Jean Campbell, Scottish singer whose career began in World War II and stretched into the ’90s, died in Lanarkshire, Scotland, Jan. 11. She was 76.
“I love to sing,” said Jean Campbell, “I don’t have to be top of the bill, I just want to be singing.” Tony Bennett described her as “Britain’s Jo Stafford” and, if she had had the breaks and possibly more ambition, Campbell could have rivaled Stafford or Rosemary Clooney.
Campbell, who was born in Glasgow in 1926, began her career as a dancer and became part of the Gibson Trio, who entertained the troops as part of Ensa during WWII. Group’s pianist, Bill Sellers (father of Peter Sellers), acted as guardian for her because she was only 18.
After the war, Campbell replaced Pearl Carr as the female vocalist with Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra, which was strongly featured in the BBC radio series “Showband Show,” and as a result, Campbell performed in the 1952 Royal Variety Performance.
As part of the Keynotes, she appeared on the long-running comedy series “Take It From Here,” and accompanied Dickie Valentine and Dave King on hit singles. Campbell also made solo recordings for Parlophone.
After the Keynotes, Campbell worked for Benny Lee in the Coronets and was featured on his series “Sing It Again,” as well as making albums for Columbia. In 1960, she took part in a bizarre TV skein, “Dial for Music,” with Ronnie Carroll and Denis Lotis, on which viewers could request a song over the phone. When one caller asked for “Danny Boy,” the Northern Ireland-born Carroll did not want to admit that he didn’t know the lyrics and Campbell had to stand out of shot mouthing the words to him.
Because of her versatility, Campbell was much in demand by Embassy Records, Woolworth’s label of low-priced covers. She also sang on many TV adverts. After some years singing in South Africa, Campbell returned to Scotland and was singing with Bill Fanning’s band until her retirement in 1995.