Dorothy Squires was, quite simply, one of the most popular singing stars of the 1940s Ė a charismatic and electrifying stage performer who, thanks to her enduring musical partnership with the respected songwriter and bandleader Billy Reid, topped theatre bills throughout Britain, and whose many recordings included such smash hits as The Gipsy, Iíll Close My Eyes, Itís A Pity To Say Goodnight, Iím Walking Behind You, A Tree In The Meadow, This Is My Motherís Day, and Safe In My Arms.
Later, in the 1950s, when Dorothy was married to the young up-and-coming actor Roger Moore, she moved to the United States to help further his career and became one of the first British recording artists and performers to work there. In the 1960s Dorothy continued to have hit recordings, including Say It With Flowers and For Once In My Life, and the 1970s were notable for her sell-out concerts at such venues as the London Palladium, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Royal Albert Hall and The Talk Of The Town nightclub. The hits also continued, thanks to her recordings of Till and My Way. Even in the 1980s Dorothy was still performing and recording (most notably, releasing a powerful version of I Am What I Am, from the stage show La Cage Aux Folles). Her last live show was at the Brighton Dome in March 1990, almost 54 years after she had made her recording debut.
Dorothy Squires was born Edna May Squires on 25th March 1915 Ė her birth certificate records the address as being Travelling Van, Bridge Shop Field, Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire - in South Wales. She was the younger daughter of a steelworker, Archibald James Squires and his wife Emily, and grew up in Dafen. Her first job was working behind the counter at Woolworth, and she later worked in a local tinplate factory. One of Edna Mayís earliest musical memories was watching and listening to Al Jolson in the first Ďtalkieí movie The Jazz Singer. The experience moved young Edna May so much that she was determined to become a famous singer herself.
Her earliest professional shows were in the Llanelli area, performing with a local dance band, The Denza Players, including at the local Ritz Ballroom, then at the age of 18 years Edna May decided to move to London to pursue her musical ambitions. However she forgot to tell her family of her plans Ė they found out about her decision after she had caught the train to Londonís Paddington Station!
The budding performer arrived in the capital, knowing no one and with nowhere to stay. Eventually young Edna May settled in Croydon where she briefly worked as a nurse. Edna May was determined to be a singer however and pursued her ambition with the true grit and determination that were to become the hallmarks of her larger-than-life personality in later life. She eventually found herself sitting in a variety agentís office in Londonís Charing Cross Road where she gave an impromptu performance of the song Dinah. Edna May was subsequently offered a part in a cabaret show, performing three songs, but unfortunately on the big night she developed stage fright and forgot the lyrics to her specially prepared numbers!
It was a personal disaster for the young singer but she rapidly overcame her nerves. Soon afterwards Edna May was offered a booking at the Burlington Gardens Club and this developed into a long-term contract. It also led to her first radio broadcast in 1936 after the noted American pianist Charlie Kunz heard her performance. Kunz invited Dorothy to perform with his band at the Casani Club in Londonís West End and Dorothy (as she had now re-christened herself) made her first broadcast with the orchestra.Several months later Dorothy was booked to do one show with the Southampton-born musician Billy Reid and His Accordion Band, and it was the beginning of a long and successful professional relationship. Such was the success of that first show that Dorothy was booked by a leading impresario to do an eight-week tour, working as a solo act. However, when she returned to London, Billy Reid offered her a permanent job as the vocalist with his orchestra.
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