Tag Archives: #sydneydevine

Sydney “Absolutely” Devine In Motherwell

Cleland born entertainer Sydney Devine positively “rocked” Motherwell’s Civic Centre with an electric 90 minute performance on Friday 20th April. Syd’s I’m Back tour returned him to the bosom of his ain folk for the first time in almost twenty years.

The audience, suitably warmed up by the first half acts, always a comedian, a singer and Sydney’s band Legend, awaited with eager anticipation the stage presence of Devine. The arrival of Sydney onto the stage is always heralded by the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra. As this faded the concert began with “Stop” part of a high octane frenetic paced 10 minute 10 song medley (at least, I lost count).

What followed was a glorious repertoire of songs, the number so numerous because of the longevity of Sydney’s career. He was a boy entertainer long before he left school and turned professional aged 15, and he is still going strong at 78! A nod to his boyhood stardom came from “If I Were A Blackbird” where Syd both sang and unleashed his wonderful bird song whistling, the thing that got him first noticed. Yodelling came into play as well, along with the “Elvis” style knee trembling. In style there has always been an Elvis type quality about Devine’s delivery, not surprising when he sang The King’s songs as The Tartan Rocker, touring in Europe with The White Heather Group back in the 50s & 60s. At one performance Elvis Presley himself was in the building witnessing the Scotsman on stage.

Songs of different tempo and style were included in the playlist,  with several characters acknowledged “Maggie”, “Kelly”, “Laura”, “Honky Tonk Angels” and “Fraulein’” to name a few, whilst “Nobody’s Child” was sung as a tribute to The Alexander Brothers. Other titles I recall being performed include-Save The Last Dance For Me; Eighteen Yellow Roses; A Room Full Of Roses; Cryin’ Time; Make The World Go Away; I Fall To Pieces; Married By The Bible; Pretty Woman; Can’t Help Falling In Love; Crystal Chandeliers and Tiny Bubbles. Audience participation always ensures bubbles float over a part of the auditorium when Tiny Bubbles makes an appearance! Oddly one of Sydney’s three stalwart songs didn’t make the cut and that was “Legend In My Time”.

Knowing the mournful quality of many songs that Sydney performs, I was aware of the carefully crafted playlist created for the show. Not surprising considering the heartache the Devine family have endured recently, when Sydney and his wife Shirley unexpectedly lost their eldest son Gary aged 58 to sepsis.  About an hour into the show Syd slowed the pace with a dedication section, reading out greetings and singing requested songs not already covered. This is where Devine showed his real professionalism, bravely covering most of two songs “The Lightning Express” and “Long Black Veil”, but wisely avoiding the saddest parts. He also used this quieter period to acknowledge his band members and their loyalty to him, particularly Dave on electric guitar 36 years, Dougie slide guitar 42 years and Bill Garden on keyboards 46 years service.

Returning to the show again, Syd began a very moving and emotionally charged section for me. I don’t recall him ever singing “How Great Thou Art” (Mammy favourite hymn) and “The Old Rugged Cross” (Granny favourite hymn) together before. It was like the two most influential women in my life, both long gone, were with me enjoying the show. These were followed by “The Answer To Everything” which always gets me. When Syd sings “do you love me, really love me, as I love you” and the audience scream YES, it’s a spiritual experience. Performer and audience share one heart together in those moments, and it never fails to catch my breath. During “The Answer To Everything” Sydney found himself unexpectedly sharing the stage, accompanied by a fan wearing a red cowboy hat. Whilst the Civic staff had been rigidly enforcing their “no photo” policy, this guy had managed to evade their eye, launch himself from his seat and hurtle onto the stage. He threw his arm around Syd, kissed him and was happy to mouth a few words of the song with his idol. Devine looked a bit flustered by this but continued the show seamlessly, although I don’t think the cowboy seen the show finale, which is always “Scotland Forever”.

The Motherwell crowd enjoyed one and a half hours of sheer unadulterated entertainment, provided by a 78 year old man who is a performer to his fingertips. His vocal range (3 octaves I think) is still there, deep resonances to high heady notes are still knocked out very pleasantly with gutsy conviction. Proof that Sydney Devine is truly a “Legend In My Time” came to me in Glasgow the day before the concert. Walking around a large department store carrying an overnight bag, I was asked three times if I was visiting. Each time I replied I was up to see a Sydney Devine show in Motherwell. Each woman (from three generations) though not professing to being a fan, gave me a big smile and named a different song-“Eighteen Yellow Roses”, “Crystal Chandeliers” and “Tiny Bubbles”. How many other entertainers can say they have made that kind of indelible imprint on the nations psyche?

When the concert finished a throng of people awaited Sydney, all keen to have a word, get a photo or autograph. Every one of them would be met and greeted with humble thanks, charm and good grace. I had a last bus to catch so couldn’t stay, but I managed to grab a photo before leaving.  It was a wonderful show, thanks for the memories Sydney, we love you.

Sydney Devine Waits To Meet Fans. Image credit abmj
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SYDNEY DEVINE 40 Years Performing at the Pavilion Theatre Glasgow

Earlier this month (November 7th & 8th), Sydney Devine graced the stage at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow for the fortieth consecutive year, creating an entertainment record all of his own. Dressed in an immaculately tailored ruby red suit with white braiding, red shirt, white boots and a red rhinestone belt, Sydney sang to a packed auditorium of devoted fans. As has been my custom for many a year, I was sitting in the front section of the stalls for the first show, unusually a Friday night, rather than the Thursday evening I was expecting. Possibly this is a little nod toward the fact that the star of the show turns 75 on January the 11th next year! Anyway, as always everyone had a thoroughly good evening being entertained by a singer sometimes affectionately known as Steak ‘n’ Kidney.

Looking great ifor his Silver anniversary 26/11/99. Image credit abmj
Looking great for his Silver anniversary 26/11/99. Image credit abmj

Sydney Devine (his own name although it does have an exotic showbiz ring to it) has been treading the boards since he was in short trousers. Long before his voice broke and before he left school, Sydney had been “discovered” so to speak. Born in Mayfield Cottage in Bellside Cleland to a large family, his mother “Old Nellie” taught him to whistle. Around the age of ten or eleven Sydney’s ability to mimic bird calls was written about in a local newspaper, and the story was picked up by a national. From that he was invited to the BBC Radio Scotland studio in Glasgow, to perform alongside Ronnie Ronald on the song If I Were a Blackbird (Sydney was the blackbird). Another invite to sing at the BBC studio came about a year later when Syd was around twelve, who by then was already on the touring talent show circuit Go As You Please. The head of BBC Radio Scotland Kathleen Garscadden “Auntie Kathleen”, having given Sydney his first break then invited him to represent Scotland, in a four home nations TV show called All Your Own. As a result, a 13 year old Cleland boy headed to London (with his Mum as chaperone) to perform “live” on the fledgling medium of TV. This broadcast was seen by the legendary Scottish performer Robert Wilson, who then paid the Devine household a personal visit and offered to be a voice coach to Sydney and to find him a song to record onto vinyl. Shortly after this visit Sydney Devine had cut his first record with Betty Fitchett’s Wedding /Lunan Bay. He appeared on vinyl again (as a blackbird) accompanying Robert Wilson in Cottage by the Lea. Although Sydney cannot remember receiving any money for his recordings, he did well on the touring talent circuit although much of his earnings went on stage costumes and travel. The novelty payment of two packs of chewing gum (sweet rationing still in place) came from working in Stopher’s Dundee shows and then Sydney joined Annie Muir’s Concert Party in Carluke. So most weekends Sydney was performing the length and breadth of Lanarkshire (a large urban sprawl in Central Scotland) that included doing several Old Folks’ Treats shows. All this was going on whilst Sydney was still a schoolboy, so the seeds had been sown for an entertainment career long before the school gates closed. A job in a tailors shop beckoned, when news came that he had won the role of Micah Dow in Wild Grows the Heather, staged in the West End of London. Fifteen year old Sydney Devine was on his way earning £28 a week in 1955! The show lasted about twenty weeks and the juvenile role music had to be re-written, after Sydney’s voice broke mid-song during a performance about six weeks through the run. When the role ended Sydney and his chaperone Mum returned home to Cleland, where the teenager had to let nature take its course and allow his voice to settle.

Still rockin' in tartan 26/10/99. Image credit abmj
Still rockin’ in tartan 26/10/99. Image credit abmj

This was the era of the embryonic sound of rock n’ roll and Syd was not immune to its lure, so he took up the guitar, let his voice settle and created a skiffle band. He then entered a competition to find “Scotland’s Tommy Steele” and came second to the more raucous sounding Alex Harvey. After the competition tour was completed (like the X-Factor road show I guess but more low key), Sydney joined the very Scottish Robert Wilson’s White Heather Group in 1959 and toured with them for the next decade. His appearance as “The Tartan Rocker” singing Elvis songs must have gone down particularly well on the American Army bases in Germany. Apparently one night the REAL Elvis was in the audience listening. Undoubtedly Elvis Presley has had a bit of an influence on Sydney over the years, as anyone attending his concerts can testify. He is heralded onto the stage to the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra and has worn the “white-spangled rhinestone jumpsuit” on occasion too.

Ode to Elvis March 1990. Image credit abmj
Ode to Elvis March 1990. Image credit abmj

With the untimely death of Robert Wilson in 1964 Sydney suddenly found himself a solo artist in every sense, even though the White Heather Group continued. He didn’t have the security anymore and during his time with Robert Wilson he hadn’t appeared on any TV or radio shows, having seemingly been blacklisted. A decision to tour the working men’s’ clubs was quickly put on hold, when a serious car accident put Sydney out of action. Oddly as a result of this experience, his indomitable wife Shirley found herself making a great success of running a bed & breakfast establishment. This gave the income security the Devine family needed to allow a healed Sydney to ply his trade south of the border. The working men’s clubs are a tough audience but Sydney managed to survive. I think a lot of fans who travel from England and Wales for the Pavilion concerts, remember his work ethic and talent from those days. A tour with Andy Stewart around the end of 1969/the start of 1970 found Sydney in South Africa. Offered the chance to do an album there he laid down over twenty songs. The resulting album eventually found its way to a Glasgow Woolworths store, where a young Miss Devine (no relation) got the album played. From there on in, it was the slow burn to career success.

Belting out a song 10/11/2001. Image credit abmj
Belting out a song 10/11/2001. Image credit abmj

As a wee girl from Cleland in the early seventies, I was delighted and amazed to discover Sydney Devine came from my home village. And I knew his mammy “Old Nellie” the woman with the fur coat I’d see at the bus stop going to bingo. The big revelation came one day whilst standing at the bus stop outside Bessie Allen’s grocery store. I was about 4 years old and had just learned all the words to all the songs from an album called “Cryin Time”. “Old Nellie” was chuffed when I gave her a wee compilation rendition of Old Shep, Cryin Time, Two Little Orphans and Come Home Rolling Stone. Then my mammy dropped the bombshell of who “Old Nellie” really was, and I felt like I’d met the Queen Mum. From that day on I never passed Syd’s mother without saying hello, asking how she & the bingo was and of course how Sydney/Shirley and the family were. When “Old Nellie” passed away I wrote to Sydney (c/o the Pavilion) for the first time to express my sympathy to him. I mentioned I was going to be sitting in the stalls Row C 1 & 2 at his next show and hoped to get a photo. At that concert it seemed he made a particular effort to come to my side of the stage and I got some lovely snaps, as well as a wee thank-you from the stage for the lovely letter. I was thrilled at this unexpected acknowledgement. Over the years (since earning my own income) I have attended Sydney’s shows faithfully, with the exception of a period of about 4-5 years when illness just would not allow it. One year I decided to write to Syd again saying how sad I was to be missing his show because I was poorly, and I wondered if he had done any videos I could buy from a catalogue. A catalogue duly arrived in the post with a wee note (in his writing) scrawled on it wishing me well, and hoping there was something I could get to cheer me up until my next concert. I still have the videos I bought and treasure them. My greatest joy was when Sydney granted me an interview in 2006 for my hospital radio show. Little did either of us know at that time, Sydney would require life saving emergency surgery the following year whilst in Spain. I think the operation happened in the October and he still appeared on stage at the Pavilion in the November. He was completely wiped out by the performance, yet still seen all the fans who stayed behind after the show. I distinctly remember being with two ladies (whom I’d previously met at shows) at the end of the queue. I had given them a CD copy of my interview and he signed the cover for them. We were all so concerned about Sydney we waited to see him into the car taking him home. In conversation as we waited, he had mentioned that his wife Shirley had refused to attend the show “to watch him die on stage”, and that she would be relieved to see him walk through the door. An absolute trooper who didn’t want to let his fans down!!!

And so to today and the Sydney Devine 40th Anniversary Show which had the usual format in the first half, band, comedian & singer. Starting the show was Sydney’s band Legend followed by comedian Eddie Devine (no relation) and singer June McCreadie. Extra fizz was added by singer/violinist Simone Welsh, who gave a scintillating rendition of the Scottish folk tune “Crabbit Shona” something I’d never heard before. Then in the second half came Sydney who can make every eye-brow raise, hip wiggle and pose speak volumes. The must-haves were there Maggie, Tiny Bubbles and The Answer to Everything along with many more as he didn’t stop singing until ten to eleven, having come on stage at ten past nine. As a sweat soaked de-jacketed Sydney Devine draped with the Scottish flag ended the show with Scotland Forever, I was overwhelmed by a powerful sense of belonging and that these were “my people”. There is a distinctive look about Syd’s audience who are the salt of the earth, the sort of folk whose faces tell the story of the realities of a working-class life that hasn’t always been kind. During shows the fans are quite literally one body and one voice accompanying Sydney. I make no apology if that sounds religious or spiritual because I guess for “Devineites” it is that kind of experience.

Two Cleland natives together. November 2013. Image credit abmj
Two Cleland natives together. November 2013. Image credit abmj

Sydney Devine is a curious phenomenon in Scotland who seems to conjure up feelings of either love or loathing in equal measure, there never seems to be a half way opinion on the Scots entertainer with the three octave range (a bit like Celine Dion). I am proud to call myself a lifelong fan of Sydney Devine, for without him I would not possess the sheer breadth of musical knowledge that I have. His music has given me much joy and I’ve looked forward to every one of his 24 concerts I’ve attended. So in closing I’d just like to say “thank you for the music Sydney, you are absolutely Devine, from Angela with love xxx”.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/angies_allsorts/sydney-devine-interview-101106

ANGIES ALLSORTS LEIGHTON LIVE PART 1

30th April 2014 Leighton Hospital Radio Studio

Over the last ten years I have always tried to come up with some good ideas for my radio show (Angie’s Allsorts) at Leighton Hospital in Crewe. Recently I’ve been thinking about all the artists I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen live on stage. This gave me the idea of playing a couple of virtual concerts comprising of artists and songs with special meaning to me. The only condition was that I’d seen them in concert at least once, although several have had repeat attendances. For tonight’s show you will discover which musical has a great significance for me, find out the artist I’ve listened to my whole life and seen over 20 times, and see why one song has me beaming with delight when I hear it. So welcome to the show….

Playlist Leighton Live Part 1

1. DAVID ESSEX with BEAUTIFUL DAY-the intro song for my first David Essex concert at the Victoria Hall Hanley in 2006. I went back for more in 2008, and have seen David act on stage as well.

2. BUCKS FIZZ with MAKING YOUR MIND UP (no. 1 in UK from 12/4-2/5 1981). I was delighted to see three of the four original members perform as The Real Bucks Fizz.

3. JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER with JACKIE’S SONG (announced his retiral this week, last concert at Malvern this Friday (May 2nd). With the sudden announcement on Monday regarding Julian’s unfortunate injury (herniated disc in his neck) forcing his retirement I had to play something from the great man. Thankfully I witnessed a mesmerising performance from Julian in 2009 as a birthday treat.

4. WHITNEY HOUSTON with MILLION DOLLAR BILL-the concert was initially cancelled and rearranged due to her suffering a respiratory tract infection. Although nowhere near her prowess of twenty years ago, she still packed a punch, although with a much huskier, deeper, and jazz like voice. Clearly struggling at times the whole audience joined her in singing Greatest Love of All, and the hairs on the back of my neck literally stood on end. A magical memory.

Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is a musical that resonates throughout my life and is very dear to my heart. My first encounter with the concept of such a coat came from my Mammy’s favourite song from Dolly Parton. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing Dolly three times so far, and have a ticket for a show in June. She is clearly a woman of deep faith and my most vivid memory from a Dolly concert was during her Backwoods Barbie Tour. At the end of the show the entire audience rose to their feet to sing/clap and rejoice with Dolly singing Jesus & Gravity. Everyone (with or without a faith) were united in the sheer power and joy that Dolly exuded. It was like being at a spiritualist revival, absolutely amazing. But for my Mammy I’m playing tonight…

  1. DOLLY PARTON with COAT OF MANY COLOURS

I knew about Dolly’s coat, and I learned about Joseph’s coat at Sunday school. Then in the summer of 1981 our finale show at Cleland Primary; (before moving to high school); was Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. We must have been taught well because to this day I know all the music and most of the dialogue we used, so I was more than able to join Jason Donovan singing

  1. JASON DONOVAN with ANY DREAM WILL DO

Although I’ve seen Jason act on stage in other shows (Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Sound of Music) I didn’t see his Joseph. But I thoroughly enjoyed the music concert I seen him do in Dec 2008. When I finally did manage to see Joseph on stage, none other than DONNY OSMOND had the lead role. Somehow my honeymoon (Amtrak New York-San Francisco in 1994) coincided with him performing the role in Chicago! I was only passing through the city for one night but my husband and I managed to get tickets. I’ve heard Donny sing alongside his brothers & sister since then.

7. THE OSMONDS with LET ME IN-the boys appearance on the Andy Williams US TV show made them stars.

8. ANDY WILLIAMS with CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU-a favourite artist of my Granny & Mammy so when I seen the poster outside the Royal Albert Hall I had to get a ticket.

9. OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN with PHYSICAL-toured last year for the first time in twenty years. I managed to get the cheapest ticket available, standing in the gallery. I was given the impression that not much else was available, and the higher prices were eye watering anyway. On the night I was told by the usherette that I’d been re-allocated to a better seat. Having climbed the heights of the RAH I trudged all the way down again, to find myself in one of the boxes close to the stage. These seats were the most expensive in the house, and judging by the clientele in the next booth; (champagne on ice, canapés, finger food buffet, cutlery, china plate settings, and designer clothing); I could well believe it. But I scrub up quite well and had dressed smartly so I didn’t feel out of place. Anyway, one of my personal traditions is to take a little soft teddy to a show when I can. Having over 70 of them, it’s a fun and harmless trait that makes me smile. For Olivia I had taken my Sooty glove puppet, and he showed his prowess at PE when Olivia sang Physical. Sooty never missed a beat and was happily bopping along when I spotted the thunderous glare from the people in the next booth. That picture in my head is priceless and I just grin inanely at the thought, they must have felt that barmy squatters had invaded the palace gardens. A good friend of Olivia is of course Cliff Richard.

10. CLIFF RICHARD with SOME PEOPLE– I’ve managed to see him four times but I was a late comer to his concerts, my first being in 2006. At this show I realised how much of Cliff’s repertoire I knew, but he performed songs from his “Nashville” album Something’s Goin’ On, which I’d never heard before. These songs were utterly astounding to me particularly “For Life”, the words, emotion, setting etc. all spoke to me in a way few songs ever had. Another spell-binding concert moment freeze-framed in my mind. Some People still remains one of my favourite Cliff songs. I managed to see The Shadows on stage during their reunion tour with Cliff.

11. THE SHADOWS with WONDERFUL LAND (no.1 in UK from 16/3-10/5 1962)

12.   SYDNEY DEVINE MEDLEY with TINY BUBBLES, PEARLY SHELLS, STAND BESIDE ME-I’ve grew up listening to this artist since I was in a pram. Due to hearing Sydney records for all these years, I’ve amassed a wide knowledge of songs, lyrics & artists from several genres of music, easy listening, country, rock n’ roll etc. I may never have known otherwise. I’m eternally grateful for this musical grounding, but Sydney Devine in Scotland is usually either loved or loathed in equal measure-a bit like marmite. But to me he is Absolutely Devine and I will see him for the 24th time in November (all being well, considering he is 74 with almost 60 years in professional showbiz behind him).

This song was played at the end of our request show: 13. JOE McCELDREY with THE CLIMB

I’ve attended the X-Factor shows four times and Joe’s was the last one in 2010. To me the show couldn’t be beaten, because I was seated in the middle of the front row at Wembley Arena!!!!

Every one of these artists has given me enormous pleasure and I thank them all for their talent, energy, enthusiasm and professionalism.

If you would like to hear my playlist (with no chatter, this blog is my voice) you will find it at

https://soundcloud.com/angies_allsorts/leightonlive-part-1-300414