North Songwriter in Tune with Stars; Jesmond-Born Showbiz Legend

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), March 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

North Songwriter in Tune with Stars; Jesmond-Born Showbiz Legend


WHEN stars such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Otis Redding, Mel Torm, Rod Stewart and Frankie Laine - to name but a few - are covering your songs, you know you're getting it right.

But not many people would guess that the songwriter we're talking about came from Jesmond, in Newcastle, and has such titles as Goodnight Sweetheart, Try a Little Tenderness and Show Me the Way to Go Home to his name.

Jimmy Campbell was born at the beginning of the last century, his father a builder. As a youngster his family moved from Jesmond to Whitley Bay.

The story goes that around 1925 Jimmy was travelling to London by train with his friend, Reg Connelly. The two lads had not had much luck and Jim said: "Reg, I'm fed up."

Reg replied: "Jimmy, so am I. Show me the way to go home ..."

"Sounds like a song," commented Jimmy. Within 10 minutes they had adapted the phrase to the tune of an old Canadian lumbercamp song.

They knew instantly they had winner and were so confident that they published the song themselves.

Success was instant - in six months they had made pounds 20,000 and, in a few months more it was pounds 50,000.

Jimmy and Reg then wrote The More We Are Together with was picked by the Frothblowers, a charity organisation, which used it as their anthem and so the sheet music was bought by their thousands of members.

Then came There'll Only be the Two of Us before they followed that up with the massive Goodnight Sweetheart and the brilliant Try a Little Tenderness.

Other numbers included Down Sunnyside Lane, Twilight on Missouri and Echo in the Valley, sung by Bing Crosby in the film Going Hollywood, in 1933.

Things were going great for Jimmy and he was soon to meet and fall in love with Britain's most successful actress of the time, the great screen beauty Betty Balfour. They married in 1931 and Jimmy and Betty often travelled back to his native Tyneside on visits.

But Jimmy grew tired of writing songs and decided, instead, to set up a company to sell the rights of British songs worldwide.

His marriage to Betty floundered and they were divorced in 1941. Jimmy turned to drink and Betty is said to have attempted suicide.

On September 10, 1953, he was front page news in the Daily Mirror, under the banner headline: He heard the echo of a song ...

The story told how, like so many in showbusiness, he treated money casually and in 1940 he went bankrupt, he took to drink and his world began to totter.

He ended up going into a home for alcoholics, but when he came out he was penniless.

So he ended up in court, in Surrey, under his full name, James Alexander Balfour Campbell Tyrie, accused of obtaining credit by fraud. …

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