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 The invitation was withdrawn a few days later after a BBC committee had determined that the record was unsuitable for broadcast because "the lyric is contrary both to Roman Catholic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
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
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
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness