Malcolm Vaughan: Singer who fell foul of the BBC but sold half a million records as a result

In October 1956, Malcolm Vaughan was due to appear on BBC TV's Off The Record to promote his new release, "St. Therese Of The Roses". The invitation was withdrawn a few days later after a BBC committee had determined that the record was unsuitable for broadcast because "the lyric is contrary both to Roman Catholic doctrine and to Protestant sentiment." The resulting controversy helped to sell records, and with airplay on Radio Luxembourg the sugary wedding song climbed to No 3, stayed on the charts for five months and sold half a million copies.

Malcolm Vaughan was born Malcolm James Thomas, the son of a miner, in Abercynon, Glamorgan in March 1929. The family were to move to Troedyrhiw, near Merthyr Tydfil, where his grandfather was a cobbler. The young boy was soon singing in the local choir, and, in 1943, his aunt wrote to the actor, Emlyn Williams, about joining his wartime repertory company. Thomas appeared in a touring version of The Druid's Rest which ended up in the West End. Richard Burton also made his stage début in this play. After this, Thomas had a singing role in another West End show, Jenny Jones.

Malcolm Thomas was still a boy soprano when he was 16 but his voice broke on stage while he was singing "Danny Boy" at the Glasgow Empire. Overcome with embarrassment, he returned home. He took jobs as they came along, appearing as an errand boy in the film Bedelia with Margaret Lockwood and being the voice of Dennis the Dachshund in a television production of Larry The Lamb. He was in the West End productions of two Thornton Wilder plays, Our Town and The Skin Of Our Teeth, which was directed by Laurence Olivier.

In 1947 Thomas did national service in Greece and Egypt. He then returned to show business, appearing in Aladdin and Dick Whittington on ice in Brighton. In 1952, he teamed up with three other vocalists to become the Welsh Street Singers and then supported Old Mother Riley in pantomime.

In 1953, Thomas appeared in the revue Going Gay in Eastbourne and befriended a comedian, Kenneth Earle. They thought of becoming a double act but didn't care for the sound of "Earle and Thomas". They walked around the high street, trying out different names, and settled on "Earle and Vaughan". Their humour was mundane by today's standards but they got by:

Earle: "Why was Bernard Shaw very like me?"

Vaughan: "I don't know. Why was Bernard Shaw very like you?"

Earle: "We're both clean-shaven, except for Bernard Shaw."

When the BBC disc jockey Jack Jackson saw Earle and Vaughan at the Chiswick Empire in 1955 he was impressed with Vaughan's impersonation of Mario Lanza. He arranged an audition with Wally Ridley, the head of HMV Records, who steered him away from light opera to the ballads of the day.

His first record, "Ev'ry Day Of My Life", became a Top 10 hit and he followed it with a successful version of Gilbert Bécaud's "Mes Mains", now called "With Your Love". Vaughan incorporated his records into Earle and Vaughan's act but he did not want to break up the partnership. They spent Christmas 1955 as Chinese policemen in Aladdin in Salford.

During 1955, Earle and Vaughan had judged a beauty contest at a holiday camp in Guernsey. Vaughan was attracted by the winner, Gaye Hands (Earle renamed her "Sad Feet"), and they were married in June 1956. They settled in Tooting and they were to have two children, Daryl Earle Haydn Samuel in 1957 and Damon Charles Michael in 1963. In 1963, Malcolm changed his name by deed poll to Malcolm Vaughan.

In 1957, Earle and Vaughan toured with the American rock'n'roll stars, Bill Haley and the Comets, and did surprisingly well in the circumstances. Later in the year, Vaughan appeared alongside other balladeers including David Whitfield and Ronnie Hilton in a special production number in the Royal Variety Performance. At the time he was enjoying another Top 10 single with "My Special Angel": in this case, Wally Ridley had amended the lyric of Bobby Helms' original to avoid a BBC ban.

Vaughan had further hits in the 1950s with "To Be Loved", "More Than Ever (Come Prima)" and "Wait For Me", and sang the theme song from the Kenneth More film about the sinking of the Titanic, A Night To Remember (1958). Strangely, Vaughan did not make an album until Hello in September 1959. Ridley, his producer, told the New Musical Express: "I felt it was better to let his voice mature before getting him to tackle the better quality songs needed for an album."

Earle and Vaughan continued to work as a double act throughout the 1960s but never realised their ambition of making comedy films like Morecambe and Wise. It would have been better for Vaughan's career if he had continued making records and capturing the same market as Matt Monro. The duo split up in 1972 with Earle becoming an agent and Vaughan touring in productions of The Good Old Days. A biography, The Reluctant Star, by Edward Thomas was published in 2009, the title reflecting the fact that Malcolm Vaughan put family life above everything.

Spencer Leigh

Malcolm James Thomas (Malcolm Vaughan), singer: born Abercynon 22 March 1929; married 1956 Gaye Hands (two sons); died Eastbourne 9 February 2010.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
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
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all