Gary Barlow - Pop star, stalwart of Saturday night TV, party-planner by royal appointment
PUBLISHED: 10:14 20 May 2014
Pop star, stalwart of Saturday night TV, party-planner by royal appointment... Gary Barlow’s not doing badly for a lad from Frodsham who once sang Barry Manilow covers on the northern club circuit
Arise, Sir Gary. OK, that’s a little premature. But does anyone seriously doubt that Frodsham’s most famous son will one day ascend to the pantheon of pop knights, alongside Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John etc.What with the remarkable durability of Take That, a successful solo career (he’s on another UK tour right now) and a songwriting flair which has earned him six Ivor Novello awards, Gary has long been a top income-generator in one of the few industries at which UK PLC can still lead the world.
And Gary has used that clout to good effect. Like a Bob Geldof for the new millennium, he’s done big fund-raising concerts for the Prince’s Trust, press-ganged famous pals into supporting his Children In Need Rocks concerts, and herded a gaggle of celebs up Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 to raise millions for Comic Relief.
Gary took on the job of organising a star-studded Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in June 2012 and ended the year with an OBE for services to music and charity. When last year’s Blackpool Illuminations switch-on concert seemed doomed after Irish band The Script pulled out, Gary stepped in at the last minute to turn it into a Children In Need fund-raiser.
The case against making him Sir Gary? There isn’t one. He’s obliged to dash hopes as head judge on the X Factor, but in real life Gary betrays not a jot of megastar preciousness or self-important spite. To meet him in person is to encounter an affable and contented family man for whom success has swollen his bank balance but not his head.
Gary was born on January 20 1971, son of Colin and Marjorie, who had moved to Frodsham having married in Liverpool five years previously. Gary would later jokingly refer to the council estate where the family first lived as ‘The Bronx’. Colin, who died in 2009, was a warehouseman, then project manager at a fertiliser firm, and Marj later became a classroom assistant at Frodsham High School. Gary’s very earliest public performances would include doing magic tricks for members of his dad’s pigeon-fancying club.
Gary’s love of the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber began when he took the lead role in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Weaver Vale Primary School, Frodsham.
He was only 12 when he landed his first job playing in a club in Connah’s Quay, North Wales, and by 14, Gary was fibbing about his age to get bookings at venues such as the Halton Royal British Legion Club in Runcorn, performing a middle-of-the-road set of pop standards to punters often there for the bingo rather than the ‘turn’.
It doesn’t require a degree in sociology to conclude that a happy home life, hard-working parents and an apprenticeship in the entertainment world’s equivalent of the bear pit combined to make Gary what he is today.
Gary was introduced to Nigel Martin-Smith, a Manchester entrepeneur with a yen to form the first British boy band in the mould of the American New Kids On The Block. Gary’s songwriting nous was combined with Mark Owen’s doe-eyed pin-up potential, Howard Donald’s and Jason Orange’s dance ability and Robbie Williams’s jokerish charm to comprise Take That. The rest is pop history.
It’s not all been plain sailing for our Gary. Against all expectation, his post-Take That solo career in the late 1990s faltered while that of erstwhile bandmate Robbie flourished. A depressed Gary saw his weight balloon to 17 stones. But even then he kept writing successful songs for others, and found personal happiness in his marriage in 2000 to dancer Dawn Andrews, with whom he has three children. They lived at Delamere Manor, Cuddington, before moving to London.
Remarkably, the second coming of Take That, in 2006, has been more successful than the first, with tours breaking box office records and Forbes magazine putting the band at number five in its list of the world’s highest-paid musicians in 2012.
Gary’s recent solo career has been much more successful than that in the 1990s. X Factor has cemented him as a household name known to grannies and pre-teens alike. And when the Queen wants a party in her garden, she knows Gary’s the man to organise it. Give that man a knighthood!
1971: Gary Barlow born in Frodsham, son to Colin and Marjorie, younger brother to Ian.
1983: He plays his first proper gig at a club in Connah’s Quay.
1985: Gary enters a BBC competition to compose a Christmas song, and reaches the final.
1989: Gary meets Nigel Martin-Smith, who has big ideas to form a boy band.
1991: Take That’s first Top Ten hit with It Only Takes A Minute.
1993: Their first number one song with Pray, written by Gary.
1996: By now a foursome after Robbie Williams departure, the group disbands.
2000: Gary marries Dawn Andrews.
2005: Take That reunited, with Robbie rejoining the fold almost five years later.
2009: Gary leads an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief with such celebs as Cheryl Cole, Alesha Dixon, Denise Van Outen and Ronan Keating.
2011: Debut as a judge on X Factor.
2012: Gary organises the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace, and receives the OBE.
2013: Gary’s fourth solo album Since I Saw You Last is released