Ronnie Carroll

Ronnie Carroll was mainly famous for two things: "blacking up" as a minstrel to impersonate singers of African descent (yes, it really did happen), and representing Great Britain for two consecutive years in the Eurovision Song Contest. He was born Ronald Cleghorn on August 18, 1934, in Belfast and worked in variety theater, where the notion of "blacking up" was a tradition from minstrel shows dating back 100 years and was quite common even as late as the 1950s. During his work in theaters he met his wife, Millicent Martin, another performer who would go on to even more fame in the 1960s on television in the satirical program That Was the Week That Was. In the mid-'50s he enjoyed a couple of hit singles, cover versions of "Walk Hand in Hand" and "Wisdom of a Fool," both reaching the Top 20. Never really making it into the big leagues, he was nevertheless chosen as Britain's entry to Eurovision in 1962 with the song "Ring-A-Ding Girl," an almost complete flop that just scraped into the Top 50 and came in a joint fourth in the contest. Later that year, he enjoyed his biggest ever hit single when his version of "Roses Are Red" hit number three, far higher than the Bobby Vinton original, and in 1963 he again was chosen as Britain's representative with the song "Say Wonderful Things," which also came in fourth in the show but performed better in the charts, hitting number six. Then Beatlemania took over the charts and Ronnie Carroll's style was considered old-fashioned -- he was completely washed away by the tide of Merseybeat acts and his records never saw the charts again. Subsequently working on cruise ships and back in low-key cabaret, he moved tentatively into politics, running in the 1997 British general election for the Hampstead & Highgate seat (held by Glenda Jackson) for the fringe Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket Party, and has since stood for the same umbrella group in several bi-elections. In 1996 Diamond Records released a 26-track compilation of his songs, Roses Are Red: The Ronnie Carroll Story, featuring all seven of his hits. In 2005 he also issued a comeback album, Back on Song, with ten new recordings of old songs including "Nature Boy," "Stardust," "In the Wee Small Hours," and "Danny Boy." ~ Sharon Mawer

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