Gerry Stephens - Singer, Entertainer
By Maria Fletcher (Club Historian's Aussie Coordinator)
Now living in Tasmania, a long way from his home town of Stoke on Trent, Gerry Stephens has fond memories of his days as an entertainer on the Working Men’s Clubs circuit during the 1970s and 80s.
Never having had any professional training as a singer, Gerry remembers singing from a very young age; he would sing ‘all the time and all day at work’.
His first engagement, singing at a staff party, was the catalyst to a life long love and career in music, which still goes on today.
Gerry sums up the experience of the lone entertainer:
You’d arrive outside the Club, grab your gear, and go in. The room would be completely empty, so you could get the feel of the room as you set up. Then people start coming in; the room is packed, and it’s your job to entertain them for the night. You’ve only got your guitar, your voice and your patter, to get them going, get them laughing.
Then you’ve got them in the palm of your hand.
It was quite a thing to be an artist then, there was a lot of respect shown; the audience wasn’t allowed to come in or go out during a bracket.
Often, the clubs would have a backing band 1, 2, 3 even 6 piece; you’d take your music with you, and they’d charge you to play it! I went into one club, where there was a blind pianist – he followed every note I sang.
Gerry was one of Barry Lomas’s acts, and travelled the Club circuit all around England and Wales, sometimes sharing the stage with other acts like Billy ‘Pet” Clarke, the drag queen with a pet snake. His tours saw him travel as far as the Outer Hebrides to entertain troops that had just returned from Ireland; and several tours of the Shetland Islands.
Amongst the good times, there were some frightening moments, and plenty of stories of rivalry amongst acts, but getting up in front of a room full of people who looked to you to entertain them for the night, and having a ‘real love of it’ was for Gerry, the best kind of training in how to believe in yourself.
The Club artists may have had to be pushed to keep believing in themselves, but as Gerry says, the real artist ‘never stops learning; never stops singing’.
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