while,  secured the services of Selwyn Turnbull. I waited and waited for work to come in. Some offers I had to turn down flat. I would rather have one decent gig that paid fairly well than ten poorly paid jobs that would mean the dressing room was a pub cellar.  After seven months, Selwyn called with the offer of a UK tour with Matt Monro. I accepted the work calmly, before putting the phone down and entering into in a state of total panic. I had no music prepared and no act!
One of the musical directors The Nolan Sisters had used regularly was John Coleman who had a fantastic CV. He had written film scores, hit records and was responsilble for loads of arrangements on TV shows. He was even the conductor of the UK entry in the Eurovision song contest on several occastions. I had always kept in touch with him, even when I was in the group. I called him and asked if he could put me the music together for my new act. I will be forever grateful to John Coleman for what he did. He gave me the music at 'mates rates' - which was fortunate, because I didn't have enough money to pay the goinng rate. I needed about 40 minutes worth of songs. In record time, I had the music and now all I needed was to rehearse it. Salvation came by way of Tom, again! He was booked to play drums on a Mediterranean cruise, so I went along with him. My intention was to lock myslef in the cabin and rehearse an act that I didn't have. All I had was a tape recorder to sing along to. What the other passengers must have thought going past our cabin with a woman inside singing her lungs out is anyone's guess. Perhaps they thought I was a cabin girl changing sheets!

Back on dry land I went out and bought a new outfit. I also had some photographs done for publicity purposes. I was as ready for the show as I ever would be. My opening night with Matt Monro was terrifying. I had to open the show for him and I was sick with nerves.  Once the overture started and I went on the nerves quickly evaporated. The applause was very warm and the audience seemed to enjoy what I was doing. More importantly, the applause was just for me. I came off stage elated and from that first night I knew I had made the right decision. Working with Matt was a dream. He was such a gifted singer. He was also just as kind backstage as he was with his audience.  He joked to me on opening night as I came off stage "Do you realise I've got to go on and follow that now?" He loved a drink and when I retired to bed he stayed up with the band quietly partying. Matt Monro even introduced me at a hotel one night as his co-star. I then went on tour with Gene Pitney which was another dfabulous experience. Gene was a lovely singer and a delightful man.  The end of that tour saw me singing at the London Palladium. My Mum and Dad managed to come to see the shows but sadly my Sisters were away working. I was so upset that they couldn't make it, I was just starting out, and everything I did was a first for me. They had already done it.

My Sisters did get out of the Hanover Grand contract. It did cost them dearly in the financial sense. They were now free to earn money in their own right. Their first big show was a month long stint with Paul Daniels at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. On one occasion Linda lost her voice and was not able to perform for three days. I stepped in and rejoined the act. Luckily I was only asked to stand and sing with them, not learn new dance routines!
Dad had now steered the act as their new manager. He secured a new agent. The Nolans were now signed to a new record label and were preparing to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. They were on loads of TV shows and gave interivews about their new career direction.
Meantwhile, any success that I had a solo artist often fell on deaf ears with the press, and often my family. Their own fame had rocketed. They were not being cruel. but when I said  I had a record deal they were not so impressed. That is because they too had a new record deal and a single riding high in the charts. When I said I was supporting such and such a person on a national tour, they were saying that they were embarking on their first national headline tour as the headline act. I know that they totally supported me, but it's not easy to impress anyone in a show business family! I was the first in my family to tour with Cannon and Ball though!!

For the Cannon and Ball Tour in 1978

I had only been solo for a year and I had two successful tours added to my CV. In 1979 I was then introduced by Selwyn to a company called Bron. Who signed me up very quickly. That was where I met Brian Hudson, who, later on I introduced to Linda. Brian and Linda fell for each other and married after a couple of years, anyway, I digress!!  As an agency Bron specialised in heavy metal, which is as far away from me as it gets. But they wanted to break into representing  mainstream acts.  They expressed a desire to manage me,  and I gave them a go. To be fair, they got me a record deal with PYE Records and before I knew it I was in the studio recording my first single. The song 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word' was destined to fail really. It had not long since been a major hit for Elton John. I had spent two hours recording it, so I don't think any effort was put in by the record company. The record was given virtually no airplay at all and there was to be not a single bit of promotion either; anywhere! The B side, was a much better choice, entitled 'Holding You' which was a brand new lightweight disco song. I went to see my Sisters at one of their shows and they gave my new single a plug. Linda told the audience that I was in the stalls and the crowd gave me a round of applause. Linda went on to say that I had this new single out, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardes Word, and that it was on the Pye label. So if you don't like it, you can always eat if afterwards!
I was sad, of course, that the single hadn't made the charts. . But I didn't dwell on it. Partly because I knew it would flop and partly because I still a lot of work coming in.. The regrettable thing was that PYE were a big label and they had the tools to make the song a hit should they have wanted to. They had The Brotherhood Of Man and The Real Thing on their label as well as a big stable of hits to their credit. It might have been that Radio Stations would not show any interest as my Sisters were getting a lot of attention on TV.  In any case, the record sank without a trace. I started off 1980 with a new agent,  Howard T'Lootsy. I was working quite a lot when I was approached by Don Percival who was manager of Frankie Vaughan. He liked my work and  I was booked for a tour with Frankie Vaughan and I had loads of one night cabaret spots in similar venues to the ones I played with my Sisters.

In 1980 I did something that I was the first in my family to do! I had bragging rights on Pantomime. The lengthy run was at the New Theatre in Hull. I was to play the title role in Cinderella. I was so thrilled that I was being asked to play the part of a pretty character, but I was also incredibly nervous.  Pantomimes could last 3 months in the 70s and 80s. This panto had a twelve piece orchestra!! TWELVE - They are lucky to have two now!  I played alongside ventriloquist Terry Hall with his puppet Lenny The Lion. Looking back on the video of it, I see how inexperienced I was. Altogether I have done more than 30 pantomimes,  but more of them later!
Don Percival wanted to sign me to his new management agency and I agreed. This was a tough decision as it meant me  leaving Howard T'Lootsy. Howard had attempted to keep me and would let me work with Don if he could keep his agency fees. Don wasn't up for that. The reasoning being that Don wanted to put me in bigger shows and promised to get me a record deal. Eventually Howard agreed to letting me go and we remained friends. In 1981 Coleen joined the Nolans full time. She then broke her arm! It happened to be a week I was free, I was able to quickly learn her vocals. Some of the songs I knew well, so I rejoined the act for a weeks worth of engagements at Luton's Ceaser's Palace.
I didn't learn the choreography. I stood at the side!
I undertook my first Summer Season at Sandown on the Isle of Man. I worked alongside Jimmy Tarbuck and Kenny Lynch. I thoroughly enjoyed the run. The show was a sell out for the entire run. Tarby was a very funny man, and the audience loved him. He was obsessed with golf and very much a man's man. He wasn't one who was going to sit with me and chat about Coronation Street. We got along fine though!
As 1981 arrived, I signed a record deal of my own. It was for four singles and an album. Brian Hudson's agency had managed to put the deal together. This was different to the record I had made with Pye. That was just a trial single. I was not signed to them. This was a full on record deal. I was signed to Polygram, who had sublables Mercury, Phonogram and Polydor. They had lots of plans for me. More importantly they were not putting pressure on me to come up with a hit record immediately. I never saw myself as a potential  pop star.  I always preferred big ballads and standards. My new manager Don Percival, like plenty of others, had wanted me to record pop songs. I was unsure, but I went into the studio with an open mind. The fitst song The first single 'Don't Ya Say It' was written by Bryan Adams - yes THE Bryan Adams, anyhow, it sold quite well and received a fair bit of air play. The flip side was my preferred track - 'Aching Heart'. The single actually made it onto the Radio One playlist for selected DJs. I don't know which one - but thank you! I did a newspaper interview after if had faded and told the journalist that it had sold well and the record company were pleased, which was true. I was entered into the Castlebar Music Festival in Ireland. The song was called 'Where The Ending Starts' It was a very small song contest in the flavour of Eurovision. I went through several heats before the song was eventually eliminated. My nerves were so bad that I had to have a stool to sit on to sing the song. How people can enter shows like the X Factor and Eurovision is a mystery to me. To be judged in such a way is the harshest form of entertainer. I don't have an ego, but I think I have a talent. If one doesn't win a contest like that, then you are, when all is said and done, a loser. I felt like I had lost. The song was later picked up by Bucks Fizz who recorded it for one of their albums.

At a meeting soon after, I was told that a new song-writing team was on board and had written some great new tracks especially for me. Antony Jai Ajagbe and George Hargreaves were the gents who were responsible for my next songs.
When I heard the demo versions of the songs I was impressed with them. The writers were talented, but I didn't see how I could make my voice sound so pop flavoured. I went into the studio with trepidation. The set up was very high spec, and everyone seemed to know what they were doing. The backing vocalists were all really talented which made me a little bit overwhelmed. They were soul singers and their voices matched their gospel routes. I  started to lay the vocals down for the next single 'Girls Do It, Boys Do It'  soon, the producers would say things like 'That was great Denise, can we do it again, and if you can cut the vib...' That, in case you don't know was telling me to use less vibrato in my voice. Vibrato is fabulous technique when you are singing a big number, but it is less impressive with a pop song. I got the feeling that the backing singers would have preferred themselves singing the song!
Upon its release, 'Girls Do It Boys Do It' received considerable airplay and had even made it onto the Radio One Main playlist. It was selling well and the record company was in full time over drive. It was looking like we were going to have a hit on our hands.The reverse side of the single was a melodic 'I Just Can't Stop The Feeling' which was very heavy on violins- I loved it.  The mid-week chart had me somewhere in the 40-50 range. Which as amazing. The record company were all set for a hit. I was hastily arranged to appear on Pebble Mill at one the day of the chart reveal. Within the three or four days until the actual chart was revealed It had seemingly dropped out of the top 100. Even though the song had continued to sell at the same rates, if not better. Something we were told never happened. But it did happen to me - for a second time! When we released the follow up single 'In Love With Love''  which was my favourrite single. The B side was also lovely, it was called 'My Mind's Made Up On You'.
Sales of 'In Love With Love' were goinng really well. The chart entry looked set to be number 44, which the label were happy with - most of my Sisters' songs entered the chart at 50 plus. Again - I was booked for Pebble Mill, and mysteriously the song, whilst selling at the same rate, dropped more than 60 places in the chart. These inconsistencies were later revealed to be a result of chart return shops. The system of 'chart panel' had been replaced with chart return shops who would detail every song that went over the counter. These few hundred shops would then give , what was considered, broadly what was selling across the whole country.
It was later learned that my own records were selling very well in department stores that had record departments and in independent record shops. Not so well in larger record stores that concentrated their sales on big name acts. The very shops that had were chart return stores. If the total sales had been taken into account I would have certainly had hit singles.Although the singles were not smash hits they do mean a lot to me. It seems that when my people were approaching radio stations they were refusing to play stuff I had recorded because they felt the airwaves were already over saturated by Nolans songs!! It appeared that my Sisters were now in competition with me.

Over the next few weeks I recorded a number of songs that would go on the album, including the next single 'After Me' But the release was shelved indefinitely I wasn't dropped by the label as such, they had made the decision not to release any more of the singles, or the album. Recently I found some of the songs that I recorded and I think they stand up to scrutiny today. There isn't any point being bitter about these things, sadness yes, but not bitter. I've always said that I was never a pop singer, so perhaps my foray into pop music was a distraction from what I really wanted to be doing. Incidentally - the two songwriters later penned the Sinitta smash hit "So Macho" which was a number one all over the World. The Gay audience went nuts for it - that was a shock for the writers Tony and Goerge. George went on on to become a full time cleric and is now the leader of an anti gay political party! . The songs didn't chart unfortunately.
Anne had left the act to have a baby in 1980 and returned two years later. To celebrate this, the whole family were invited to appear on a full episode of the Russell Harty Show. Our parents each sang a song, as did Brian my Brother.Brian sang 'You To Me Are Everything' while my Borther, Tommy played drums. I was up next, singing "In a Simple Way, I Love You" which is a lovely, gentle song. I hoped it show cased my singing. I did a short interview before my Sisters came on stage and sang a number Anne's daughter, Amy wore a specially made Nolans costume. Russell interviewed the girls and we all chimed in when we felt the need.  The last song that night was 'I Write The Songs' which we all sang together. This was a happy time for me. I was able to rejoin the Nolans for a few minutes!

Although my TV career did not rise like that of my Sisters, I was ablr to feature singing 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word' and 'As Time Goes By' on Les Dawson's Prime Time TV show. But that was a couple of years after the song was released as a single! Live music is especially thrilling for me. I was lucky to work with the BBC orchestra many times during a series of radio chows in the early 1980s  and that was a such a joy. Gladys Knight took part in those shows. She sang a song called ' We Don't Make Each Laugh Anymore' which I simply adored. I later recorded it myself on one of my 'I Love To Sing' albums. One other thrill was appearing in the Royal Variety Performance as a solo artist and meeting HRH Princess Alexandra afterwards!! Brian Aris is one of the UK's most celebrated photographers. I had a shoot with him in 1982 which was a dream. What a way to end the year!

To work with people who are at the top of their profession is a magical experience. I was beginning to feel more secure about myself as a solo performer and was happy with my act. Not many artists can be totally self indulgent as to sing what they like all the time. Summer seasons are usually a great way to ensure regular earnings and to have the same address for a while. I have worked in Ayr, Scarborough, Eastbourne, Blackpool and just about everywhere in between. Eastbourne stands out for me. There was an Andrews Sisters medley which was great. I had done that many times with my Sisters in the act. Two of the dancers would take part in the medley with me and mime to vocals. My partner Tom has a huge family and many of them are professional entertainers. Two of his Sisters came into the studio with me and they did the other two voices, that way we had a three part harmony for the Andrews Sisters medley. The audience didn't know that I was the only one singing live. It didn't spoil the effect though and I loved the medley. Throughout the eighties I worked on TV, theatre and cabaret club. It was an interesting decade. I supported acts as diverse as The Ink Spots and Little and Large as well as headlining my own act in the UK and overseas. What with working like that all year and squeezing in Pantomime and Summer Season shows you could say that I worked my socks off. In between that I did a constant stream of interviews on TV, radio and print. I never reached the heights of success that my Sisters had reached but I had a full diary. Always ensuring that I did pantomime at the end of each year! Towards the end of the decade when the Nolans had stopped having hits it's fair to say that I was working more than they were. I also found work on the cruise ships. In fact from the mid eighties to the late 2000s I worked on more or less every line. P&O - Fred Olsen - Princess and Royal Caribbean to name a few. The Americans were always great audiences. It enabled me to see much of the World with Argentina being a particular highlight - seeing Eva Peron's mausoleum. The work was fun too. I would fly out to join the ship and for two weeks I lived as a passenger being booked to appear once in the theatre and once in the piano room - I was paid well and seemed to be on a permanent holiday. It was all the more special if I could arrange - and I usually did - to have have Tom with me as my musical director. The entertainments director of Fred Olsen was very complimentary about me he said "Denise Nolan is by far the best female entertainer we have ever had on board our ships." I can be just as complimentary about his ships.
I have always admired Judy Garland. I have never thought she had the best female voice  - but no one can perform like her. She could sing or sure, and I loved the way she put a song across to an audience. So, I decided that I would like to do a tour that would pay tribute to this incredible lady. This was never going to be a look a like show or a sound alike one either. First, I took the score from Garland's Carnegie Hall concert. I had the music transposed into my own keys and I recruited some fantastic musicians. It was challenging vocally, and the show is two and a half hours long, so it's physically draining as well. The first time I took the show out on the road saw me going to places as diverse as Dartford, Northampton and Sutton. It was not reallly suitable for cabaret clubs because I had a large, twelve piece orchestra with me. Although I did once play the show at a Gold Club in Ruislip. I called my band 'The Rainbow Orchestra'. This works best for me mainly because I adore live music. That show went out in 1991 and lasted a couple of months. I was to be very busy that year with a Summer show in Ayr that went on from July until September. I then did an Edgar Wallace play in Yeovil, Bournemouth Aberdare and Bognor. That was the first time I had acted in a straight play. Terrifying, yes, but exciting as well. I ended 1991 in Kent, again Playing Snow White. You know. altogether, I have played Snow White 15 times in my career. That is not including playing her in a long run in the Phoenix Theatre in London and a Summer Pantomime in Scarborough. The Phoenix in London, as you may know, was to feature very heavily in my life later on. Talking of Panto - I have now started playing the wicked Queen or the Fairy Godmother - That's age for you! I can't complain -  I have been fortunate with them. I have done Panto in Hull, Liverpool, Eastbourne. Southend, Buxton, Reading, Mansfield, London, Gravesend, Bradford, Phwehelli, Shrewsbury, Telford, Porthcawl, Wimbledon and York - to name but a few. It took my Sisters a long time to join the panto game. But  they certainly have made up for waitinng so long.  So, the next few years were spent with the January and February finishing panto, then one night bookings or week long engagements in cabaret. Then I would start Summer Season that would hopefully last until Ocober, ready for the next Panto. I could take the Judy Garland shows out early in the year. It was regular work and I was content.
In 1997 I came home to Blackpool for a Summer Season. I had just moved away from Blackpool, to live inLondon. Then the first big job I got was for six months in Blackpool! the production was not really my cup of tea - the show was one of those River Dance type shows. This one was called 'Spirit of the Dance' They were all really talented dancers of course, but I never quite knew how my part was going to sit in between all that dancing and Irish music but it seemed to go well enough. The icing on the cake for me was to be given the number one dressing room. Following on from that I began working on the cruise ships again. It's a fairly easy way to make a living, but it means I am away from home with only limited facilities, and the audiences can be difficult. When you are in one place you can rent a house and see all the local sights. But there is the bonus on cruises that you are seeing loads of beautiful places for a day at a time. Capri is one of my favourite destinations. When I win the lottery I will buy a place there. In between all of this I played Nancy in 'Oliver' too. It was scheduled for a run only in Northampton, but  I was later able to reprise the show in Leicester. I loved it!
My Sister Bernie, who had left the Nolans in 1994, had been playing Mrs. Johnstone in Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers' for a while. She was in the touring production and appeared at Liverpool. She had covered the part in the West End while the cast  was on holiday. She was going to join  the West End production after her tour finished.  The casting team of the soap 'Brookside' saw the show and reported back that they had to screen test Bernie. She went for an audition and was immediately offered a part in the show. The producers of Blood Brothers allowed Bernie to get out of her contract without penalty. My other Sister, Linda had auditioned for the touring production of Blood Brothers and was offered the role vacated by Bernie. On hearing that Bernie was leaving, the company Producer, Bill Kenwright, asked Bernie if she had any Sisters who could do the job. She suggested me! I sent a CD to them and they asked me to audition, I got the job and I was sent to the West End in London. I was to be the first in the family to have a leading role in the West End! I was to be a luvvie..... The irony was that it would be in the Phoenix theatre where I had played Snow White a few years earlier. I even learned a "Scouse" accent. But Bill said he wanted me to use my own Irish accent. He said it was a lovely speaking voice and that lots of Irish people had emigrated to Liverpool. I only had 7 days of rehearsals to learn nine songs and all of the speaking and placing parts. I was terrified on opening night.  Apparently Bill never goes to see the show - of course the night I opened, who do you think came to see the show? - That's right, Bill!! I was told while I was in make up. I also almost missed my cue as I was stuck in the loo! I adored being in the show, altogether I was in the West End for 9 months. My only problem was that I was in the one venue night atfter night. Only seeing one place. Linda had mentioned that she wouldn't mind being in London, so Bill Kenwright gave us the choice to swap, and we did so.
I was much more suited to the tour. I stayed on the tour for four years, visiting almost every major town in the UK. One particular highlight was playing the massive Opera House in Blackpool. The review was amazing. At the same time the local newspaper was running its annual theatre awards. I was thrillled to receive the gong for my role. Blood Brothers saw many happy times, but difficult times. One sadness was that I didn't play Liverpool. Bill usually brought a Liverpool born actress in when the show hit Liverpool.  Bernie was one exception, another time was when he brought in the show's first Mrs. Johnstone, Barbara Dickson.  When the show visited my home country, Ireland, Bill chose to use Ireland based and phenomenally successful singer Rebecca Storm. Other than that, I worked everywhere, from the Isle of Man, to Scotland, Wales, and the whole of England. The icing on the cake came a few years later when we were entered into the Guinness Book Of World Records, as the most siblings to  have played the same role in a professional production. I decided to leave the show in 2004. I was finding the singing was affecting my voice and I had experienced a terrifying episode of stage fright. The whole thing leaves you petrified. I was singing a song and in a flash, I forgot the words that were coming up. I must have gone into autopilot, and somehow I remembered the words. I finished the show that night without hitch. The problem was I had to do it all again the next night. I cannnot describe the feeling of isolation on stage, when you have an emotional scene to act and sing and at the same time, in the back of your mind, you are thinking - I don't think I knnow the words - it is a very real phenomenon. Big stars like Barbra Streisand have been affected by it and have stopped live performing. Streisand will only do concerts with the words on screens. That is not a possibility on Blood Brothers. I knew I needed to get away from the show. The cast were all amazing, but enough was enough. I left in the middle of the run following the week at Worthing.
I couldn't ever see me going back to Blood Brothers, but in showbiz - you should never say never. In 2008 Linda had just lost her Husband Brian and was ill herself with Cellulitis following her cancer treatment. For obvious reasons she was unable to take part in the tour. By now,  Maureen had by now joined the show and was in the West End production. Unexpectedly I got a call from  Kenwright's office asking me if I wanted to join the show in Dunstable immediately before going on to Glasgow and finishing in Edinburgh. I said I would  think about it.  At first I said "No" to Tom and Adam. Then Tom reminded me that I said I wanted to go back to the show one more time to conclude the story of when I had abruptly left a few years before. Friends and family, in particular Adam, who is a big fan of the show started texting and calling saying I had to do it. So when Kenwright's called back I said I would do it. They said they would send a script though the post and that was that - Straight away I felt nervous. I got on the phone to Kenwright's office to ask about rehearsal time. I knew the gyst ofa lot of the songs, and of course I knew the story. But I would have needed time to remember the full score, re-learrn lines and to familiarise myself again with marking. The office said they didn't have the facility to do such a thing as everyone involved was already either on tour or in the West End. I did ask for a day or two during the day to rehearse with the London cast when the theatre was closed. Somehow Kenwright's office thought that wasn't necessary as it was all in the script and I had done the show before. I sat and thought about it, and thought about it. Tom and Adam were offering support and saying I could do it. Adam even offered to go through the script with me as often as I needed. I did have a video tech recording of the show, but my nerves and my quest for perfection wouldn't let me take the risk. I have always strived to get things right. Everyone understood, but I know they were disappointed. Somehow I wasn't as disappointed as they were. In any case, there was a Pantomime coming up in a month or two.
After the Panto, I went straight on tour with the Magic Of Judy Garland show again. This time, a very busy one of about 40 dates. I enjoyed that tour. One of the dates was at the beautiful Grand Theatre at Blackpool. It was the first time I had played there in my own show. I had been there with the Platters and with the 'Spirit Of The Dance',  but this was my show. As always with shows that other people put on the artist doesn't have a great deal of control of how the show is promoted  and put together. On this occasion some of the towns we played had not had any promotion for the show. The support act, I hadn't chosen was not really suited to this kind of show either. Consequently some of the shows did not sell well, which was annoying when I would have gone on local radio or press to let everyone know about the show. However the show built and we began to get more box office.
I was asked to take part in a Nationwide tour of one musical. I had auditioned and the guy was not very forthcoming about what the role entailed. It turrned out, when I read the script, that I was to take all  my clothes off, with the exception of my underwear and sit on a bed. Then deliver a monologue, then  get dressed in another outfit. Needless to say, I rejected the part....

More cruise ship work soon followed. It was during this time that I think I appeared on every ship in the World. I have spent the last couple of years doing one night gigs and of course pantomime. I took part in a Rat Pack show then I have travelled to Spain for work and recently visited America, where I actually got to sing Garland songs in Hollywood! I decided in 2010  that I would slow down a little. Instead of chasing work, rushing for auditions and living out of a suitcase I thought that I would be more  selective about work that I would do. It suits me because I love to sing  what I love to sing. That's not to say if Andrew Lloyd Webber called and  said he was doing a show and wanted me that I would say no, because I  probably would say yes in a heartbeat!
I don't need to revisit the painful arguement that tore my family apart in 2009. All of that is old news. What I can say now is that after all the pain we were able to reconcile with Bernie and Maureen a year after. Anne and myself had written to all the family to say that for the sake of our family, and extended family and friends, that we should put the argument behind us. We would never be in a position where one group would say that they were in the wrong, so it would be better if we could agree to disagree. Within days Maureen and Bernie got in touch to say that they agreed with us. We chatted on the phone and put the argument to bed. At the time, we didn't hear from Linda and Coleen, but we didn't persue the matter. We were able to attend Bernie's 50th birthday party in October 2010, and we had a fantastic evening. Linda and Coleen were there, and we just sat at separate tables.
Bernie had been diagnosed with breast cancer and beat it - She went back to work and at the same time was raising awareness in the press. We were able to put that dreadful time behinid us. It came as a crushing blow when after a couple of years in remission,  the cancer had returned. This time  it had spread and  gone  into her brain, liver and bones. She was appearing in the musical Chicago at the time, and we were under orders not to release the information. I went to see the show in  Preston. Adam and his partner Carl drove me and my Aunt Teresa to the show. Bernie chatted with Auntie, who got upset, which upset Bernie. Moments later we were sat in the theatre and Bernie came on stage, delivering an incredible performance - what a pro she really was.
Irish TV had decided to make a documentary about Anne's life, to co-incide with the launch of her book. The project was expanded and was to include me. We filmed our pieces to camera at the Imperial Hotel on a very rainy day. I spoke about life in Ireland and being in the Nolans. Of course they went into the argument and I said how I felt. I didn't like doing it, because I have only ever used my website as a vehicle, where I can say what I want. No-one can edit it or cut it to make it out of context. As soon as I left the hotel, I felt anxious that I had made a mistake. I considered get in touch to ask them to cut my words out. In the end I took a leap of faith and the programme was aired without any problems. The documentary went out on RTE in Ireland, but wasn't shown in the UK. Nor Anne or myself were invited to film for the Nolans documentary being filmed for ITV in the UK.
It took a little while for us to make up with Coleen and Linda, but we did manage to do so. We arranged a huge party for my Aunties 70th at a Blackpool club. We iinvited Coleen and Linda, who came allong. We found that we had sipped back into speaking without really trying. We have resolved never to fall out like that again. Whatever the circumstances, it is not worth all the hurt and upset. I love all my sisters, and even at the height of the fall out - that never stopped. When Coleen was in Dancing On Ice, I spent a fortune voting for her, and all the time that Bernie was in Popstar to Oper Star, I did the same.
Panto in 2010 took me Bridlington. I went over to Yorkshire and had the best time with the best cast and company that there is. Bridlington is a terrible place to get to. There's no motorways and so returning home for one day on Christmas Eve was hellish. We did the final show and got into the car to go from one side of the country to the other. After dinner on Christmas Day we did the same thing in the other direction. I enjoy Panto, I really do, but things had started to change with them. The changes were not to my liking. For a start, the musicians were now usually down to a drummer and a keyboard player. Dwarfs were now being played by children wearing outsized plastic heads. Their voices coming by way of pre-recorded backing track. The costumes were still great and some of the sets were lavish. My main critisism was the timing of the shows themselves. In times before, there was a tea time show and an evening show, with two matinees a week. This started to change. Some days we had three performances to perform. That meant a 10am show. We had to be at the theatre at the latest for 9am. You have to apply make up and so on, and I hate to be late. I have always suffered with insomnia. It became a real struggle, laying in bed trying to sleep - knowing I needed to, because I had three shows. It became a treadmill of sleep deprivation and exhaustion. I don't know where the idea of morning  shows came from. Historically, parents would take their kids for an evening at the Panto in the run up to Christmas. It was often the kids first introduction to theatre. More recently, schools began organising excursions to Pantomime.  Teacher brought classes to the shows, this in turn meant that parents didn't have to bother doing the job. I think that is unfortunate and regrettable. Perhaps the sales of parent and children had declined and Panto had to adapt. Schools are open during the day, and so naturally that works for them. I've taken my own neices and nephews to Panto - and it is magical. Before my Sisters started doing them, they would bring their kids to see me. It was wonderful if Buttons got one of them up at the end of the show to take part in the games at the end. I had decided that I didn't think I wanted to do panto anymore. But after Bridlington, I was offered another!

I took a few of the Garland shows out in  2011. Tom had put these together and we were responsible for the publicity, band and who was in the show. As it was two and half hours long I didn't think I needed a support act. One time, I had a support act that went on for an hour before the interval. That left me with my 150 minute show on my own without a break for a costume change. This  time I split the show into two parts. I could have a break and change my outfit. We enjoyed the dates. This time we were fully in control without a promoter insisting we had a support act. We were able to select the venues we wanted and not have a crazy schedule.

In 2011 the Panto season took me to Leeds at the newly built Carriageworks Theatre for Panto. The venue had been a Carriage Works and some of the features were retained. The atrium was spacious with bar and restaurants. In the summer months we went to Leeds to try to find some accommodation. Air BnB adn't really kicked in back in 2011. We had a digs list, but none of them were suitable. A good look online before had given us a few places to look at. We drove to Leeds and the Satnav took us to one address that was outside of town - a lot further outside town. We pulled up at a surburban house and the owner greeted us. He showed us to 'our accomodation' which, I have to point out was not cheap! It was also not a house, or a flat....It was a garage! Inside the garage was a tiny lounge with a portable TV on top of the freezer, there was a small bathroom with a shower. The bedroom could only house a bed and a wardrobe. This was priced at nearly £500 a week! The owner's wife came out with fresh orange juice and put them on top of the washer that had ther family's clothes whirling round. We had the embarrassment of declining the property face to face. In seaside towns there's always holiday accommodation that can be rented for short terms. In inland towns that is not usually the case. We viewed properties that were listed as 'Serviced Apartments' and these were more than £100 a day. One estate agent had us in stitches. She had promised us everything. When we met this woman, she was as mad as a hatter. Her top had egg stains (I hope it was egg) She had enormous boobs without a bra and her toe nails were overgrown so much that they were almost scraping the floor. She wasn't a vision of beauty. Adam whispered to me 'What is she going to do when her looks go?' I started to chuckle, and then a bit more. The more she spoke to me, the harder I tried to suppress my laughter. Eventually, I laughed in her face. She had no idea what i found so funny!

We broke box office records in Leeds and I had a fantastic season. I actually sang a Lady Ga Ga number (Born This Way) which was hysterical! In 2012 I started a series of shows at the Sands Venue in Blackpool. The place was a brand new venue. Interior was stunning with no expense spared.. The atmospher was incredible. It was like the  most upmarket cabaret club ever. The Sands had a seven piece orchestra and a goergous star cloth that cevered the entire ceiling. Sound, lighting and stage had everything an artist could wish for. It was quite expensive to eat there and watch the show, and so it encouraged an older, more sophisitcated clientele. We thought it was a high risk enterprise, this huge venue on the promenade. On my shows, I have to say, I had good numbers in the audience. The following year we learned that the venue had not been profitable. They were in the tricky situation the putting a show like that on costs a lot of money. If no-one comes - that money can't be made back. The following year, the band were gone, except for the odd night. In its place came a tribute act show on recorded backing tracks. The venue was pulled down recently to make way for new hotels. One other thing about the Sands in Blackpool- I worked with tons of Soap stars there - Shobna Gulaty (Sunita: Coronation Street) Andrew Lancell (Coronation Street, The Bill) Richard Shelton (Emmerdale) Natalie Anderson (Emmerdale) Graham Hawley (John Stape in Coronation Street) as well as many others from the Soap World - I achieved a real dream that year when I topped the bill on a charity variety show - starring next to Gareth Gates and Rose Marie. That night I doubled up by going straight to the Sands where I sang to  more than a hundred soap stars - Surreal!! I celebrated my 60th birthday in 2012, the big bash was at the Sands in Blackpool which we hired out. The thought crossed my mind at the time, that I had been singing professionally for more than 50 years! I guessed it was time to slow down.
I did more Garland shows later that year and one nighters. I had initially rejected a panto offer for 2012, but when I was offered Broxbourne I couldn't resist. I had done Panto there before. It's a lovely theatre and a lovely little town.

In 2013 I was asked to  star in a "Good Old Days" revival show which I agreed to. It was great fun I was also approached that year by two gents who are busy writing a musical. I recorded some tracks with them. It has lots of potential, and  I hope it can come together. They had written it with me in mind. These  things take time though, to get the financial backing and the staging. I was here and there in 2013 in variety style shows and even went to the Hippodrome theatre in London to take part in one such show with the incredible Roy Hudd. I was invited to join the Grand Order Of The Lady Ratlings too, which was a complete honour. The Lady Ratlings came into being as a female arm to the Grand Order Of Water Rats. The order is a charity that aims to help people from a show business background. Many famous names are members and I am delighted to be part of the organisation. As part of the initiation into the order, you are expected to do a performance, free of charge, at the Brinsworth Retirement Home. The home is a place for people who have been in the entertainment industry. As I was setting up in the tiny concert room I was joined by Teddy Johnson who came in for a chat. His wife, Pearl Carr sadly had Alzheimer's Disease and she was under the impression that I was trying to take her husband from her. The audience seemed to enjoy my performance. Mike Yarwood and Richar O'Sullivan gave me a cheer as well!
We lost Bernie to cancer in 2013. She was only 52. The last months of her life were spent at home in Surrey. We almost lost her in February when she was visiting Blackpool. The last few weeks were a difficult time for us all. Poor Bernie was in pain. The family had gathered around her for her final hours. We sang, chatted and cried. She was an incredible talent, funny, vibrant and caring. I will never get over losing her. Cancer is wicked, a scourge. It leaves people wondering why? Why take someone with so much to live for, and so much to give?
Bernie had planned her funeral to the last detail. The actual service was at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. The coffin was on the stage. There was a giant screen behind her that played a video of Bernie in concert at Blackpool. Maureen read a letter to us all that Bernie had written. Her daughter, Erin read a poem. After the service the video resumed. It was Bernie's amazing performance of the Whitney Houston song 'Run To You' - Bernie had closed her show with that number and on the screen we could see Bernie taking her bows, waving at us and saying thank you. She blew kisses and left the stage. Outside the theatre, thousands of people lined the streets. Throwing flowers onto the hearse. We went to the crematorium where I made a eulogy and we said our goodbyes. Her husband Steve let out a flock of doves and we went for food and drink at the Grand in St. Annes. The funeral was perfect.

I finally started to slow things down. I wanted to be with Tom and my firends and family. I certainly didn't want to be on the audition circuit again. I could do shows when invited and enjoy more time at home. It was also a terrible shock losing Bernie. Even though we knew it was coming. There was a sadness and work was not uppermost in my mind. In Spring 2013 I was asked to do panto. It was a fairly short run in Lowestoft. Tom was running his successful business in London and I was spending half my time there and half of it in Blackpool. Normally Tom plays drums for me when I am in Panto, but this year he couldn't. He would spend as muh time with me as he could during the run. We rented a lovely little house and decided we were going to spend Christmas Day with just the two of us. Lowestoft is notoriously difficult to get to and I didn't fancy a six hour ride to Blackpool, to spend just 24 hours at home.
The cast at Lowestoft were a fantastic, incredibly talented bunch. They all treated me so well. It is great when it works out like that. The audiences in Lowestoft were cetainly up for some fun too. I was thrilled at the end of the run to find we had broken all box office records.

In the new year of 2014 I visited America again, spending time with Tom's son, also called Tom and his family. We had a month there enjoying the good weather and seeing the places I adore in California.
Upon my return I attended several Ratling events, and finding out I had been offered a part in a musical celebrating the music of Ethel Merman. I could have done the job easy enough, but I am not a fan of Ethel's music to be honest. and so I rejected it.
I decided not to do Panto in 2015. I wanted to be with my family and friends. Christmas day saw the majority of us together at my house. We had a great time and ended the night singing 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' Which was lovely. I appeared in London's Soho in March that year with the Garland show - it was INCREDIBLE. The venue was packed to the rafters and if I say so myself - I stormed it. The ceiling was so low. The stage too. You are staring in the eyes of the audience in front of you. My SIster Anne came down and joined me for a version of 'Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy' which is a counter melody song originally performed on TV by Garland and Streisand. Adam came all the way down for the show as did his partner Carl and my friend Lee. I had a few gigs up and down the country in and a  short tour that I have took part in. I starred in the Christmas with the Rat Pack show at the end of the year which was incredible.
Having made the decision to semi retire in 2016 I started to take things easy. I was enjoying spending time in London and Blackpool and travelling for holidays. This went well for a year or so. Linda had been widowed for quite some time. It was only now we realised how much we really had in common. We enjoyed the same music, food, films and TV. I spent a lot of time with her when I was home. We only live five doors apart. Linda had started work in Pantomime in Preston and had a nasty fall at the Train Station. She stayed at my house to recover, before rejoining the production. In March 2017, just as we were making plans for Tom's 70th birthday plans, Linda had a fall going up the stairs at home. It was a Saturday night and she was babysitting for Maureen's grandchildren. Linda had heard a crack in her bone, convinced it was her hip. She phoned me and asked for help. I am absolutely useless if anyone is in pain and more often than not, I pass out. So I arranged for Anne to come with me. Anne was fantastic. The Ambulances were all booked and could not come for more than an hour. Anne called back and spoke in a way that made them realise Linda needed urgent attention.
At the hospital, x-rays were carried and the doctors told her that she had fractured her hip. She would probably have to have a hip replacement done the next day. However, one of the doctors recognised Linda and was aware of her medical history. On further examination over the next couple of days, it was confirmed that Linda's breast cancer had come back as secondaries in her hip. We learned afterwards that the cancer was not curable. Medics told her that it was treatable. Her reply was swift. 'You said that to my sister and she is dead.' The reply was the same when doctors told her that new drugs were coming out every day and that they had patients who had this type of cancer for ten or twenty years. The next move was to allow Linda to have bed rest to allow the fracture to heal. Calcium injections would be given to help strengthen the bone and hopefully surround the cancer. After about three weeks she was taken to a specialist unit in Oswestry, Shropshire for treatment. I rented a house nearby, so I could be on hand for her needs.
We had Tom's party which was a roaring success. Two of Linda's friends were permitted to have a mini party in her room and even have a glass of bubbly to celebrate Tom's 70th. After her discharge,  Linda moved in with me. I  was able to spend all my time looking after her. Linda's mood was low, she had been due to start rehearsals for a major new musical called 'Our House' which featured th music of Madness. As it stood, Linda could not earn any money. Her agent lined up interviews for press and TV, so that would pay her some money. She was going to announce the news via Loose Women, who's crew turned up at 8am to turn my lounge  into a temporary TV sudio. I did a small piece to camera and retreated to Adam's house I didn't want to see the interview, it was too painful.

I was filming for a TV show to come out later this year - August or September I believe. It is about Linda's life and I filmed for it on several different dates. The programme was about Linda having therapy. She confessed to her husband Brian being an alcoholic. It was clearly distressing for her. Once again they used my house, by now it had become one of the most famous lounges in the land!
Later that year I had a tour with the Rat Pack Band that had to be cancelled. For me, it was far more important that I look after my Sister. Coleen lived in Manchester at the time and was working on Loose Women a lot, Maureen was always touring, Anne was looking after our Aunty, which meant I was in more of a position to help. Whilst all this was going on I started to notice that Tom, my partner, was trembling. It was mainly in his hands. When he was driving or playing drums the shaking stopped. It was at its worst when he was sat relaxing. Tom dismissed it at first, and I guess I swept it under the carpet. Other people noticed and said we needed to investigate it. I think we were delaying because we knew what the ultimate outcome was. Doctors did their tests and confirmed that Tom has Parkinson's Disease. It was a blow to us and getting the dosage right for the medication is a pain. We have ended up wit patches, they seem to work the best.

2018 saw me popping up here and there, I was fortunate enough to sing at private events throughout the year and I have been involved in the remixing process of my album "With Live Orchestra". That album meant such a lot to me. We have remastered the tracks and this year we have released it as a physical album as a digital download Order Here. We also recorded, as live, the Judy Garland Concert in front of a live audience in London. The project has been mastered and we hope to release it in 2024. We have even got as far as doing the artwork!
In late 2019 I was approached to take a new version of the Garland show on tour in 2020. I was in supposed semi retirement, but I do adore the Judy Garland show. Linda was doing well with treatment. At that time she didn't need chemotherapy. Maureen was on a break from touring, so she could help out with Linda a lot more. So I agreed to the do the tour.  It all happened so quickly. The concept was given a bright new look with extra marketing. I had a regular Christmas and then boom! I was heading to London, signing contracts and discussing musicians and arrangements. The company behind the tour wasted no time at all. I was in charge of losing weight and chosing my wardrobe. The next thing I am on radio starions all across the country and being lined up as a guest on Loose Women. I appeared on the show and was able to get the word out about the tour. Before my feet had touched the ground it was opening night in Crewe. The theatre there was so lovely. Maureen and Adam came that day and as I was in my dressing room it dawned on me how nervous I was. They came into the dressing room and I was terrified. They left me to it while I did a sound check and rehearsed some numbers with the band. That night was incredible. The audience stood and cheered so loud I thought the theatre roof might blow off. I came offstage and handed my microphone to Adam and mouthed "Oh My God!" before going back on to take a few more bows. I was on such a high. Afterwards people hung around the theatre to me meet me and have a selfie - I was given so many bouquets. They even waited at the stage door! All of the dates were great, one other stands out in my mind though - that of Lytham which is in my home town area. Most of my family and friends came. I already felt spoiled. Adam had been like a personal roadie setting up my dressing room exactly how I like it - and he did Tom's! The stage drinks were all set out and those in the dressing room. The guy who was responsible for the lighting and sound - Jimmy was out of this world. He did an amazing job with drapes and effects. His background was in heavy rock, so I thought he would hate every second of my show. He told me that he had bought the Judy Garland Carnegie Hall album to get a feel for how the lighting should be. He even asked for one of my albums because he said he was now a fan. Jimmy KNEW his stuff. He was able to blend the muscians and my voice to perfection. I hope that you in the audience noticed what he had done. I had seven of the best musicians in the country playing on the tour. The company behind the endeavour, Red Entertainments were fantastic. Lee, my good friend who worked for them really did look after me. He tells me they have plans for somethings special for me soon. Tom played drums for me on the tour. He struggled with carrying some of the heavy equipment because of the Parkinson's. People were kind and he was helped out a lot. Tom also plays drums in a rock band. His mates there helped with set up.

A TV company became interested in a project in the middle of my tour they wanted to do a sho called 'Cruising With The Nolans' Anne, Maureen, Linda and Coleen would join a ship and visit lots of places doinng loads of exciting things. The hectic schedule meant the girls had to leave after my show in Manchester. There was already bits of news about a deadly virus. Luckily they were able to fillm. At the end of the cruise, the ship was to dock in Gerona and the girls would fly home. However, Lockdown was about to start. Arrangements were made for them to get off the ship in Barcelona and fly home. They managed to get back in time - just!

Then lockdown started. I must admit that on the one hand it was a nightmare, but on the other, people were so kind to each other. Twice a week on Zoom, My Brothers, Anne, Maureen, Linda, Adam, Alex, Coleen, and different team members joined in for a quiz. Different people researched questions and from 8pm until about midnight we all were together. I had my borthday and everyone brought my presents to the doorstep and retreated to the wall to say their wishes. There was a period in between the two lockdowns where we could get together in the garden and sit so far apart that we enjoyed. We managed to get out hair done in the back garden that day. I managed to put a hair colour on myself and swore I would never do it again!
In the Summer of 2020 whilst still in lockdown, I got a text from a guy who looks after some of the Nolans projects. He told me that a BBC record label were releasing a three album box set that would be featuring some of the songs that I recorded when I was in the act. I was beyond thrilled! The artwork logo was designed by Adam, who looks after my website. At first there was a hold up with the copyright with my photograph and I was missing from it - this would have been corrected had Amazon waited until the day they were supposed to! Of course, people saw the leaked artwork online and it was a matter of hours before my phone started pinging and emails hit my inbox. I was really upset as I didn't know what was happening. It might sound trivial, but this was the first time that I would be on an album cover with all six of us together. I know some of the Japanese albums that have been released of my early work don't feature my face and that has always been upsetting. As this box set was to be released in the UK, it was important that I was on the cover. Needless to say we had to get clearance for the image to be approved. It is not as easy as you imagine. Several of the photographs that we submitted were ones that I loved. Sadly the clothes that I was wearing on them were either the wrong colour or style for the project. In the end the record company had the choice of three - I was smiling on one of them. They must have gone for the 'sultry' one because there is only Anne who is smiling. It's nice to think that we might have looked sultry from time to time though - Don't you think?
The album was released on October 23rd -   Can you believe it - it actually went to number one on the pre order chart!
It proved to be impossible to do any promotional stuff with the Covid restrictions, and despite this the album was a hit. It was in the top ten for physical sales and top five for supermarket sales. It made the top twenty in the National chart which was a complete thrill.

The cruising show was a hit. I was mildly bothered that I couldn't do it. I am the expert on cruises. The show was nominated for a National TV Award. Of course, given the restrictions there was no way of doing a second series, but the company came up with a solution. The would film 'At Home With The Nolans' This would be, as the title suggests, us at home. This time I was included. It meant that we would have to have no end of Covid tests and have to self isolate. It would mean that we would have to have separate cars wherever we went. It was a logistical headache. We went for a few days to the Lake District and enjoyed our time together. We even decamped at Anne's daughter, Alex's house for a barbeque and to sing a song together. The show started with the news that Anne's cancer had come back, and now Linda's cancer had spread to her liver. The cameras showed the unity we all have. Behind the scenes there was so much heartache for what was happening - AGAIN. The public were kind and sent so many letters and emails. The show was a great success when it was aired, it was even broadcast in New Zealand.
I was offered Pantomime for 2021, but I decided to go to America spending Christmas with Tom's family.
In March 2022  we finalised the deal for the second series of 'The Nolans Go Cruising'  (Third if you count 'At Home With The Nolans) The Covid 19 restrictions meant we were only be able to sail around the UK. We signed up and eagerly awaited our trip. The lockdown rules meant that we could only disembark on English soil. So this meant that the proposed itinery visiting Belfast and Scotland would now just involve sailing close to them. The ship, the MSC Virtuosa was  the largest cruise liner on the planet at the time. So luckily there were plenty of things to do whilst sailing. Just my luck that the heatwave we had been enjoying came to an abrupt end the day I boarded the ship.I say 'I' joioned the shop because the others had gone aboard a few days earlier at Southampton. I checked my passport, as instructed, and found to my horror that it had just expired. The problem was that it was an Irish Passport. I protested that as we weren't leaving UK waters, why did we need a passport at all. They said that they would be going fourteen miles outside the waters and the ship's system requited a passport. Hurried phone calls and special delivery requests were undertaken, all of this on camera. The ship would be anchoring in Liverpool for a few hours and, provided I had my passport, I could join the ship there. I was at home with suitcases besides me as the passport arrived. I jumped in a car and headed straight to Liverpool with moments to spare.
On the cruise I was offered a chance to showcase my own voice on the cruise. I recruited my musical director to arrange a gorgeous version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' especially for piano accompaniment. I was filmed singing the song in the jazz cabaret lounge on the ship - What a thrill that was. I also rejoined the Nolans for the first time on TV in 43 years! We rehearsed and rehearsed 'I Will Survive'. Each one of us had a line to sing, and then Coleen sang the chorus with the four of us providing harmonies. It was a complete joy to sing harmonies with my Sisters on stage again. Anne and myself, and I suspect Linda and Maureen, felt that choreography was not entirely age appropriate. In any case, my nerves would have really been a handicap. The audience reaction was astonishing. We completed two performances before the ship's main concert presentations. We learned that queues had formed to see us. It was so heartwarming to feel that affection towards us.
In November 2021 the Variety Club of Great Britain presented us with a 'Legends of Industry' award. I made the acceptance speech to a packed house of show business contemporaries. The award ceremony in Manchester was very classy - We all stayed at a gorgeous hotel in the city.  When they annouced our names we were all shaking with nerves and no one wanted to make an off the cuff speech, so they chose me! We had a fantastic reception from all the people in the room. We also got to meet Anton Du Beke from Strictly and James Martin. They were both lovely and very complimentary about us. It rounded the year off in a perfect way.

I also released my first single in several years. Every Time we Say goodbye reached number four in the iTunes Jazz chart - a bone fide hit of my own!  On the strength of that we released my debut general release album 'For You My Love' This made the top twenty in the album charts. Such a thrill. All my other albums were independent releases, so were not eligable for the charts. This release however is considered a debut. It was the only solo Nolan album to make the charts too.The album of fourteen songs is called 'For You My Love' All the songs are all personal favourites of mine. You might have guessed that the songs aren't pop songs.These songs are all gorgeous ballads from many years ago, songs that I guess you would know as 'Standards'.  To get into the top twenty was the cherry on the cake.
I joked with my friends saying 'You can't talk to me now - I am a legend! But, seriously, I was overwhelmed with the award. It is the first time I have ever been presented with an award and it is a wonderful feeling. A couple of years ago I said that I was semi retired, but this year has been one of the busiest I have ever had. The lockdown meant that I had to postpone the release. When it did come out I took part in loads of interviews and zoom calls with TV outlets. Who would have thought that TV would change so very much.
Later in 2022 both Anne and Linda and myslef were all over the TV and press with the flu vaccination campaign. We all took part in a promotion with the Sun for a campaign to recycle face masks.
For publicity and to raise awareness, The Sun invited us to help out at a vaccination centre, which we were excited to have been asked. In Summer 2022 there was a huge concert that I topped the bill on, celebrating the life of Joe Longthorne. It was such good fun to meet up with the other artistes and to be up on stage after a long Covid lockdown! I was treated to a standing ovation which was such a high.
Anne was successful with her fight against cancer. She lost her hair and underwent the chemotherapy, but she got through it and is now in remission again. Linda was not so lucky. Her cancer in her liver was reduced. She was all set for going home and as soon as she entered the house, she fell over. A visit to the hospital confirmed our worst fears. The cancer had spread to her brain. The oncologist was not ready to give up on her yet though. He prescribed radiotherapy for three weeks and a course of steroids. Linda now has chemotherapy every three weeks. She has lost her hair once more, which was devastating. The doctors are optimistic that she will be able to start a new drug in a year. We can only take each day as it comes. Recently she took the entire family on a weekend holiday to a swanky former stately home. We enjoyed ourselves and made memories. Tom's Parkinson's Disease has not got any better. He feels fine most of the time and goes about his life. He decided to retire from his business in 2023 and  move permanently back to Blackpool. We had a flat that we rented which Tom could live in whilst working. I stayed there half of my time The family also used it when working in that part of the world. After retiring, Tom decided it was time for him to give up with the drumming too. Although I am sure he would set them up again if Neil Sedaka invited him to tour.
As professional singers in our own right, we have been at it for 60 plus years. I sang with my sisters on the latest TV series and that was the first time in 43 years that I had been on TV as one of the Nolans. Lots of nerves, but lots of fun. On that show I was even given the chance to sing my single, albeit a stripped back accoustic version. It really has been quite a year - So much for semi retirement!'
2023 will see the release of our first ever recording 'The Singing Nolans' on CD for the first time. It's a lovely memory - not that we are backed by a full orchestra or anything! It is just us singing with an organ. It's nostalgia though and it will be a lovely thing to have at hand. I hope you get behind the release. It's only a limited edition - so that should make it even more of something to make sure you have in your collection!

As for me, a new chapter opened up this year. With Linda's health not being great, I cannot commit to new projects. A couple of years ago, I started doing a few eulogies at funerals of people I knew. I was then asked if I would present them for people I didn't know.  I researched the role and decided that it was something that I would like to do. I want to give something that I feel will make a difference. A familiar face that might bring comfort at a time of loss. It's something that I can do in my local area. I am approachable, I am sure you know that already. If you would like to see more about that part of me, visit this section of the site.
In October of 2023 we found out that our debut album, that was recorded in 1972 was to be re-released on CD. This is the first time the album has been available on CD. I was amazed to find out that the song had reached number two in the Traditional Pop chart on Amazon. The album is very basic, recorded  in a single day, as you will know if you have reached this far from the start of my biography! It was recorded in London, with our organist, Roly. Eight of us and an organist, with the organ in a tiny room. We had a limited edition, that we all agreed to sign. I truly thought no-one would be interested in such a basic album, but, once again, I was surprised at the fan response.

I do hope this Biography has been informative to you. I have really enjoyed telling you about my career.

Denise Nolan
November 2023

Solo Career Pictures
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