A Hartlepool-born television icon spent 20 years singing with the stars - and admitted: “I would do it all again.”
Marion Keene, 78, spoke to the Mail after we asked our Memory Lane readers ‘what happened to the silky voiced girl from the town who was a television hit.”
The answer, we found out, was she was living a quiet, idyllic life on the English south coast and was delighted to get a call from her native North East.
Marion, whose married name is Goldie, is now living in a quaint seaside village near Deal in Kent and reflected on a life alongside legends such as Bob Hope, Norman Wisdom, Julie Andrews and Billie Holliday.
She starred in television shows, appeared everywhere from the Queen’s Rink in Hartlepool to the Royal Albert Hall in London, and provided the sultry tones at the front of famous orchestras from Jack Parnell to Oscar Rabin.
In the past, there’s been a palatial 20-room mansion to call home and she lived in the most modern newly built property at Hampton Court.
There’s nothing like a 50-piece orchestra with beautiful arrangements and love songs. You don’t get that any more. I loved it and I would do it all againMarion Keene
She was tipped to be the next big movie screen idol but she was happy with her lot and never took the leap into films.
As she reflected on the good old days, she admitted: “I have had a wonderful life.
“I worked with everyone - Frankie Lane, Al Martino and did a duet of Two Sleepy People with Bob Hope. I did eight concerts with him.”
She’s had health problems in recent years but remains as sharp and dulcit-toned as ever.
It all started out in Archer Street, West Hartlepool, for the little girl who went to Ward Jackson and Dyke House Schools.
She used to sing for the Hartlepool people huddled in a Park Road air shelter in the Second World War. “They used to shine a torch on me as though I was on the stage.”
She left school at 14 for a £1-a-week job in a shop selling bikes and cakes.
Then came other jobs including reading gas meters but Marion’s true love lay with music.
She joined ENSA - the The Entertainments National Service Association - and sang at hospitals and army camps.
As a mere 14-year-old, she sang with Benny Nelson at the Queen’s Rink in Hartlepool. Her voice was a deep toned hit.
A big break came in 1948. The conductor of a band heard her in Hartlepool and invited her to have a trial at Seaburn Hall in Sunderland.
“They hadn’t heard of me before and they were going to try me in a duet,” said Marion, “But I went on stage myself and sang I Wish I Didn’t Love You So. I got a four-year contract.”
It led to bigger shows, to the bright lights of London and the biggest stages around.
In 1960, she sang in the United Kingdom heat of the Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Unexpectedly”. She got through to the grand final where Bryan Johnson won with Looking High High High before coming second in Eurovision.
Love blossomed and she married her first husband Ronnie Keene. It lasted ten years and they remain friends to this day.
Her second marriage was to trombone player, Ken Goldie, who once played in the orchestra at a Royal Command Performance.
Then her television career started and led to shows with Jimmy Wheeler (where she worked with Thora Hird), Dave King, Ted Ray, and Dickie Henderson. “I was appearing to audiences of 20 million every week,” she said.
Advertisements followed for Fry’s Turkish Delight, Dairy Box and Dove soap.
In the end, she called it a day in 1968 when she decided she’d had enough of show business. “I had a couple of acres of land, six dogs and a donkey, and I love my animals. I didn’t want to travel any more.”
Ken died in 1988 and Marion has remained in their same south coast home for almost 30 years.
These days, she passes the time with her old music and has no time for modern day singers.
“I don’t understand what they are singing about, their diction is so bad and with the flashlights and the screaming.
“Their hairstyles look like they have just fallen out of bed, especially those talent programmes. There’s no nice music. I find it very sad.”
She said fondly: “There’s nothing like a 50-piece orchestra with beautiful arrangements and love songs. You don’t get that any more.”
And when asked if she could turn back the clock, she answered: “I loved it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”