A POPULAR singing pensioner from Hartlepool has spoken of his delight after being inducted into the British Country Music Hall of Fame - at the grand old age of 87.
Johnny Larkin, who started performing in 1948 and has since gone onto become an agent, promoter and charity fundraiser, became the oldest ever inductee at a recent awards ceremony.
As well as being a popular entertainer, Johnny, who turns 88 in February, has also helped raise thousands of pounds for the Parkinson’s Disease Association, Help for Heroes and RNLI over the years through his love of music.
Johnny was given the honour in recognition of his lifetime’s achievements in the country music industry and he joins 30 other people to have been awarded the prestigious place in the Hall of Fame.
The 87-year-old has made several albums over the years and released EPs and still likes to perform and enjoys live music at the United Services Club, in Miers Avenue, among other venues.
Johnny, a father-of-three, said: “After a lifetime involvement in country music, it is a great honour to receive this accolade.
“I would like to thank Hank Williams for his songs and music that inspired me over the years to follow country music.
“Without the help of all the bands and artists I have seen and booked throughout my life who became good friends, past and present I would never have achieved this.
“I would also like to thank all the people who nominated me for this award and finally to the Country Music Association for the warm welcome.”
Just three years after the end of the Second World War, Johnny tentatively took to the stage at the Queens Head, in Middleton, for his first paid gig.
Such was his skill and charisma he teamed up with Fred Rowe and went onto win a Butlin’s talent competition.
Being a very out going person, he formed an entertainment agency in the mid 1950s, the renowned JL Entertainments, in a bid to further the careers of artists in the North East.
It was soon to become a country music-only business and he booked many of the country’s top acts including Charlie Walker and Marvin Rainwater.
Johnny still raises money for the Parkinson’s Disease Association in memory of his wife, Doris Larkin, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1982 and died in 2002, aged 72.
A tribute to Johnny’s work, read out at the ceremony, said: “A prolific performer, he has many songs and CDs in his back catalogue of strictly the old school country, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the stars.
“Still performing when he gets the chance, he has no intention of retiring doing many charity gigs each year.”
The British Country Music awards were held recently inside the famous Concorde Suite at the Concorde Club in Heathrow.