Joe Longthorne talks ahead of Birmingham show
He’s recognised as one of the country’s best-loved singers. But Joe Longthorne has endured a tough time as he’s stayed in the nation’s hearts.
After buying designer suits, flying in a private helicopter and living in a six-bedroom mansion, he had to file for bankruptcy because of mounting debts. He was estranged from his son, Ricky, for 17 years until re-uniting in 2009. And in 2005 he received the last rites after seemingly losing a battle against leukaemia, which had gone on for 11 years.
Joe, however, is the epitome of a survivor and he’s back on the road for a new tour that reaches Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre tomorrow.
He will be stamping his own style on songs and making them his own, in much the same way that Sinatra, Bennett, Davis, Presley, Diamond and Mathis did.
And fans can also look forward to his incredible gift for impersonations, with a repertoire that includes Dame Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Sir Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Sammy Davis Jnr and more.
Joe will be performing a wide repertoire of material – songs from a career which began more than 40 years ago and a career which has seen many highs and lows along the way but which is now well on track.
In 2012, Joe performed more than 100 dates right around the UK and Europe. The man called ‘the hardest working man in showbiz’ shows no signs of easing back.
Joe was born on May 31, 1955, in Kingston-upon- Hull to musical parents, Fred, a very talented musician and Teresa, a fine singer. He comes from a travelling background and enjoyed a very warm, safe upbringing in his early years, as he recounted in his 2010 biography.
It was soon evident that he had been born with a talent for singing, and at a very tender age he entered a local talent contest and won the first prize, a large red toy car. It was at that point that he realised that singing could indeed be a worthwhile profession to follow.
Joe was developing and sharpening his talents with a gift for impersonating anybody at the drop of a hat with mum Teresa very wisely advising her son that it was always a good thing in showbiz to have more than one string to a bow.
Quickly earning fame entertaining locally in Hull, his talents saw him become one of the biggest stars of Junior Showtime in 1969, a ground-breaking ITV series, the first children’s TV variety show with child performers. Joe stole the show most weeks with his brilliant performances and stayed until the age of 16 when he left with a wealth of experience and performances under his belt to pursue his dreams of a showbiz career.
Worldwide success was to fall at Joe’s feet in the years that followed although his journey was to prove a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. The lows left him with battles to face which may well have defeated lesser men but Joe has repeatedly bounced back.
After leaving Junior Showtime in the early 70s Joe worked a tough apprenticeship around the club circuit at home and abroad, quickly earning praise and respect, working his way up to top the bill every night. 1981 saw the big break arrive, which launched him onto British TV and was to make him a household name. The LWT series Search For A Star featured Joe. The rest is history. Just pipped at the post in the final, he had the real prize already in his pocket.
Major success followed with appearances on all the major TV variety shows of the day, together with appearances at the London Palladium and a season at the West End’s Talk of the Town. The name ‘Joe’ was now firmly inscribed in the record books with sell out concerts wherever he performed.
The Variety Club honoured him with their award for Most Promising Artiste in 1983. Building on this mountain of success at home news reached America and in 1985 Joe headlined a season at the Drury Lane Theatre Chicago and was showered with critical acclaim.
Joe returned home and broke through to TV with a weekly appearance as the Special Guest Star on the Les Dennis Laughter Show series. That led onto his first television special and ultimately his own series. Guest appearances followed on all the major variety shows and Joe consolidated his enormous success with a series of platinum and gold certified albums The Joe Songbook, Especially for You and The Joe Christmas Album. Joe’s appearance at the 1989 Royal Variety Performance stole the show and he appeared to be at the very pinnacle of his career.
It was around this time that Joe was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a blood cancer that very nearly proved fatal. Feeling unwell he visited his doctor and was given the diagnosis, in Joe’s own words: “Cancer is not a word you expect to hear when things are going so well. I felt invincible and suddenly out of the blue I felt helpless. I had two choices, to give in or fight. I chose the latter. I got up dusted myself off and got on with life.”
His battles have come and gone since then – and he’s survived to tell the tale.