Joining the Ivy Benson Band
(Recalled by Pat "Haggis" Gentles - Feb 2004)

In the early spring of 1958 I answered an ad in "'The Stage", our trade paper, for a singer in the famous Ivy Benson All Girl Band. I travelled by train to Preston, a town in the north of England about 50 miles from Liverpool. For the audition I wore all my Scottish regalia and carried the bagpipes in their box. When I got to the ballroom for the audition, the Band was playing and I had to wait to see Ivy Benson herself. She arrived and went straight to the piano and said give me the music to a song. I handed her the top sheet, which happened to be a Scottish ballad. I sang about four bars and she stopped and said OK I want you to join us. I said you haven't even heard me play the bagpipes. She said don't worry about it; I know you must know what you're doing. She said "we're doing a Sunday show at the Odeon cinema in Llandudno, North Wales, the first Sunday in May; come along then and I'll put you in the programme. I I was somewhat dejected over such a small audition - I felt she hadn't got any idea if I was good or not. But as time went by I realised what Ivy was about. She needed a girl singer and I could sing so anything else I could do at that point didn't really bother her. Having said that I went to Llandudno that first Sunday gave Ivy my arrangements for the songs I wanted to do and told her that I started my act playing the bagpipes. I took my mother with me and we went in a friend's car. The theatre was packed and about 15 minutes into the show Ivy introduced me to the audience and I marched onstage playing the pipes. When I first stepped onto the stage the audience all stood up and applauded very loudly. It took me completely surprise but as I had been

Return to Index

trained to do, no matter what happens you keep going, so I kept marching back and forth across the stage for 3 minutes. When I stopped piping I got a wonderful burst of applause. As rehearsed, I went straight into singing a medley of Scottish songs which I had arranged myself with some help from my mother. At the end of the medley as I was singing the last notes of "at the end of the road" the audience started yelling and clapping and they wouldn't stop. I kept talking bows till I just stood there waving at the side of the stage. Ivy eventually went up to the microphone and said "This is Pat's first show with us and we have no more of her music" to which someone in the audience yelled out "Let her do it all over again." When I saw Ivy later in the dressing room she said, "Pat will you join us. First we do a summer show from the end of May through the second week in September in the Isle of Man then we do U.S. bases near London and in November we go to Germany". I accepted the job. Inside I was so excited my head was still reeling from that audience ovation and the schedule for the rest of the year sounded great. My mother was also excited she just adored the entertainment business and the people in it. I was very happy on that drive home both for my mother and for me.