Anne Shelton Biography

Patricia Sibley, 10 November 1923, Dulwich, London, England, d. 31 July 1994, East Sussex, England. One of the most important and admired of UK popular singers, Anne Shelton came to prominence as the ‘Forces sweetheart’ during World War II and remained a fondly regarded figure thereafter. She made her first BBC radio broadcast on 30 May 1940 in Monday Night At Eight, in which she sang ‘Let The Curtain Come Down’. Her performance was heard by top UK band leader Bert Ambrose, who signed her to sing with his band, and with whom she appeared on radio in School Uniform. Her own radio show, Introducing Anne, aimed mainly at British troops in the North African Desert, ran for four years, and she co-hosted Calling Malta with comedy actor Ronald Shiner; the programme was the only link with British troops on the island during the air bombardment and siege during the early months of 1942. In that same year, Shelton started her recording career, and in 1944 had an enormous hit with her signature tune, ‘Lili Marlene’, a German song that was equally popular with the armed forces of ‘both sides’, and to which UK songwriter Tommie Connor added an English lyric. Also in 1944, she was one of the UK ‘guest’ vocalists who sang in concerts and on broadcasts with the American Band of the Supreme Allied Command and the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force, directed by Glenn Miller. Shelton also worked on radio with Bing Crosby.

She appeared in several films, a mixture of musicals and comedies, including Miss London Ltd., Bees In Paradise, and King Arthur Was A Gentleman (each starring diminutive comedian Arthur Askey) and Come Dance With Me (with comedians Derek Roy and Max Wall). After the war, she toured the UK variety circuit, and in 1949 updated her wartime hit by recording ‘The Wedding Of Lilli Marlene’. In the same year she had two US hits with ‘Be Mine’ and ‘Galway Bay’, and in 1951, became the first British artist to tour the USA coast to coast, staying there for almost a year. In the UK she appeared extensively on radio and television during the 50s, and had several successful records, including ‘I Remember The Cornfields’, ‘My Yiddishe Momma’, ‘Once In A While’, ‘I’m Praying To St. Christopher’, ‘Arrivederci Darling’, ‘Seven Days’, ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ (a Swedish song with an English lyric by Paddy Roberts, which spent several weeks at the top of the UK chart), and ‘The Village Of St. Bernadette’. Her last chart entry, in 1961, was ‘Sailor’, a song of Austrian origin, which was a UK number 1 for Petula Clark. Albums around this time included The Shelton Sound, which contained impressive readings of standards such as ‘Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe’, ‘Tangerine’ and ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’. Throughout her career she worked with the cream of musical directors, including Percy Faith, Wally Stott, Stanley Black, George Melachrino, Frank Cordell, Ken Mackintosh, Robert Farnon, Reg Owen, David Rose, Jerry Gray and many more.

In later years Shelton continued to feature on television and tour various parts of the world, including the UK, Europe, USA and Hong Kong. In 1978 she appeared in cabaret when 1, 200 US veterans revisited the D-Day Normandy beaches, and in the following year, performed one of her most popular 40s songs, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, in John Schlesinger’s movie Yanks, which starred Richard Gere. In 1980 she sang ‘You’ll Never Know’ for the Queen Mother on the occasion of her 80th birthday, and during the rest of the decade took part in charity and reunion affairs in aid of the British Legion and British Services organizations. These included occasions such as the 40th anniversary of D-Day, when she sang on UK television with a contemporary ‘Glenn Miller’ Band, and the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II. Anne Shelton also held the important post of Entertainments Officer for the Not Forgotten Association, which looks after disabled ex-servicemen and women from as far back as World War I. In 1990 she was awarded the OBE for services to the Association, and in the same year, her husband, Lieutenant Commander David Reid, died. They had met when she was only 17 years of age.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.