“I do believe that life is too short“
With a singing career which took him all the way to Elvis's studio, Sycamore House's resident quiz-master Del has performing in his blood - and is determined to make the most of every moment.
I was born in Fulham off Wandsworth Bridge Road, in Hammersmith Hospital. I was bought up with my grandparents and my mother and I lived with them, along with my aunt and uncle. When I was eight, we moved to Roehampton. I didn’t know what a bath was until I went there. Mine was a tin bath and I was always the last one in it.
My grandfather would take me to a musical theatre show every Friday night and I used to see people like The Crazy Gang and Norman Wisdom. My mum would take me to shows at the London Palladium. So I did the same with my kids: we used to take them to Leicester Square and get half-price tickets.
One Saturday night I went to a show and a lady was sitting on the stage singing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. It made the hair on the back on my neck stand up. I found out afterwards that it was Judy Garland.
How did you get involved in performing?
My genre of music was a mixture of Engelbert, Elvis and Tony Christie, Tom Jones and Sinatra. It started when I was growing up. My friend’s dad was an entertainment secretary in a club in Roehampton. We used to go there on a Saturday night, and they would call people up to sing. I was around 18 years old. They would say “Del, come up! Can you sing this for us?”.
I became the entertainment secretary at the Shepherd’s Bush Club, formerly known as the Goldhawk Social Club, where I currently organise their live music. I book the live music at Sycamore House as well, for residents’ birthdays or entertainment nights.
I have performed in Tunisia, Portugal and Spain. My friend, a drummer, who I’ve known since I was 11 years old and I went to America and I recorded music in Sun Studio where Elvis recorded. It’s still the same: the instruments are there, and we went into the booth and recorded ‘My Way’, Elvis style. You can’t just sing some songs, you have to perform them. Somebody writes those lyrics, and it means a lot to them. My job as a singer is to bring that out.
One of the best things I did was go to Monte Gordo in Portugal. I had time off from work and at the same time I had lost my youngest son. My wife said for me to go abroad as I found it difficult to stay at home.
I found a random a bar and saw a guy playing the piano and I sat next to him. I said to him “Do you know this song?” and I sung it with him. Once I finished the manager of the bar said: “Can you come in tonight and perform?”. Nine years later I was going there a few times a year. I performed at bars, a casino and a country club.
Tell us about your family.
My son’s names are Steve, Scott and Simon. My youngest son was diagnosed at 9 with a brain tumour, and was with us for three years after his diagnosis.
My middle son Scott used to take Simon to a place called ‘Phab Club’, which arranged for the children to go Buckingham Palace Mews to learn to ride a horse. It was run by Lady Joan Bader; she was the wife of Douglas Bader, an airline pilot who lost his legs during the war. The Queen would sometimes pop in and help with the riding lessons.
Simon was a big Arsenal supporter. One of his physiotherapists was an Arsenal seasonal ticket holder and she spoke to the club to arrange if he could watch the player’s train. We went to the Highbury grounds, and we sat in the manager boxes. The team were fantastic with him and made him laugh when I showed them that I was wearing my Fulham football shirt. I have a photo of him on that day in my living room.
We received a red and white football and letter from Arsenal Football Club. Fulham Football Club sent a black and white football and the Chairman of the club sent a Rolls Royce with a player on Simon’s funeral day.
What’s it like living in sheltered housing?
I have been here for around seven and half years now. It’s great having access to a garden right outside my living room. I originally came here for my wife’s benefit as she was in a wheelchair due to her health. We moved in here in the summer and I sadly lost her the following February. We only had a brief time living in Sycamore House together. My second son Scott and my granddaughter passed away last year.
My eldest son lives in Belfast. I am only able to travel short distances, so I haven’t been able to see my family as much. But I have WhatsApp and we talk, share photos and videos with each other and my son always calls me on the weekend.
The scheme manager at Sycamore House, Chris, has been fantastic. When Scott died, Chris checked up on me and made sure I was okay. He gave me the company when I needed it.
They are lovely people here. The staff are great. The best thing is you have your privacy, but the company is there if you need it. I am the quiz master here every Thursday. The residents get together after our coffee morning, and we have a good laugh.
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