The best Band You Never Heard – The Singing Postman

I began to thinking the other day about someone who was quite big in 1966, infact he outsold the Beatles and the Stones, well, for one week anyway.

That man was the singing postman AKA Alan Smethurst. He really was a postman. He lived in and loved Norfolk, its people, its dialect and its ‘not quite of this world’ quality.

He was born in 1927 and moved with his mother to Norfolk when he was a young lad. Later when she moved away he could not bring himself to leave. After trying several jobs he became a postman. On his round he hummed his hums, sang his songs and was happy (as far as we know). In 1959 he sent a tape of his songs to a local BBC radio station and then began performing on a Wednesday morning show hosted by Ralph Tuck.

His songs were written and sung in a broad Norfolk accent using dialect that was disappearing even then. He celebrated a time that was also disappearing as the all the country became bland and the same. As they were written in dialect many people (including me at the time) wrote them off as novelty songs of no value. Like many others I missed their true worth.

Several years later he recorded some songs on a small (very small) local record label and there began to be interest in his work outside of Norfolk. Eventually he was signed by Parlaphone (who also had The Beatles on their books). Fame beckoned as ‘Hev Yew Got a Loight Boy’ became a hit. The future was bright (perhaps even bright enough to wear shades – a reference to another one hit wonder, get it?).

However, Alan hated performing live, a chronic case of stage fright stopped him performing in the pop tours that were so popular, and well paid. He could play and sing in front of 20 people, but 200, 2,000? No way.

Gradually, not that gradually actually, he fell from view. A drink habit began to grow, he had tried to use alcohol to help with stage fright but thatb had not worked. Without gigs that needed dutch courage all he had left was the dutch courage. Various run ins with the law followed. I seem to remember reading about an incident that had Alan attacking his stepfather with a cooking pot, perhaps a frying pan. In any event the decline was well advanmced.

Eventually, he moved into the Salvation Army hostel in Grimsby. He stayed there foe 20 years dieing in December 2000 aged 73.

The world moves on. He is hardly remembered now, a part of the past, as is the Norfolk dialect he loved and the long gone old ways of a very distinctive English county.

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