Tommy Carey, Ireland’s number-one cabaret performer during the ’60s and ’70s, will remember the late, great Gene Pitney with a date at The Capitol Theatre, Horsham, on September 26.
Tommy’s show comes as we approach, next year, the tenth anniversary of Pitney’s death in a Cardiff hotel room as he toured the UK.
“I met him on a few occasions, and I found him to be an absolute gentleman,” recalls Tommy.
“I did my first full Gene Pitney show in 1977. I met him through my management. They brought me into his dressing room and we had a photograph and I was out in three minutes. But I met him three or four times after that, and he was absolutely lovely.
“He wrote an autograph to me ‘Tommy, nice to see you again, keep on singing those songs – but not too good!’
“I started out, like most people did in those days, doing the talent competitions long before there was the X-Factor or The Voice, long before anything like that became fashionable. I would go to the local pubs and enter the competitions. I was singing anything but Gene Pitney at the time. I was only 17 years old and shouldn’t really have been in the pubs at all! But I would be singing The Bee Gees or Johnny Mathis, things like that, and people would say to me ‘Do you know who you sound just like? I would say ‘No!’, and they would say ‘Gene Pitney!’ But I didn’t really know who Gene Pitney was. I went away and checked him out, and I really liked him.”
In the early ’70s, Tommy moved to London. He moved back to Ireland in 1975: “I met a guy that wanted to manage me, and in 1977 I did my first full Gene Pitney show.”
But then Tommy had 30 years away from it… until February this year when he sold out the National Concert Hall in Dublin with his first big Pitney show in three decades.
“I was still doing my cabaret shows,” he explains. “I would do Gene Pitney songs but only if people asked me.”
The pressure grew to return to Pitney: “I kept saying no, it was too much hard work. But the agent kept asking. He said he would do absolutely everything. All I’d have to do was walk on and sing Gene Pitney songs! So I said ‘OK, we will give it a go and see what happens.’
“I never expected what happened at the National Concert Hall. It was completely sold out. It holds 1,200 people. I looked out and I knew 800-900 of them personally from my years in cabaret. It was lovely.”
Call 01403 750220 or visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com.
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