Derry’s very first superstar and most famous tenor Josef Locke was a musical icon not only in his hometown, but for many miles beyond.
Through award winning playwright and journalist Felicity McCall’s dramatisation of Josef’s life in ‘Josef Locke: A Grand Adventure’, his story lives on and what a fascinating story it is.
Born as Joseph McLaughlin in Derry in 1917, he started singing in churches aged just seven years old. As a teenager he joined the Guards and later served abroad with the Palestine Police Force before returning to back to Ireland in the 1930’s and joined the RUC. At this time he was performing semi-professionally which earned him the nickname “the Singing Bobby’.
Although Josef felt his future lay in Opera, he was advised by another renowned Irish tenor John McCormack that his natural showmanship may suit the stage circuit better.He was adored throughout the UK and Ireland and was a regular on TV and radio as well as appearing in several movies. A bill topper for nineteen season at Blackpool he cemented his place as one of the highest paid and most popular singers of the 1940’s and 50’s.
At the time however, some critics were disapproving of what they saw as the misuse of his voice. “The Londonderry tenor did indeed possess a fine organ,” wrote one, “ruined by undisciplined bawling and a delivery drenched in sentimentality.”
The stage show had a fantastic run in The Playhouse last year and this year will see it hop across the city for a two night run at the Millennium Forum before taking to the road in November to appear at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
Josef Locke- A Grand Adventure By Felicity McCall will be at the Millennium Forum on Friday, 23 and Saturday, 24 October at 8pm with tickets priced at £16.