Marion Ryan (4 February 1931 – 15 January 1999) was a popular British singer in the 1950s. Once dubbed "the Marilyn Monroe of popular song" by the Press, but perhaps preferably recalled as "the sunny songstress." She could not only sing, but she looked good too. It was probably for this reason that she became a favourite with TV audiences. Her chart history is surprisingly modest and certainly does not properly reflect her general popularity.
She was born Marion Sapherson in Middlesbrough in 1931 and grew into a well-formed lady of petite proportions (height 5ft 1in), big blue eyes and red-gold hair. She went to school at Notre Dame in Leeds, and studied music and singing under a Madame Coran.
She entered show business at the age of 21, singing with a dance band at the Locarno in Leeds. This was an evening escape from her daytime job as sales girl in a ladies' lingerie shop. Spotted for her blossoming potential by Ray Ellington, he of the famous Quartet that provided the jiving song breaks in The Goon Show, she was swiftly signed up to sing with his group. She made her debut with Ellington at the Locarno, Glasgow, on 24 August 1953. She made only one recording with Ellington, "All's Going Well", in March 1954.
After a few years she left the group in company with Ellington's pianist, Dick Katz, who became her personal manager. Her first solo recording was for Nixa, a cover job of the Rosemary Clooney hit "Sailor Boys Have Talked to Me in English". It launched her on a good recording career which scored her several entries in the Top Twenty, beginning with "Hot Diggity" (1956). A quick follow-up was "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and a string of titles in which she was supported by the harmonious singing of the Beryl Stott Chorus, beginning with "Mr Wonderful" (1957) and reaching No 5 in the Hit Parade with "Love Me Forever" (1958). In the same year she made minor recording history by singing Britain's first-ever stereo single, "The World Goes Round and Around", at 45rpm.
Her television career was equally exceptional. She became the resident singer on the musical game show "Spot That Tune" which would become one of TV's longest running series on Granada Television for seven years from 1956, with a total of 209 half-hour programmes, that featured several star hosts including disc-jockey Pete Murray, the Canadian pop singer Jackie Rae (see photo), and the comedians Ken Platt and Ted Ray, and also Peter Knight and his Orchestra. She made one brief appearance as herself in a film with singer Tommy Steele. The show re-emerged in the 1970s as Name That Tune.
Other TV Shows included Off The Record, The Festival of British Song, Music Shop, Number Please, Starlight, Cool For Cats, Sunday Night at Blackpool and the well-remembered teenage series Six-Five Special. She even turned up in an episode of the top comedy series of the day, The Army Game. Topping the lot was, of course, The Marion Ryan Show for Granada.
Ryan's film career was somewhat less satisfactory. She made a Cinemascope debut in the Hammer musical short. This was followed by her only appearance in a feature film, It's All Happening (1963). In this musical, starring Tommy Steele, she played herself among a galaxy of Sixties pop stars including the pianist Russ Conway, the singer Shane Fenton, the Clyde Valley Stompers and the entire George Mitchell Show from BBC television's Black and White Minstrels. She sang two goodish numbers, "Love A Man" and "You Are Maximum Plus".
Then there were variety tours, an appearance in a Royal Command Performance in 1960, and several specials made for American television. These included The Bob Hope Show at Christmas 1958 and The Bing Crosby Show two years later. In this bumper number she shared billing with the gap-toothed comedian Terry-Thomas, Shirley Bassey and the forgotten funster Dave King. In 1961 she starred in a London Palladium stage show alongside Harry Secombe, the trumpet star Eddie Calvert and the all-round entertainer Roy Castle.
By 1967, she married the American show business millionaire, Harold Davison who handled Frank Sinatra. The couple moved to Florida in 1988. This doubtless gave her the opportunity to decouple herself from what might have turned out to be a fading singing career and she went into a retirement from which she would never return to foreground pop music. By the time of this second marriage, her twin sons, Paul and Barry- who had changed their surname from Sapherson (from Marion's previous marriage) to Ryan, had begun their own successful singing careers. Their first big hit was "Don't Bring Me Your Heartaches" which reached No 13 in 1965.
Marion's personality may be gauged by her entry in the 1962 Radio Luxembourg Book of Record Stars. "Pet likes: lounging casually at home. Pet hates: rude, loud, ill-mannered people. Favourite food: Chinese. Hobbies: reading."
Sadly, Marion Ryan died in Boca Raton, Florida, aged 67, of heart failure, following the onset of pneumonia a few days before her 68th birthday on January 15th, 1999. (Info edited from www.45-rpm.org.uk, www.independent.co.uk & Wikipedia)
Recorded in 1963 and never released as a record. At 4'15", it was too long for a single and because of the variation of sources of the music (in the Sixties, clearance would have been a nightmare) there was never an album, either. John Barry, Geoff Love and Philip Green all worked on the film.