Is This the Way to Amarillo singer Tony Christie reckons he will be breaking new ground when he plays this year’s Priory Park Festival, part of the 2017 Festival of Chichester.
“I have never worked in that part of the world before,” he says. “I have done lots in the north and the Midlands, but there are certain areas I have never done because I have tended to do the cabaret clubs. That’s where I have been most of my career.” Tony’s breakthrough came in 1971: “But I started recording in the 60s. I did my first record in 1966. I was a singer in a band at the time, and I got this call out of the blue from an American producer. “He rang me and said he had heard about me. I said ‘How?’ He just said he had heard that I was a good singer and he said he had a song written by a girl called Life’s Too Good To Waste, and we should do it. He sent me a demo. I quite liked it apart from the middle eight which I didn’t like at all, so I rewrote it, and we recorded it. It was released, but I don’t think anyone knew! “We recorded it, and he said he didn’t think the sound was full enough so he sent me out while he got a couple of session musicians. “I went out for a coffee and came back and there were two geezers there, one on keyboards and one on guitar. I said ‘Who’s that?’ He said ‘The organist is Billy Preston!’ and he said the guitarist was an up-and-coming player who was very promising. It was Jimmy Page!” But that wasn’t enough to change Tony’s fortunes: “I was a club act. I had no representation.” However, he got his break in 1971 with his first hit single. “I was put in contact with a couple of songwriters Mitch Murray and Peter Callander. They had had hits for lots of people, and they gave me a song called Las Vegas. “They had sent it to Tom Jones, but his manager had turned it down! But it changed things for me. They said ‘Get rid of the band. You are a solo singer.’ And things took off for me. It became a worldwide hit. “When I started singing, my hero was always Sinatra. I always thought I would be a big-band singer. I never pictured myself as a pop star. It was not something that I had ever craved.” So is that how he managed to take it in his stride? “I am very easy-going. I always have been. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t! “I have just always kept working. What I have got is innate in me. It is what I have been given. Singing is just something I can do and have always done. “I don’t know whether it is my Irish background. My grandparents were from Ireland and loved music. I was surrounded by people that loved music. “My dad used to play the piano, and if my Irish grandparents came over to visit, my dad would stand me on the stool and play the piano and I would sing. “And they would put sixpence in my hand! I thought ‘That’s a good thing!’, and I just carried on from there.” Also on the bill at this year’s Priory Park Festival, which made its debut last year, will be Georgie Fame, S Club, Dodgy, the Deborah Bonham Band with guest vocalist Chris Farlowe, The Bog Rolling Stones, and Jim Cregan – Rod Stewart’s right-hand man – and his band, all part of an eclectic three-day weekend of music, comedy and food and drink on July 7, 8 and 9 in Priory Park. Friday will be jazz and blues; Saturday will be rock; and Sunday will put the emphasis on family fun. Tickets are on www.prioryparkfestival.co.uk. www.facebook.com/PrioryParkFestival; www.twitter.com/@prioryfestival. The Priory Park Festival is part of the Festival of Chichester. Tickets for the festival are available from the Novium in person or at www.thenovium.org/boxoffice or call 01243 816525 or 775888. Don't miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live. Here are four ways you can be sure you'll be amongst the first to know what's going on. 1) Make our website your homepage 2) Like our Facebook page 3) Follow us on Twitter 4) Register with us by clicking on 'sign in' (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here. And do share with your family and friends - so they don't miss out! Always the first with your local news. Be part of it.