Elaine Simmons

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Elaine Simmons, 1973. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Early Career

As far back as 1963 Elaine Hope was singing in the line-up for Johnnie Kildare’s Band along with Eddie Connors and Benny Yorke.

Former Edinburgh hairdresser Elaine Hope became a professional singer in the mid-1960s, changing her name to Simmons, taken from the family surname of Fitzsimmons. She married Perthshire promoter David Forbes who also managed her career.

Her career was halted for a while at the age of 19 with a serious kidney failure, but once fully recovered she resumed her singing and toured on the Mecca circuit with such bands as Ken MacKintosh.

First TV Appearance

Just one month before her first appearance on New Faces, Elaine was one of a number of new acts on the last in STV’s Showcase series. Showcase was a one-hour light entertainment show hosted by Paul Tracey. On the final show along with Elaine were The Love Affair and fellow newcomers singer Scott-Paul Young, comedian Johnnie Adam and vocalist and impressionist Phil Clarke Jnr.

Having won the first heat of New Faces, securing her place in the Grand Final 1973, Elaine also made an appearance on The Golden Shot and was signed by Ian McGlynn of Midland Management, who predicted great things for Elaine in the near future.

By February 1974 Elaine’s refreshingly modest and charming demeanour was thrilling club nights with a full set of the best contemporary ballads. Her thirty-minute set was started with a rendition of “What the World Needs Now” and ended with the belting “Jesus Christ Superstar” medley and sandwiched somewhere in between was “Big Spender,” another favourite cabaret classic.

Summer Season and Palladium

After spending the 1974 summer season in Margate with Harry Secombe on 15 October Elaine got to appear at the London Palladium as a support act on the Larry Grayson show. She’d joined the show after previously appearing with Larry in a charity show at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

In May 1975 Elaine witnessed first hand the unrest and downright rowdy scenes at a Billy Connolly show in Inverness. Elaine was one of the supporting artistes and had to cut short her act due to the unrest caused by the impatient audience who were unhappy about a two-hour delay before the appearance of the Big ‘Yin.  Elaine was reported as saying “It was terrible, It has never happened before.” When the main act finally appeared order was restored and, according to show promoter Henry Spurway, “When Billy appeared, he had them eating out of his hand, and I believe he gave them their money’s worth.”

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Aberdeen Evening Express – Thursday 08 April 1976. With thanks to D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

1976 saw Elaine embark on some overseas shows, performing at a NATO base near Naples and also a month-long cabaret in a hotel in Nairobi.

By September 1976 Elaine was staring in the first of, what would turn out to be, two series her own television series north of the border, titled Elaine – The Singer of the Song. Many songs from the TV series appeared on her first LP, released on the Polydor label in the same month, and also titled The Singer and the Song.  She ended a very busy 1976, in which she began taking flying lessons and also enjoyed some deep-sea diving off Malta, back at the London Palladium as support for Charles Aznavour, who she had completed a series of concerts earlier in the year.

Break A Leg

In April 1977 Elaine was due to be part of the Royal Show line-up, in aid of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal, which was recorded on 17 May in the presence of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. The complete cast for the show featured many Scottish artists, including Ronnie Corbett (who was not in the television broadcast due to his exclusive BBC contract), Lena Zavaroni, Sydney Devine and Allan Stewart. Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques, together with Petula Clark, were also on the bill with Americans David Soul, Dolly Parton, Shari Lewis, and The Jacksons. Unfortunately Elaine missed out on performing in the show as she was in a cast of her own following an accident, in which her ski-binding failed to release and her leg snapped above the ankle, while on the ski slopes of the Scottish Highlands.

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Elaine Simmons, 1977. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The accident was a huge blow for Elaine who spent 16 weeks in plaster from February 1977 and not only did she miss the Royal Variety show in Glasgow, she also lost a full package of cabaret and club bookings and missed out on a tour with Frankie Valli.  She did manage to successfully recorded her new TV series of Elaine – The Singer of the Song before going back into hospital for further treatment. Guests on the shows included The Surprise Sisters, R. and J. Stone, Bright Red Tandem, Scoby Smith, Bobby Goldsboro’ and Smith and D’Abo. The series would initially be shown on STV before being broadcast on the other regional ITV networks the following year.  In May 1977 Elaine’s first single, Try Me Again, was released on the Polydor label.

After twelve months rest following her leg injury, aside from recording her TV show, Elaine embarked on a series of club dates in Southern and North Ireland from mid-May 1978. On May 5 she joined Roy Castle for a conference concert in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.

In November 1978, a full five years after her New Faces debut, Elaine was still receiving praise and adulation from many in the entertainment industry;

“The best female singer to come out of Scotland in a long time”
Paul Foster, Evening Times.

“Elaine the singer of the song. This was something of which she and STV could feel proud”
John Gibson, Evening News, Edinburgh.

“Elaine opened my venue and I have nothing but praise for her and her band. Guaranteed full house every time.”
Jim O’Neil, “The Griffin”

“Although I had heard of Elaine I did not expect an act of this calibre. Elaine, the band and the show are excellent. For me she is a must; a box office certainty Great!”
John McEwen, “The Tartan Weavers,” Stirling

Back from Injury

By the end of 1978, following a long lay off with her leg injury, Elaine Simmons was back on the scene with her new band Street Level. She had worked hard from April of the same year re-establishing herself on the live circuit, receiving acclaim from press and public alike. She worked in Scotland, Ireland and particularly the North of England, the Tyne Tees and Yorkshire areas. She spared no expense in the presentation of her live show with a four-piece band, three road crew, a 24 track PA system and their own lighting show, demand for the new show meant she enjoyed very little time off.  By now Elaine had split from Polydor and other record companies were making approaches to sign the Scottish songstress.

As the seventies concluded Elaine’s musical programme had become a healthy mix of nostalgia, with nothing earlier than the sixties, and more modern songs. “Just the Way You Are,” “You Needed Me,” “I Will Survive,” and “A Woman in Love” all featured. She also often performed a medley of hits from great female singers of the sixties plus a feature taken from her successful TV series, where she gave the spotlight to the work of a particular songwriter.

Tragic Accident

In June 1982 Elaine world fell apart when she was seriously injured in a car crash. Elaine was travelling from Falkirk with four of her backing group when the vehicle left the M9, careered down an embankment and overturned in a field. Elaine, now aged 36, was rushed to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with serious injuries along with her drummer Brian Spence, 23, who suffered extremely serious head injuries.  Elaine remained in a coma for several weeks, her body held together with steel pins and plates, and when she finally came around she was given the devastating news that Brian had not survived the accident.  Elaine’s injuries were so serious she had to learn to walk again and her head injury resulted in severe memory loss, meaning that she was unable to even remember the song won her New Faces. She missed out on a new record deal, had to learn six hours worth of her previous material from scratch and had a long couple of years of rehabilitation ahead of her.

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Elaine Simmons, 1987. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Starting All Over Again

By August  1984 Elaine was recovered enough to appear as the support act for comedian Johnny Carroll at the Kings Theatre Restaurant in Great Barr, Birmingham.  Opening the show she entertained the audience with songs such as, “Fame”, “The Way We Were”, “In Your Eyes,” a rock ‘n’ roll medley and a song arrangement called “The Band Number” to allow her to thank the band for the music.

From 1986 onwards Elaine was performing on International luxury ‘World Class’ cruise ships under the guidance of her new personal manager Elaine Avon, having separated from her husband and manager David Forbes. Two former New Faces acts, Trevor Chance and Nicky Martyn, were also signed to the same management company. Some of the ships that saw Elaine perform were the Royal Viking Line, Cunard Sea Goddess, P&O Canberra, and P&O Sea Princess.  It was in the Caribbean on one such cruise she met an English trombonist, Clive Guyton, who she later married on a beach in Kenya and both worked on cruise ships for the next 20 years.

Elaine Simmons’ appearances on New Faces

 

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