When Stuart Gasston was a young man in South Shields, he embarked on a career that took him around the world, sharing the stage with some of music’s greats.
Now Stuart is back home in the North-East, where he is delighting in watching the career of another Shields’ singer go from strength to strength – Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards.
Stuart is the partner of Perrie’s grandma, Nancy Hogg, so he is thrilled that she and the rest of her bandmates are continuing to rack up hit after hit in the charts, both near and far.
The connection is indeed a happy coincidence, for Stuart enjoyed his own showbiz success during a long and illustrious musical career.
Today he tells us how it all began.
“I went to the Grammar School, and I started my musical career when I was 15,” explains Stuart, who is now 72.
“The first thing I ever did, apart from shows at the Pier Pavilion, was when I was seen by Tony Martell, who offered me a spot on Golden Disc, which was a talent show from Tyne Tees Television.
“I think I was about 17 at the time.
“I sang A Handful Of Songs, by Tommy Steele, and It’s Only Make Believe by Conway Twitty.”
It was the launchpad for Stuart’s career, which saw him rub shoulders with the likes of Lulu and Gracie Fields.
“I went on to get a lot of work from it” he reveals.
“I got spots on The One O’clock Show, I did about four or five of them, and then started to do cabaret around the area.
“Eventually, I was picked up by the Bailey organisation, which had The Latino nightclub, in South Shields.
“They had the biggest chain of nightclubs in the country. They took me on, became my management, and I did all their circuit.
“I used to have to ask for time off because I did so much. “You would do two shows, one at 10pm and another at midnight.
“It was wonderful, I worked with a lot of people such as Eartha Kitt and Val Doonican, we had a very similar style.
“The audiences were fab, that was the time for nightclubs, in those days nightclubs were the thing.”
Following his success on the nightclub circuit in this country, Stuart started doing shows all over the world.
“Then I got involved with the cruise ships. The cabaret scene had died off a little, and I was offered a cruise on the QE 2.
“I took it, and that was my first cruise ship. After that I never stopped working cruise ships.
“I worked for 35 to 40 years on them, and ended up being cruise director.”
That involved Stuart not only doing his own act, but also the administration work, including managing up to 50 staff, organising the programming, schedules and activities, as well as excursions for the passengers, such as helicopter trips to Alaska.
“I have travelled the world and met some fantastic people such as Billy Eckstine and Norman Wisdom, we were good pals.
l Next time: Stuart talks about his days with some of the rock and roll greats, and his return to Shields.