Tributes to Hartlepool singer who started singing in pubs for fun and went on to achieve national acclaim

Johnny Larkin.
Johnny Larkin.

Tributes have been paid to popular Hartlepool entertainer Johnny Larkin who has died.

Johnny, who entertained countless people singing country music for over 60 years, passed away last Friday aged 91 after a series of health problems.

Stan Laundon (left) and Johnny Larkin (right) with Derek Rowbotham and Hartlepool RNLI mechanic Garry Waugh.

Stan Laundon (left) and Johnny Larkin (right) with Derek Rowbotham and Hartlepool RNLI mechanic Garry Waugh.

His close friend Sylvia Bowron described him as a “kind, generous, fun man” who will be greatly missed.

The dad-of-three and grandfather of 11 raised thousands of pounds for numerous charities over the years through his love of music including the Parkinson’s Disease Association, Help for Heroes and RNLI.

In 2014 Johnny became the oldest person ever to be inducted into the British Country Music Hall of Fame at 87.

It was in recognition of his dedication and lifetime achievement to promoting country music.

Johnny started singing Vera Lynn songs in Hartlepool’s pubs and clubs for fun in 1948. He was soon approached to sing professionally.

Johnny’s love of country music began after hearing Hank Williams and he remained a fan for the rest of his life.

Sylvia said: “He was known throughout the whole of England. I even had requests for his records from Beijing and Australia.

“Johnny was a very humble man. He used to say ‘I’m not a superstar, I’m a crowd pleaser’.

“I have met a lot of people through Johnny, famous and ordinary, and I haven’t met anybody who didn’t have the greatest like and respect for him.”

Johnny loved trips to America and its Country Music Association with his wife Doris, who died in 2002.

Sylvia added: “His greatest wish was to go back once more and we did in 2009. We spent a fortnight with Johnny singing in all the honky tonk bars, the crowds were going mad and wouldn’t let him come down.”

Johnny, who was recognisable for his colourful shirts, made several albums over the years.

He formed the JL Entertainments agency in the mid-1950s and booked many of the country’s top country music acts.

In 2012, Johnny and his good friend Stan Laundon, with whom he recorded a musical DVD, raised £1,000 for Hartlepool RNLI after a charity concert in town.

And on his 90th birthday Johnny raised almost £750 for Macmillan Nurses after asking for donations instead of presents.

The funeral details are still to be announced.