‘I never had singing lessons, my voice was just something I was born with’
“I was born Millicent Small to parents who worked on a sugar plantation and, although we didn’t know anyone in the entertainment profession, I loved singing.
“I was 12 years old when I entered a posh talent contest called The Vere John’s Opportunity Hour at the Palladium in Montego Bay on Jamaica’s north coast, where I sang in front of 2,000 people.
“I don’t remember what I sang, but most of it was with my eyes shut because I was so shy. I won the second prize of 30 shillings and it was the beginning of my new life as a singer.
I never had singing lessons, my voice was just something I was born with
“Chris Blackwell, the boss of Island Records, heard my music and he brought me over to England to develop my singing career. I missed my parents and my brother, but they encouraged me to follow my dream.
“I arrived in London in 1963, and it felt like I was coming home, that this was where I was meant to be.
“I made a few songs, which didn’t go anywhere, and then I recorded My Boy Lollipop in 1964, which got to number two over here and number one in many parts of the world. I never had singing lessons, my voice was just something I was born with.
‘I still play My Boy Lollipop because it’s a lovely record’
“My life seemed very normal to me – even though I was only 17, I took fame in its stride. What helped was that I had a good manager in Chris, who looked after me like a father wherever I went.
“I got invited onto all the pop shows of the day including Ready Steady Go – which I did often – Top Of The Pops, Juke Box Jury and Thank Your Lucky Stars.
‘My life seemed very normal to me – even though I was only 17, I took fame in its stride’
“However, I did get to know the people I toured with such as Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Freddie and the Dreamers and Peter and Gordon. I began touring in Norway, where I received my first fan letter, then Africa, Singapore and Jamaica where people, including my family, were happy for this young girl who was doing well. But they didn’t make a fuss of me.
“I stopped recording in 1970, simply because it was the end of the dream and it felt like the right time.
“I moved to Singapore during the 70s because I had enjoyed working there in the past, then I spent some time doing shows in New Zealand. I stopped after doing cabaret on the north of England club circuit.
‘I stopped recording in 1970, simply because it was the end of the dream and it felt like the right’
“I enjoy cooking – anything with chicken, pork and fish with rice – and watching documentaries. I’ve got five beautiful cats, too.
“I don’t miss those 60s days. I enjoyed it while it lasted and it represented a time of pure happiness but I look to the future now that I’m older and wiser.
“I love music – reggae, hip-hop, anything that’s got rhythm. And I still play My Boy Lollipop because it’s a lovely record.
“My daughter and I are very close and I’m proud of her achievements as a writer, singer and musician; it would be nice for us to sing together one day as mother and child.”
Source: www.express.co.uk/by Tony Padman