19 January 1928|
Romford, Essex, England
12 September 2013 (aged 85)|
|Genres||Traditional pop music|
|Labels||Decca, emi Pye, Nectar|
Regan was born Joan Bethel or Siobhan Bethel in Romford, Essex, to Irish parents. She had rheumatic fever as a child which left her with a damaged mitral valve, although this did not cause problems until she was in her seventies.
Regan married an American serviceman, Dick Howell, a friend of her brothers who met in the Navy. She and Howell married on her 18th birthday in 1946. For a time they lived in Burbank, California. They had three children, one of whom died at an early age. The marriage eventually broke down. Regan, a Catholic, was able to obtain a legal dissolution, rather than a divorce. Before becoming a singer, Regan worked at a number of jobs, including re-touching photographs. Her successful singing career began in 1953, when she made a demo record of "Too Young" and "I'll Walk Alone". The demo came to the attention of Bernard Delfont, and that helped her sign a recording contract with Decca Records.
She had a number of Top 40 hits for the label, many of them were cover versions of American hits. Among them were Teresa Brewer's "Ricochet", "Till I Waltz Again with You", and "Jilted", Doris Day's "If I Give My Heart to You" and Jill Corey's "Cleo and Me-O" and "Love Me to Pieces".
She became the resident singer on BBC producer Richard Afton's television series Quite Contrary. Afton later replaced Regan with Ruby Murray. She appeared on the Six-Five Special, and was given her own BBC television series, Be My Guest, which ran for four series.
After being knocked out by a descending safety curtain during her first appearance in variety, she developed her act to include impressions of Judy Garland, Dame Gracie Fields and Dame Anna Neagle, to the last of whom she bore a facial resemblance.
In the late 1950s, she appeared several times at the London Palladium, including the Royal Command Performance and also in the show Stars in Your Eyes. In 1958, she appeared as herself in the film Hello London.
On leaving Decca in 1958, she signed with EMI's HMV label, where she had a Top 10 hit with a cover version of the McGuire Sisters' "May You Always". Two years later, she left EMI for Pye Records, and had two minor record successes, ("Happy Anniversary" and "Papa Loves Mama").
In 1957, she married her second husband, Harry Claff, who was the joint general manager and box office manager at the Palladium. In November that year, the Daily Herald reported Regan was to have a baby in February 1958, seven months after the wedding. After receiving "abusive and wounding letters from people who were personally unknown to her", Regan successfully sued the newspaper for libel; her daughter, Donna, was actually born in April 1958. Claff and Regan divorced in 1963 after Claff was sentenced to prison for embezzlement. He served five years. His defence was that he had only "borrowed" some money from the London Palladium, where he was box-office manager, and would have paid it back. By this time, the hits had dried up and she suffered a nervous breakdown. Regan moved to Florida and married her third and last husband, Dr. Martin Cowan, a medical doctor.
In the United States, Regan recorded two singles for Columbia (one of which, "Don't Talk To Me About Love", went on to become a Northern soul classic). In 1984 she slipped in the shower, hit her head on the tiles and suffered a brain haemorrhage. After an emergency operation she was left paralysed and speechless.
Her recovery, which entailed much physical and speech therapy, was aided by her miming to her old records. It took many months of treatment before she regained the ability to sing. In 1987, some of those old tracks, together with others by Dickie Valentine, Lita Roza and Jimmy Young, were issued on the double album, Unchained Melodies.
In the 1990s, she returned to the UK where, with the help and encouragement of Russ Conway who had been her rehearsal pianist in the early 1950s, she returned to the stage. She recorded for Nectar Records from 1992 to 1996, for whom she recorded a single "You Needed Me" and two albums, The Joan Regan Collection and Remember I Love You.
Later years and death
Regan continued singing, entertaining and supporting her charities (including the 'Not Forgotten' Association) to the age of 82. She died on 12 September 2013, aged 85. She was survived by her three children.
- "Till They've All Gone Home" (1953) – US Pop No. 23
- "Ricochet" (1953) (with the Squadronaires) (cover of Teresa Brewer) – UK No. 8
- "Someone Else's Roses" (1954) (cover of Doris Day) – UK No. 5
- "If I Give My Heart to You" (1954) (cover of Doris Day) – UK No. 3
- "Wait For Me, Darling" (1954) (with the Johnston Brothers) (cover of LaVern Baker) – UK No. 18
- "Croce Di Oro" (1955) – US Pop No. 55
- "Prize of Gold" (1955) (with Johnny Douglas and his Orchestra) (used in main credits of the film, A Prize of Gold) – UK No. 6
- "Open Up Your Heart" (1955) (Joan and Rusty Regan) (cover of the Cowboy Church Sunday School) – UK No. 19
- "May You Always" (1959) (cover of the McGuire Sisters) – UK No. 9
- "Happy Anniversary" (1960) (cover of Jane Morgan) – UK No. 29
- "Papa Loves Mama" (1960) – UK No. 29
- "One of the Lucky Ones" (1960) – UK No. 47
- "Must Be Santa" (1961) – UK No. 42
- Just Joan (1956) (Decca)
- The Girl Next Door (Decca)
- Joan and Ted (1961) (Pye-Nixa)
- Remember I Love You (1996) (Nectar Music)
Regan recorded a number of other songs, including "Love Me to Pieces", "Most People Get Married", "Pine Tree, Pine over Me", "It's a Big, Wide, Wonderful World", "That Old Feeling", "Anema e Core", "Croce di Oro" and "This Ole House".
- Leigh, Spencer (17 September 2013). "Joan Regan: Singer who had hits in the 1950s and became the toast of the London Palladium". The Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- NME.com – accessed April 2009
- Sharon Mawer. "Joan Regan biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 6 April 2009.
- "Joan Regan obituary". Guardian.com. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- "Obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Singers Of The Fabulous Fifties". CommuniGate. UK: This Is Sussex. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
- Hello London, IMDb.com; accessed 3 September 2017.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 457. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.