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Malcolm Vaughan

Blue Collar Rat

Water Rat Register Number: 578. Initiated into the Order on 15 October 1961

Proposer: Johnnie Riscoe. Seconder: Harry Ristori.

One of Britain's earliest pop stars, Malcolm Vaughan, had a string of chart hits in the 1950s during a career he kept in parallel with a comedy act he had formed with Kenneth Earle a few years previously. The BBC banned one of his chart successes, St Therese of the Roses, because of its religious overtones, but it still reached number three in the Top Twenty. The rock ?n? roll era swept Vaughan to one side in the early 1960s, but he still managed to find work in clubs, the occasional pantomime and summer show until his retirement in 1982.

Malcolm Vaughan, born Malcolm Thomas in a mining village near Merthyr Tydfil in 1929, began his career in the theatre in 1944. In response to a newspaper advertisement for a Welsh boy aged about 14, he was cast in Emlyn Williams' comedy, The Druid's Rest, at the St Martin's Theatre in the West End of London. His singing abilities were noted in his next part in a musical comedy, Jenny Jones, at the London Hippodrome. Indeed, the eminent critic, James Agate, said he was "allowed to talk too much and sing too little". There followed a variety show, which the bandleader-cum-impresario, Jack Hylton, took over; a role in a Thornton Wilder play, directed by Laurence Olivier at the Piccadilly Theatre; and the first stage version of the adventures of Larry Lamb, which had become immensely popular on BBC Radio's Children's Hour.

After National Service, Vaughan appeared in the pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at the Empire Theatre, Bristol, where he got to know Ken Macey, one half of a double act, Macey and Mayne. Ken Macey and Malcolm Thomas began talking about forming a double act themselves, fusing comedy with Vaughan's singing. Macey was re-named Kenneth Earle and Thomas became Malcolm Vaughn [sic]. The act lasted for 18 years. A turning point came in 1955 when they shared a bill at the Chiswick Empire with the bandleader/disc jockey, Jack Jackson. So impressed was Jackson that he contacted Wally Ridley of HMV, who went to see them. Ridley was similarly impressed not by the act, but by Vaughan's singing. He signed him up and Malcolm's first record, Ev'ry Day of My Life, reached number five in what was then known as the Hit Parade. The Daily Mirror added to the hype: "This boy's terrific. He's new. He's sensational". But, sensing that this new career may not last, Malcolm insisted on continuing to work with Earle. In fact, for every pound that Malcolm earned in royalties, he gave ten shillings [5OP] to Earle.

On that first record label, 'Vaughn' was printed 'Vaughan' and the new name stuck. Other hits followed, including My Special Angel [1957] and More Than Ever [1958]. Appearing in the Channel Islands in 1955, Earle and Vaughan were asked to judge a beauty show. The winner they chose was a buyer with a national newspaper Gaye Hands. Several months elapsed before Vaughan phoned her, by which time she had forgotten who he was. But they started seeing each other and, when they married in 1956, huge numbers of Vaughan's fans thronged the church.

Earle and Vaughan made their first appearance at the London Palladium in The British Record Show in 1956; they were back there in January 1957 to take part in Independent Television?s first major success, Sunday Night at the London Palladium; and in November 1957 Vaughan returned on his own to join other 1950s stars, including Dickie Valentine, David Whitfield and Ronnie Hilton, in the Royal Variety Show.

Earle and Vaughan dissolved their partnership in 1972 and Vaughan's last professional work was in a summer show in Morecambe ten years later.

Malcolm Vaughan, singer, was born on 22 March, 1929. He died on 9 February, 2009, aged 79.

Richard Anthony Baker

Malcolm Vaughan's biography ?The Reluctant Star' written by Edward Thomas was published in 2009. The book contains a CD of 10 of Malcolm's recording from 1976 to 1984.

Secretary to the Trustees, John-Adrian
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