Lt Marshal gains his objective

Gary Marshal stars in Bandstand

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 13 March 1960

IN a smoke-filled Hongkong dance hall a young British Army lieutenant was persuaded to sing a number with the band. He got enthusiastic applause, and resolved then to take up a new career as a “pop” singer.

Now, two years later, the lieutenant, Gary Marshal, is established on the British popular music scene. On Wednesday, he sings with the Ted Heath Orchestra in Granada’s Bandstand. He has reached an objective.

Gary Marshal
Gary Marshal

After Sandhurst, and winning his commission, he was posted to Hongkong. There, after his military duties, he wanted something to do with his spare time, so he applied for an announcing job with the English language commercial radio station – and got it.

“They took me on as a board announcer, doing 14 hours a week of news and disc jockeying in the evenings,” said Marshal. “After a few months I was not only a board announcer, I was a bored announcer.”

The other English language station, the non-commercial Radio Hongkong, offered him more work, so he switched stations. He then found time to write two newspaper columns a week — a short story and a record review feature.

He courted and married an American girl born in China. “We now have a year-old son, Jamie, who — I swear — was born with a real cool haircut. He loves music and already looks like an out-of-work tenor sax player,” said Marshal.

How did he find the time for soldiering, married life, radio work and newspaper writing? His explanation: “I am a ‘night person’ and don’t like going to bed early.”

Marshal left the Army in August, 1958, at the end of his five-year term. A month later, a friend took him along to an agent. The agent looked up, noted his good looks, and said: “Bernard Delfont’s Sunday Night at the Prince Of Wales … The Frankie Howerd Show.”

Marshal, astounded, said “Fine.” And that was how he found himself playing a “wide boy” in a sketch with Frankie Howerd on ITV.

“After the show I dashed home and asked my wife ‘How was I?’ She said ‘I blinked and missed you!’” said Gary.

A man and a woman walk down the aisle
His wedding in Hongkong Cathedral

Later, he acted in TV commercials. “One of them was made at the Guards depot, Pirbright, where I found myself wearing a steel helmet, a pack on my back, and all the gear I hadn’t worn in years,” he said.

He went into cabaret, where he insisted on using his own drummer and pianist. “The extra expenditure was worth it,” he says. ITV talent spotters saw him and, as a result, he appeared in a number of shows. He also landed a recording contract.

Singing in front of the Ted Heath Orchestra in Bandstand is for Gary Marshal the realisation of a long-standing ambition. It was always his favourite band and, two years ago, hearing that Ted Heath was looking for a male singer, he took him a recording.

He said I was as good as any he’d heard, but there was a technical fault in my voice.” said Marshal. “He told me to come back when I had got rid of this fault. But I never found time to re-apply. Now, at last, I am to sing with him.”

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