Josef Locke Biography

Joseph McLaughlin, 23 March 1917, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, d. 14 October 1999, Clane, Co. Kildare, Eire. An extremely popular ballad singer in the UK from the 40s through to the 60s, with an impressive tenor voice and substantial stage presence, Locke sang in local churches as a child, and, when he was 16, added two years to his age in order to enlist in the Irish Guards. Later, he served abroad with the Palestine Police before returning to Ireland in the late 30s to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Nicknamed the ‘Singing Bobby’, he became a local celebrity in the early 40s. On the advice of impresario Jack Hylton, who renamed him Josef Locke, he toured the UK variety circuit. In the following year, he played the first of 19 seasons at the popular northern seaside resort of Blackpool. He made his first radio broadcast in 1949 on the famous Happydrome, which starred the trio of ‘Ramsbottom, Enoch and Me’, and subsequently appeared on television programmes such as Rooftop Rendezvous, Top Of The Town, All-Star Bill and the Frankie Howerd Show. In 1947, Locke released ‘Hear My Song, Violetta’, which became forever associated with him. His other records were mostly a mixture of Irish ballads such as ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’, ‘Dear Old Donegal’ and ‘Galway Bay’; excerpts from operettas, including ‘The Drinking Song’, ‘My Heart And I’ and ‘Goodbye’; along with familiar Italian favourites such as ‘Come Back To Sorrento’ and ‘Cara Mia’.

He also made several films, including the comedy, Holidays With Pay. In 1958, after appearing in five Royal Command Performances, and while still at the peak of his career, the Inland Revenue began to make substantial demands that Locke declined to meet. Eventually he ‘fled from public view to avoid tax-evasion charges’. Meanwhile, on the television talent show, Opportunity Knocks, the host, Hughie Green introduced ‘Mr. X’, a Locke look-alike, as a ‘is-he-or-isn’t-he’ gimmick. He was in reality, Eric Lieson, who carved a long and lucrative career out of the impersonation. When Locke’s differences with the tax authorities were settled, he retired to County Kildare, emerging for the occasional charity concert. He attracted some attention in 1984 when he was the subject of a two-hour birthday tribute on Gay Byrne’s talk show, The Late, Late Show, on Irish television, but faded into the background once more until 1992, when the Peter Chelsom film Hear My Song, was released in the UK. It was an ‘unabashed romantic fantasy based on the exuberant notion of Locke returning to Britain to complete an old love affair and save a Liverpool-based Irish night-club from collapse’. Locke was flown to London for the royal premiere, which was attended by Princess Diana, and became the ‘victim’ of television’s This Is Your Life. In the movie, the songs are dubbed by the operatic tenor Vernon Midgely. Although determined not to become a celebrity all over again, during the spring of 1992, Locke found himself in the UK Top 10 album chart with the Hear My Song compilation. Following his retirement, he lived out the rest of his life in Co. Kildare.


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


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