Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hard Luck Singer JOAN REGAN, DEAD

Some folks' lives roll easy…but Joan Regan had some violent ups and downs. It seemed that her high moments were swiftly mirrored by low ones, and the yin and yang extends to her fame; she's unknown in America, but most Brits over 50 would remember her as a variation on Vera Lynn…the so-called "Girl Next Door" (to quote the title of her Decca debut album of 1955).

Born in Romford, Essex (January 19 1928-September 12 2013) her first hill and valley was her marriage to Dick Howell in 1946. She was only 18, and by the time she was 23, a divorcee. The single singer with two children to raise needed her luck to change. Fortunately she benefitted from an era when managers and agents actively sought out talent. Bernard Delfont felt she had star potential, and it seemed like the curtain was going to rise swiftly on the pretty blonde. But at her first big performance, the curtain came down prematurely, conking her on the head and knocking her out.

The violent start to her career was soon forgotten (and her memory for lyrics unimpaired). At 25, she scored her first Top Ten hit via "Ricochet," with The Squadronaires. Any version would have to be more tolerable than the original by Teresa Brewer. Doris Day was a more likely singer for Joan to cover, and her label sent her to the studio to turn Day's "If I Give You My Heart" and "Someone Else's Roses" into Top Ten hits as well.

In 1955 Joan sang before the Queen for a Royal Command Performance. In fact, everyone did. The Queen didn't sing at all that night. Joan played The Palladium, was featured in various Christmas pantomime shows, and was the star of her own cozy-named TV series "Be My Guest." She was getting offers for top venues in Europe, and also came to America, sharing the stage with Eddie Fisher, Perry Como and Johnnie Ray among others. But, as they say around the Old Folks Home, in America her discs "did not chart."

Joan's producers continued to eye American artists for a possible hit. She covered "This Old House" (Rosemary Clooney), "Cleo and Me-O" (Jill Corey) and "Till They've All Gone Home'" (Giselle McKenzie). But once again, her personal life interfered with her career. Her wholesome Doris Day-like image was hurt in 1957 by a Daily Herald article that insinuated she had to get married (to Palladium box office manager Harry Claff) because she was two months pregnant. What a difference the two months made…when the newspaper lost the court case! They'd predicted she'd drop her daughter in February, but Regan held out till April, proving that she was not marrying because of sexual indiscretion, but (sigh) because of love.

Joan signed with HMV in 1958, and her fourth and last Top 10 of the decade in the U.K. came in 1959 covering "May You Always." The saccharine anthem was popularized by The McGuire Sisters. It's easier to take with only one voice…and it's yours in the download below. Around that time, movie fans got a chance to see Joan in the movie "Hello London."

It was "Hello Courtroom," for Joan when she had to endure the trial of her husband Harry. The Palladium manager was convicted of fraud and sent off to the slammer. Regan ended up with a nervous breakdown. She managed to get out of this deepest of valleys…and out of England entirely. She married Dr. Martin Cowan in 1968 and settled in Florida. She didn't have to worry about her career, or being a knockout in the U.S.A., but she was; in 1984 she knocked herself out due to a fall in her shower. It was serious enough to cause a brain hemorrhage, and that led to paralysis. For a time she was in a wheelchair and unable to speak, but she through intense therapy, she was able to speak and even sing again. She came back to England with her husband, and encouraged by Russ Conway, performed at a variety of "oldies" shows backed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She even issued a new single, "You Needed Me." She's survived by the two sons from her first marriage, and the daughter from her second. Now take a few seconds for…"May You Always."

JOAN REGAN May You Always

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