JARROW-born singer-songwriter John Miles is one of a galaxy of stars who will pay tribute to actor Sammy Johnson at Newcastle City Hall early next year.
John will take the stage along with Tim Healy, Denise Welch, Jimmy Nail, Gillian Taylforth, Lindisfarne, Peter Beardsley and many more for the concert on February 3. The second Sunday for Sammy concert is a tribute to Ronnie Johnson, who died prematurely at the age of 49.
Ronnie, whose stage name was Sammy Johnson, received popular recognition as Stick in Spender, appeared in Auf Weidersehen Pet and was even the voice of Sid the Sexist in the Viz videos.
John, who now lives in Boldon, was asked to pay his own tribute when he met his old mate Tim Healy at a recent charity golf tournament.
The former guitarist with the Tina Turner band, who enjoyed a number two hit in 1975 with the self-penned classic Music, was aware of Sammy's work - but never met the man. John said: "I was playing golf with Tim and he asked if I would be interested in taking part. I don't know what I will actually be doing on the night, I'm just waiting to hear what Tim has to say.
"I didn't know Sammy at all, but of course I was aware of his work and I'm happy to pay tribute to a fellow north-east entertainer."
Tim Healy, who describes Ronnie as his "best friend" said: "Ronnie and I first met when we were both young hopefuls working together at Live Theatre in 1973. "We were both working-class lads with a lot in common. He was a lovely man."
Jimmy Nail has fond memories of the man he first met on the set of Auf Wiedersehen Pet in 1985 and went on to work with on the Spender series. He said: "I got to know Sammy the actor and Ronnie the man. As an actor he was gifted and accomplished, as a man he was loyal, kind and considerate."
Following Ronnie's death, Tim and Jimmy decided they wanted to do something to keep Ronnie's memory alive. They, along with some of Ronnie's friends, his daughter Lynn and the help of the Community Foundation, set up The Sammy Johnson Memorial Fund, helping people from diverse backgrounds on Tyneside interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts.
The first fundraiser was a sell-out concert at Newcastle City Hall last year, a star-studded affair featuring Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whately, who re-created Auf Weidershen Pet on stage and then went on to make the new series! Apart from being a spectacular success, the first Sunday for Sammy show raised more than £36,000, much of which has been utilised in grants for talented and creative individuals who needed support with projects, equipment or other expenses.
For those of you who may be wondering Whats it all about? , the concert was the second memorial concert for Ronald Samuel Johnson, who is best known for playing Stick in Spender. Although he was Sammy as far as equity was concerned, he was Ronnie to his mates.
One of his best mates was auf Wiedersehens Tim Healy, who decided that he wanted to do something for his friend when he died in 1998 at only 49. The result was a fund which helps the young performers in the North East. This, the second "Sunday for Sammy" concert is the main way of raising money.
So who was in it?
Well, there were many performers that I recognised and a few who I didn't. Those that I didn't are probably big in the North East.
The night began with "Pigmeat", Sammy's first band. It was kind of folky and pleasant enough, complete with washboard player! They were followed by a comic called "Pete Peverley" who assumed the identity of one Bobby Thomson, who appeared to be Newcastle's answer to Andy Capp. Some of the jokes were very funny although some language was hard to understand. There were also some old jokes like the farmer with a pig with three legs!
Then was the turn of guess who! Yes, John Miles took the floor with the "houseband". This consisted of a bass player, a keyboard player a rhythm guitarist and a drummer. (Bimal, have I missed anyone?) While I didn't recognise the first two, the second two were very familiar. Firstly, John's son, John Jnr was on guitar (with a new Yul Brynner hairstyle) and on drums we had in incomparable Barry Black! Barry looked fit and well although his hair was somewhat greyer than when we last saw him.
John was on lead guitar and quickly launched into the R&B classic, "Talk to your Daughter". It was a superb first track which was a nice taster. However, after it finished they all left the stage. Although not one of John's hits it was nonetheless well received.
They were replaced by Messrs Healy, Nail & Whately who performed the first half of an auf Wiedersehen" sketch written for the performance. The audience gasped as Oz showed the audience his bum!
Denise Welsh (Tim Healy's better half) late of Coronation Street was joined on stage by Angela Lonsdale (Curly Watt's wife). They sang a "corrieised" version of Yesterday that was very funny.
Following this John and the house-band (including John Jnr & Barry) returned to the stage along with the auf Wiedersehen" guys. "Sammy's" best bits were projected onto the screen behind the band while the band played the Beatles "In My Life". On lead vocals were Tim Healy, Jimmy Nail & Kevin Whately, while John played lead (acoustic) guitar.
In the second half we had more auf Wiedersehen" stuff and a jazz number from a lady called Val.
We met "Sid the Sexist" from Viz and there was a singalong called The Geordie Rap.
John and John Jnr. made another appearance playing "Pale Spanish Moon". Again John was on acoustic guitar and it was a solid performance.
They were followed by Brendan Healy who joked "I'm the only one I haven't heard of". Many of his jokes I could recall from last September but he tells them very well. He was joined on stage by Peter Beardsley who was apparently going to sing. Brendan insisted upon calling him Alan and when discussing whether he could be a "Pop Idol" was joined on stage by Ant & Dec. They then introduced Aaron Bayliss, the train driver who sang "Walking in Memphis". The houseband including John, John Jnr and Barry provided the backing.
To finish the night "Lindisfarne" played a track, "My guitar never lies" from their new album, before pounding out Meet Me on The Corner. As a finale all the cast joined them for "Run for Home" in which the audience all joined in.
The end came all too quickly. I was at the 5pm showing and it must have been nearly 7.30pm when it finished. So we were all trying to get out as everyone came in for the 8 o'clock performance. However, it was definitely worth seeing. Just thinking about the evening made my 3 hour trip back to Edinburgh pass relatively quickly. And on top of all that over £100,000 was raised for Sammy's fund.
|Stephen A Carson, February 2002|