John Gower

Actor and singer


John Gower, actor and singer: born Dar es Salaam 11 October 1931; died Greetham, Lincolnshire 1 August 2005.

John Gower's successful career on the stage was based on the gift of an excellent voice, innate ability as an actor, an observant eye and unfettered versatility.

He was born in 1931 in Dar es Salaam, where his father was a civil servant. He attended a college in Nairobi, and then was sent home to England to complete his education. His quest for knowledge was somewhat inhibited by the fact that for a while he was billed as "The Boy Wonder from Wapping". This came about because, despite his tender years, he was blessed with a mature bass- baritone voice, and he was recruited by Bryan Michie, who ran talent shows. In this instance, the ploy was to have the audience hear a typical basso song, rendered behind the curtain, only to discover that the singer was in fact, a teenager.

Gower acquitted himself with distinction at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He then found his way to the Players' Theatre, the ebullient home of Victorian music hall where he was cast in a scena, a melange of words and music, called Calcutta in the Morning, an evocation of India and the Raj.

His appearance and splendid voice registered with managements and agents, and Gower found himself in his first West End musical, called Listen to the Wind (Arts Theatre, 1955). He then joined the Fol-de-Rols concert party, one of the biggest summer shows in Britain.

Later, in 1964, Gower was cast for the lead in The Wayward Way (based on W.H.S. Smith's Victorian melodrama The Drunkard), at the Vaudeville Theatre. This gave him a splendid canvas as he always eschewed burlesque, but brought a subtle hint of emphasis, worthy of a skilled etcher. Other shows included Zuleika (Saville, 1957), a long tour in the late Eighties of Lock Up Your Daughters, another of Half a Sixpence (the British premiere of the Broadway version, 1966), and a visit to the Dublin International Theatre Festival to stage Dearest Dracula (Olympia, 1965), with many impressed by the powerful evocation Gower gave to the vampire count.

An inspiration on the part of Joan Littlewood took Gower into Oh What a Lovely War! (1963), where his dramatic powers and musical skills added considerable lustre to a unique show. He also appeared in the Peter Greenwell "triumvirate" at the Players', in The Three Caskets (1956), based on the crucial scene in the Merchant of Venice.

Gower turned in an elegant performance in Betjemania (1977), based on the writings of the Poet Laureate. That year also found him in a company headed by Marius Goring in a music-hall celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, entitled Jubilee Gaieties.

John Gower was a popular soloist on radio programmes such as Friday Night is Music Night, and he took roles in a number of films, the last as Prince Fuspoli in Evita (1996).

Dominic Le Foe

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick