Dorothy Squires

Dorothy Squires

Dorothy Squires

Last updated: 28 August 2009

In the days before 'pop' existed in the cultural vernacular, popular artists recorded and performed songs written by professional songwriters, backed by specialised orchestras. Carmarthenshire's Dorothy Squires was one of the most popular singers of the pre- and post-War music world.

Born in 1915 with the name Edna May Squires, Squires started singing professionally at the age of 16 after seeing The Jazz Singer.

She performed around the Llanelli area with a local band, but moved to London at the age of 18 to further her career.

Although she worked initially as a nurse, she quickly got on the books of a variety agent. Her first cabaret gig though was a disaster as she got stage fright and forgot her lines.

But it was a short-term setback as she got a cabaret residency and was heard performing by American pianist Charlie Kunz. He invited Dorothy (as she had now renamed herself) to perform with his band at the Casani Club in London's West End, a performance which was broadcast on radio.

At a Southampton show in the same year, with Billy Reid and his Accordion Band she struck up what would be a long-term professional and personal relationship. She became his orchestra's vocalist.

She began to record with Reid and his band in the lates 1930s but it was in the immediately post-War 1940s that her recording career really took off. Her hits of the time included The Gypsy, I'll Close My Eyes, A Tree In The Meadow, Mother's Day, It's A Pity To Say Goodnight, In All The World, Safe In My Arms, Danger Ahead, Yes! I'll Be Here and Coming Home.

Her career continued to flourish with a residency on BBC Radio's Variety Bandbox at the end of the decade together with appearances on other BBC radio shows such as Melody Lane, Henry Hall's Guest Night, Band Parade and All Star Bill.

Unfortunately her personal and professional lives took a turn for the worse in 1951 with the break-up of her relationship with Billy Reid. But in 1952 she met young actor Roger Moore, marrying him the following year.

This burgeoning relationship meant that she spent a lot of the early 1950s outside the UK, but intermittent appearances and some recordings meant she kept a high public profile and good chart performances.

Squires was obviously still content to work with Reid's material, releasing her first album, Dorothy Squires Sings Billy Reid in 1957. She made her cinema debut the following year in the musical Stars In Yours Eyes.

Out in Hollywood she helped her new husband's career as well as making a splash in her own right in cabaret, even attracting the attentions of Elvis Presley.

In 1961 a return to the pop charts with her own song Say It With Flowers coincided with the break-up of her marriage to Moore. A series of semi-autobiographical singles were released through the 1960s , culminating in the live album This Is My Life! in 1967.

Another studio album, Say It With Flowers, was released in 1968 and The Seasons Of... set followed the following year. Her cover of Stevie Wonder's For Once In My Life stayed in the top 30 for 11 weeks that year.

More chart success followed in 1970 with the singles Till and her cover of My Way which stayed in the charts for 23 weeks.

Her perception that she was being ignored by the mainsteam press and media drove her to hire the London Palladium in 1970 at her own expense. far from being the disaster many expected, all 2300 tickets sold out within hours.

It proved the springboard for My Way's chart success, a series of live appearances and a live album of the show. Not only reborn in the UK, she sold out some of America's prime venues.

The comeback was curtailed however by the beginning of a string of notorious court cases.

Dorothy Squires gave her last performance in 1990 at Brighton's Dome theatre. She lived out her final days in the Rhondda Valley, in a home provided by one of her greatest fans. She died in March 1998.

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