The showbiz family history of Joe McElderry – according to his grandma

editorial image

Joe McElderry, as we know, has the X Factor.

But he also has the GH Factor ... the Grandma Hilda Factor.

Picture by Terry Blackburn.

Picture by Terry Blackburn.

For it is clear from speaking to Grandma Hilda Joyce that music, talent and a zest for life runs in the family.

Talking to me, the 81-year-old recalled her early years, as well as those of Joe.

“I went to Cleadon Park school and then worked at John Collier’s as a seamstress.

“It came in useful for the children’s clothes.”

Hilda had three of them – Christine, Eileen and Stephen.

“I left for a few years, and then went back. I was there until it closed in the 1970s.”

What about music, who did you listen to in your younger days?

“I like all kinds of music, mostly Frank Sinatra, he was my favourite until Joe.

“I also liked Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, most music really. I also liked Joe Loss and Ted Heath’s big bands.

“I love music theatre, especially Oklahoma.

“I took Joe and my granddaughter Rachel to see the King and I when it was at the Sunderland Empire.

“They were still at school at the time. It was excellent, a London production.”

In later years, Hilda went to London to see Wicked , which she says is one of Joe’s favourite musicals.

“Joe always liked music, we all did. I’ve loved it all my life.”

And that love of music used to see Hilda searching for new sounds to listen to in South Shields’ Frederick Street and beyond.

“I used to collect records when I was younger,” she continues.

“My younger brother and I used to pay half a crown a week to buy records at Saville’s. I had a good collection. They would have been 78s.”

Moving into the 60s, I asked if Hilda had been a fan of Merseyside’s Fab Four – John, Paul, George and Ringo.

“Not really, I never really got into the Beatles, though I like all sorts of music. The only music I don’t like is rap.”

You mentioned Saville’s, what other shops did you used to enjoy going to?

“The old shops I used to enjoy going to were C&E, in Sunderland, Binns, in South Shields, and GK Lee’s.”

Tell me about days out and holidays, where did you go and what did you and your family do?

“We used to use the beach at South Shields an awful lot, all my children are outdoor types.

“Joe spent a lot of his childhood on the beach, we all did. They even had their birthdays on the beach. Come rain, hail or blow they were on that beach.

“That’s why Joe loves South Shields so much, that’s why his heart is here.

“We also used to go up to Durham and camp at Witton Castle.

“We used to go camping there for the weekend, there was quite a crowd of us.

“It was always outdoors, we couldn’t afford hotels.

“We’re a very close-knit family, we always went together.

“Our main holidays were camping, Pooley Bridge, that was our favourite place.

“Joe used to work on the farm there, he helped the farmer.

“He had a good family life, he’s had the life of Riley, they all have.”

I asked Hilda about Joe’s latest venture, playing Tommy in the Who’s classic rock opera of the same name.

“I have seen the film with Roger Daltrey in it. Joe’s played Tommy before in London, but to see him this time round is going to be really good. I am looking forward to seeing him in it.”

Over the years, Hilda has also entertained people – helping to raise funds for a very worthy cause.

“I used to be in a group working for cancer research. We would go all over the North of England, playing in workingmen’s clubs, raising quite a lot of money for the Newcastle General Hospital which was the cancer research centre.

“We used to do comedy, mime and singing. I used to sing.

“We did that for about 14 years, from 1974.”

So it’s hardly surprising that Joe has trod the musical path that he has.

“Joe, and all the people he knows, were interested in the theatre and charities and things like that. Joe’s seen music and heard music from the day he was born.

“He’s got music from the tip of his toes to the top of his head,” she added.

Listening to Grandma Hilda it’s easy to see where Joe gets his love of music from – a love of music that (as in Tommy) has led to an amazing journey.

•Coming up: Remembering school meals, Bobby Thompson, scouting, the Turk’s Head and so much more. So please, keep reading.