Labradors benefit show
On Friday evening, April 11, P J Proby was in Mapperley Plains, Nottingham to perform for the East Midlands Labrador Charity.
The organisation, founded in 1981 by Harry Cook MBE, in the past 33 years has re-homed more than 6,000 Labradors.
P J has had many pets in the past 50 years, plenty of cats and even more dogs. He, in fact, does not call them dogs or even canines, but refers to them as ‘humafurs’…..human furries.
The show itself was easily sold out – 200 tickets at £25 each. A full bar and snacks were available and P J, with his own backing group, were expected to be on-stage for 90 minutes. Fans travelled from all over England, as well as from Holland, Belgium and Sweden.
The opening act was teenage singer Ellie Dibben, who was discovered by P J a few years ago and is still tutored and guided by him. She is also signed up to his own ‘Select’ record label, and has released a couple of CD singles in the past year, the first one was “Unintended” arranged by P J, and he also did some backing vocals. Her latest single is ‘Blackcat Summer’ which P J also arranged. Ellie sang both of these songs, plus a few more, and she received a great reception from the packed house.
A short interval followed and PJ Proby arrived on-stage to a wild audience. He did song after song, with the occasional bit of chatting to the audience, and because of the heat on-stage, he needed plenty of swigs of water and tissues for the inevitable perspiration.
Included in his stories to the audience were his good friend Eddie Cochran and Eddie’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley (who gave P J his name in 1962, songwriter Ben Weisma, and a guy named Elvis, who dated PJ’s step-sister Betty, in about 1953/54.
At that time, Elvis was just starting to make it as a singer, and he was usually only to be seen performing in Tennessee and Texas. P J was 15 at the time and he sometimes appeared at local, small Houston clubs with his friend Tommy Sands,both way down the bill while Elvis was the headliner.
Proby performed most of his many hits including ‘Hold Me’, ‘Together’, ‘Maria’, ‘I Apologise’, and his biggest hit in the USA ‘Niki Hoeky’ which earned him a gold record. He also chatted about DJ and tour organiser Dick Clark and how he fired him from a 1967 big American tour because the ‘Niki Hoeky’ song theme was about smoking marijuana.
The young, mainly student audiences, loved the song and chanted the forbidden word constantly. P J himself, sensibly, never mentioned the word, but “goodie goodie” Dick did not want any problems with his reputation so he decided P J had to go.
PJ also sang his Australian No.1 from mid- 1965 ‘Mission Bell’. Next was a demo he did in late 1962 which also went down well, with the enthusiastic Mapperley Plains audience joining in. This was ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes’ written by Weisman/Wayne. P J begged Ben to give him the song to release but Ben said P J was an unknown singer and Ben himself needed to definitely make money from this song, so he was intending to pass it on to Bobby Vee.
The song was a giant world-wide smash hit record for top star Bobby in 1963. One year later P J also became a top star after appearing on the TV show “Around The Beatles” produced by Jack Good.
Two ladies in the audience were celebrating birthdays and P J dedicated ‘Susie Q’ to Susanne Persson, who had travelled all the way from Stockholm. ‘Somewhere’ was beautifully sung for life-long Proby fan and friend, Marion Proby Child, from neighbouring Derbyshire, who had a whole table full of family members at the show.
Probably the highlight of the whole show was towards the end when some of the Labrador Charity volunteers came to the edge of the stage with two beautiful “humafurs”, and P J sang especially just to them…. the song was ‘Forever My Darling’.
Altogether P J sang more than 30 songs, including ‘I’m Coming Back’ from, according to him, the best album he ever made, ‘Legend’ in 1996. Also superbly sung were ‘If I Can Dream’, ‘The Masquerade Is Over’, ‘Louisiana Man’, ‘Secret Love’, ‘An American Trilogy’ ‘Question’ , and two versions of ‘Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)’.
He first did it exactly how Doris Day performed it, slow and sleek, back in 1956, and then he did his own rip-roaring version from 1964….. both were magic! After two hours on-stage, P J finished his act and a few speeches were made by the
organisers, including Harry & Joy. Then The Legend was presented with flowers, etc. and a lovely model Labrador. P J gave the audience a few minutes of his “humafur” chat and left to a huge audience reaction and non-stop applause.
The merchandising table did very well and lots of donations to the charity were slipped into the large cash pot. The raffle also attracted many people to buy tickets and lots of the prizes were P J connected. I believe, from the raffle and the cash pot together, getting on for £1,000 was donated on the night. Add to that, 200 tickets sold for the show and I’m sure the Labrador Rescue Charity was over the moon with the cash total raised.
Hope one day Proby will do the same again. I’m so glad I was there. He’s still a brilliant performer with a heart of gold! I was
amazed at the amount of energy he has on-stage, – andhe’s actually 75 years young!
Ron Tennant (Belgium)