Ronnie Carroll (18 August 1934 – 13 April 2015) was a Northern Irish singer, entertainer, and political candidate.
Carroll was born Ronald Cleghorn in Roslyn Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1934, the son of a plumber. Ronnie’s chart career coincided with the formative years of rock and roll although his singing was still very much set in the style of a traditional crooner. His career had begun in his home city where he gained a reputation for his ability to emulate black American singers of the day- notably Nat 'King' Cole. He would apply black make up to gain a credible visual effect much in the way that the then popular 'Black & White Minstrels' did on TV at around that time. It was certainly this that gained him the nickname 'The Minstrel'.
These beginnings are undoubtedly seen today as bizarre, but even in the late 1950s it was an unusual start. Despite this he was recognised as having an exceptional singing voice in his own right and found it relatively easy to find work in the variety theatre. It was on one such show that he met and fell in love with his first wife, singer Millicent Martin. It was shortly after they were married that she became familiar to UK TV audiences through her weekly appearances on the 'That Was The Week That Was' TV show. As a result of the couple's commitment to work they settled at this time in North West London.
Although somehow never quite breaking through into the very top flight of British singers, Ronnie Carroll's output on disc was well enough received. He scored his first hit in 1956 with "Walk Hand in Hand" on the Philips label. Having taken part in the 1960 UK Eurovision selection contest with the song "Girl With A Curl", he was chosen as the singer for Britain's entry in the Eurovision song contest in 1962 and with 'Ring-A-Ding Girl' achieved a creditable fourth place. He also reached the same placing in 1963 with another British Eurovision Song Contest entry, "Say Wonderful Things". Carroll is the only singer to have represented the UK in the competition two years in succession.
This success was followed by two top10 hits during 1962 and 1963, but unfortunately a lack of good material meant that he could not sustain a chart presence. By 1965 he had gone two years without even a minor hit. The end of his marriage to Millicent Martin in the mid-1960s signalled the beginning of the end of his performing career.
Carroll subsequently worked on cruise ships, including the QE2, with John Marcangelo who was the drummer with the Ronnie Carroll Orchestra. He played a pop musician named 'Ronnie' in the 1965 film Man in the Dark.
Ronnie Carroll never managed to kick start his chart career again and by the end of the decade even his TV appearances had become few and far between. After marrying his second wife, the Olympic runner June Paul, Carroll headed to the island of Grenada in 1972, to run a nightclub. But “there was a revolution in Grenada when we were there and we had sunk every penny we had into the nightclub,” he recalled. “There were no tourists left and we had no money to carry on.” This with drinking and gambling habits, combined to ruin him. In 1974 Carroll was declared bankrupt with assets of £2 and debts of £9,210.
Back in Britain Carroll continued to perform occasionally at holiday camps, but eventually abandoned singing for a more profitable hot sausage stall at Camden Market. This he later combined with helping to run the Everyman Cinema and Jazz Club in Hampstead. When his second marriage ended, Carroll married and divorced a third wife, South African-born Glenda Kentridge.
He resurfaced as the Emerald Rainbow Islands Dream Ticket Party candidate for the 1997 Uxbridge by-election when, despite his determined efforts to score “nul points”, singing what he hoped would be a new hit single: “Don’t Vote for Me, Reg and Tina!”, 30 spoilsports put their cross against his name. “There’s nothing more demoralising than aiming low and missing,” he reflected.
Carroll stood as a candidate (under the name 'The Euro visionary Carroll') for the 2015 United Kingdom general election, in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency. Nominations had closed on 9 April 2015, just four days before his death, but polling day was not until 7 May. He was standing as an independent so the poll continued; if he had won the election, the ballot would have been re-run at a later date. In the event he polled 113 votes to finish sixth out of seven candidates.
He latterly lived in Hampstead, London, and was a regular caller to phone-in shows on BBC London 94.9. He died aged 80 on 13 April 2015 following a battle with cancer. (Info edited from www.45-rpm.org.uk; Wikipedia & Telegraph obit)