When South Shields man had stars in his eyes
Despite not making the Christmas number one spot, the Jo Cox charity single, produced in memory of the murdered Labour MP, still managed to raise more than Â£35,000 for worthy causes.
Among those who helped create the single, a remake of the Rolling Stones’ song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, was Steve Harley – who, it turns out, is an old mate of South Shields music man Wavis O’Shave.
I asked Wavis what was the connection between himself and the man who used to front hit-makers Cockney Rebel? His explanation makes for a colourful tale.
So, without wanting to trivialise Jo’s tragic death in any way or form (I’d like to think it would have made her smile), this is how Wavis found himself impersonating Steve Harley on one of TV’s most iconic talent shows, Stars In Their Eyes.
“It was Mrs O’Shave’s persistence that got me into that one,” explained South Tyneside’s man of music and mystery.
“For about five years on the trot she’d say ‘Go on, do him! referring to my being able to mimic my friend Steve Harley whom I also had passing resemblance to during the seventies.
“Each year, I took no notice but in 1996 I thought ‘Oh all right then’ and picked up the phone for an application form.
“Two auditions later, one in Newcastle and the other at Granada studios in Manchester, and now the rest is history!”
Wavis applied for the show under his own name, which he’s asked me to keep to myself, “as I was planning that if I made it onto the show, I wouldn’t tell a soul, so that I could freak out Wavis fans. And that’s what I did!
“Granada put us up in a hotel the night before the show, and the following day we partook in rehearsals.
“The crew were quite concerned when they noticed I wasn’t nervous! When you did the actual recorded show, you were only allowed two takes. It was a quirky bonus to have a Toyah impersonator in my group as the real Toyah and I were good friends.
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“Although I hadn’t been in contact with Steve for about 18 years, I tracked him down to let him know what I was up to so that he could tune in.
“What I didn’t know was that the week of the show he had rang them (although they didn’t believe it was him!) and said,’Well if he’s impersonating me then he had better have my guitar’, and sent it along (along with its case) as a surprise. It was presented to me just moments before I went through the dry ice to be transformed.
“It was a first for the show, and, better still, he let me keep it.”
In the run-up to his appearance on the show, Wavis had made good friends with the Stars’ crew who had visited South Shields to film a sequence for the show (he was shown buying plants in B&Q) before taking him shopping to Bond Street, in London, where they bought him clothes that would recreate Steve’s 1975 look.
“Producer Kieron Roberts, who later went on to produce Coronation Street, was so impressed during our meetings that he named his newly-born son after me! Just as well I hadn’t appeared as Wavis!
“The strangest thing was how, stage by stage, I was turned into Steve.
“As I had always looked a bit like him, it was like time travel in a mirror, beard and glasses off, tailor-made wig on.
“When I went through the dry ice, the transformation stunned the audience so much that some of them, I learned, thought I had taken ill and had been replaced by somebody else!
“I was pleased a ‘Mario Lanza’ won the show as I only ever really wanted a one-off appearance, but when I met up with Steve the next year during a show he did at the Customs House, he told the audience, ‘We wuz robbed!’”