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Ulster Log: Phil Coulter takes offence at some out of tune reporting

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 09/05/2015

Music man: Sid Tepper wrote for Elvis and Cliff Richard
Music man: Sid Tepper wrote for Elvis and Cliff Richard
Rock chick: Suzi Quatro plays the Waterfront Hall later this month
Born entertainer: George Formby

A national newspaper got it badly wrong when it announced the death of American songwriter Sid Tepper (91), who wrote GI Blues for Elvis Presley, The Young Ones for Cliff Richard, along with other hits for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Ray Charles.

The paper claimed that Tepper, who died recently in Florida, had written Puppet On A String for Sandie Shaw with which she won the Eurovision in 1967.

"Not so," declares our own Phil Coulter. "This Puppet was written by Bill Martin and myself. I've never ever met Sid Tepper, but the journalist who wrote this story should have checked the facts. There was a different Puppet on a String, which was a track on an Elvis album and which disappeared into the clouds."

Coulter, who once wrote a song for Presley, is celebrating 50 years in show business.

His song Congratulations, performed by Cliff Richard, would have won Eurovision in 1968 only for political interference from influential backroom officials, said to be connected to the Spanish Government who somehow managed to rig the voting in favour of La La La, the Spanish entry that won in '68 with Congratulations the runner-up.

"We should have won if there had been no skulduggery," says Phil. "However, La La La has never been heard again while Congratulations is still played and sung everywhere."

Suzi makes me trip the light fantastic 

When Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman's Stumblin' In comes on the wireless, I want to get up and dance. I simply adore this catchy kind of love song.

Suzi is coming to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Friday, May 29, so be warned if you are there - I could be dancing in the aisles.

Suzi had hits in the 1970s with Can The Can, If You Can't Give Me Love and She's In Love With You. She and Chris, lead singer of Smokie, recorded Stumblin' In back in 1975 and it is still a favourite today. It reached No 4 in the US charts in '79.

Smokie, from Bradford, Yorkshire found success at home as well as the rest of the world with If You Think You Know How to Love Me and with the evergreen Living Next Door to Alice.

The night Ukulele man George went underground

Way back in wartime 1940, comedy singer George Formby was down in an air-raid shelter in London on a scary November evening - singing live on the old BBC Radio Light programme.

It was during the Second World War Blitz and George was cheering up people sheltering from Nazi bombs with his big hit When I'm Cleaning Windows.

How do I know all this? Well, I've just been presented with a vintage copy of Radio Times for 1940, which back then was listed with programmes on the Light Programme and the old Home Service, too, with television light years away.

And it highlighted that remarkable evening in the shelter which Formby - who was born on this date in 1904 and died in 1961 - survived and went on to entertain the troops at the front.

At one time this comedy actor, who played ukulele, was the UK's highest paid entertainer. He visited Belfast several times to play the Grand Opera House and the old Royal Hippodrome. After an early career as a stable boy and jockey, Formby took to the stage and was an instant success.

Muse who did Italian Job on Bob

If you have a penchant for casino gambling, then go and see The Gambler. It's the story of literature professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) leading a secret life as a high-stakes gambler. Always a risk-taker, he could put you off betting for life in case you become addicted. Even if Tony McCoy were still around.

The movie soundtrack includes a Bob Dylan song called Don't Think Twice It's Alright which he wrote and recorded in the '60s and which I haven't heard for years.

"A lot of people make it sort of a love song," Dylan explained one night at his gig in Dublin. "But it isn't. It's a statement that maybe you can say something to make yourself feel better." Bob was inspired to write Don't Think Twice when his girlfriend at the time Suze Rotolo went off to Italy to study and left him in New York. An artist and civil rights activist, Rotolo died in 2011 at 67.

The May Moon brightens me up

Merry May is my favourite month of the year. On a clear night I can lie in bed and gaze out the window at the moon riding high in the sky.

Remember the song that says "I see the moon, the moon sees me down through the leaves of the old oak tree." The writer of that '50s hit must have been a May man, too.

Then there is the cherry blossom and the promise of a lovely summer ahead. When I was young and innocent in Carnmoney, there used to be a parade through the village of the May queen and her attendants. They sang a song that had a line that claimed: "Our queen can birl her leg." And she really could - spin it, that is.

May was named after the Greek goddess Maia who was related to the Roman goddess of fertility Bona Dia, whose festival was held in May.

Once more, for old time's sake

Who sang a love song called Apple Blossom Time at a May Ball in the Dunadry Inn 25 years ago? With the traditional event coming up again next Friday, hotelier John Mooney wants the old ballad, a hit for The Andrews Sisters in 1941, on the bill again for old time's sake.

"I'm told that Apple Blossom Time went down a treat way back then," says John. "That was before my time at the Dunadry and I have no records of the artist. I'm told the song was performed for a couple at the ball who were soon to be married. It would be nice to know who the singer was in 1990."

The Martella Jazz Band will be making out with their version of Apple Blossom Time on the big night.

The Dunadry celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. The Mooney family took over the hotel in 1986. Antrim Lions stage the May Ball - the first was 44 years ago.

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