Josef Locke

From Academic Kids

Josef Locke was the stage name of Joseph McLaughlin (23 March 1917 - 15 October 1999), a tenor singer who was enormously popular in Britain and Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.

Born in Londonderry, now in Northern Ireland, he was the son of a butcher and cattle dealer, and one of nine children. He started singing in local churches in the Bogside at the age of seven, and as a teenager added two years to his age in order to enlist in the Irish Guards, later serving abroad with the Palestine Police, before returning in the late 1930s to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Known as The Singing Bobby, he became a local celebrity before starting to work the UK variety circuit, where he played 19 seasons in the northern English seaside resort of Blackpool. The renowned Irish tenor John McCormack (1894-1948) advised him that his voice was better suited to a lighter repertoire than the operatic one he had in mind, and urged him to find an agent -- thus he found the noted impresario Jack Hylton (1892-1965) who booked him, but couldn't fit his full name on the bill, thus Joseph McLaughlin became Josef Locke.

He made his first radio broadcast in 1949, and subsequently appeared on TV programmes such as Rooftop Rendezvous, Top of the Town, All-star Bill and The Frankie Howerd Show. He was signed to the Columbia label in 1947, and his first releases were the two Italian songs Santa Lucia and Come back to Sorrento.

In 1947, too, Locke released Hear my song, Violetta, which became forever associated with him. His other songs 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.

In 1958 after appearing in five Royal Variety Performances, and while still at the peak of his career, the British tax authorities began to make substantial demands that Locke declined to meet. Eventually he fled the country for Ireland, where he lay low for several years. When his differences with the tax people were eventually settled, Locke retired to Co. Kildare, emerging for the occasional charity concert and reappearing in Blackpool in 1968, making his last public appearance in the 1970s.

In 1992 the Peter Chelsom film Hear My Song was released, a fantasy based on the notion of Locke returning from his Irish exile to complete an old love affair and save a Liverpool-based Irish night-club from ruination, with Locke played by Ned Beatty.

On 22 March 2005 a bronze memorial to Locke was unveiled outside Derry City Hall by Phil Coulter and John Hume. The memorial features Locke, Blackpool Tower, Carnegie Hall, and the musical notes of the opening lines of Hear my song.

External links

25 March 2005.

       A beautiful artistic memorial sculpture to Josef Locke was unveiled in Derry 22 March 2005. 

Taking part in the unveiling ceremony was Nobel Peace Prize recipient John Hume, and Phil Coulter the pianist, and songwriter. Phil Coulter wrote, “My Boy”, a song recorded by Elvis Presley, and the poignant ballad, “The Town I Loved So Well”, a Josef Locke favourite. The “Derry Journal”, “the Irish News” and many more newspapers first reported my Josef Locke statue idea in June 2003. The BBC, Highland radio, and LMFM Radio invited the writer to talk on-air about the ambitious proposal.

Phil Coulter kindly replied to an e-mail I sent him requesting his support. He was only too willing to see Josef Locke, a fellow Derry man honoured. Mr Coulter’s encouraging words were reported in the “News of the World” and “the Irish News” July 2004. The designer of the memorial Terry Quigley, and the Artist sculptor Maurice Harron are to be congratulated for creating a magnificent tribute to the great singer.

The Josef Locke Memorial sculpture is sure to become a very popular tourist attraction in Derry. Josef Locke won the hearts of millions world-wide with his wonderful voice. Millions more will now hear his song.

UPDATE: 31 May 2005. The famous Ha'penny Bridge pub (Once owned by Josef Locke)on Wellington Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland, is to feature pictures of the great singer in it's Lounge. Thanks to the present owner Mick Ryan.


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