THIS was my first encounter with anyone recognised as widely famous.
I was brought up in the Sussex coastal towns of Shoreham by Sea and Hove. They were years of endless summers and wide-eyed innocence.
At the time of meeting the as-yet undiscovered talent of Leo Sayer I was in sixth form in nearby Lancing and occasionally (and illegally) attended music nights at the Swiss Cottage public house in Shoreham. Often on stage for a few songs was the talented Mr Sayer – long curly hair above a T shirt and blue denim jeans and except for his unique voice unrecognisable from the Leo everyone later came to know.
The following summer I worked the vacation before going up to university at our local general infirmary: Southlands Hospital. It was hard graft but an enjoyable student job, full of lasting memories.
No memory is sharper than in the week I started, when walking past me in a corridor outside Ward E and pushing a patient in a wheelchair was Mr Sayer!
On returning to the ward, and full of curiosity, I immediately asked after him. After all, what was a pub singer doing working in my local hospital?
“Oh that will be Gerry,” the staff nurse Cherry volunteered with a dismissive shrug.
“He sings a bit and I hear he is quite good,” she added.
“I know,” I replied, “I’ve heard him!”
Back home, my mum, who was a nurse at the same hospital, confirmed that Gerry had worked alongside her as a porter for quite some time.
A few months later Leo (real name Gerard) Sayer premiered two of his songs on my favourite TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test and soon after enjoyed a huge chart hit with the single The Show Must Go On.
I and many other teenagers from our local town bought his first album Silverbird. The rest as they say is history… but I can genuinely say I knew someone BEFORE they were famous!