'Sing Little Birdie' singer Teddy Johnson, who represented the United Kingdom in 1959, passed away earlier this week. He and his wife Pearl Carr came second back in 1959 with their song.
We had the opportunity to interview Teddy in September last year. We caught up with him to learn more about the early days of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Teddy Johnson began performing at an early age and formed his own band when he was 15 years old, becoming a professional at the age of 18. Initially starting out as an entertainer on cruise ships, he later took to theatre stages to perform as a solo act. Teddy also tried his hand at stand up comedy before focusing on music. "I performed all over the country with a variety show and became known as a recording artist, drummer and singer," he said to us back in September 2017.
Teddy met Pearl Carr in 1950, when they both were successful singers already. The BBC suggested they performed a duet together for a programme called Black Magic. "I didn't want to do it, I was a solo singer, I didn't do duets," he said laughing. Pearl joined Teddy when he went on tour during the summer and soon after the pair began dating and got married in 1955.
Teddy Johnson at the Eurovision Song Contest
Pearl and Teddy's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest happened almost by chance. "I had never heard of Eurovision to be honest. When our agent phoned and asked if we would like to do it, I asked what it was!" The pair agreed to meet with the BBC and enter the national selection. "We went to the offices at Shepherd's Bush in London where we selected the songs. In hindsight I was suprised they allowed a duo as there were no groups. There was one song that nobody wanted, it was called Sing Little Birdie and as soon as it played, Pearl and I looked at each other and agreed to do it. The rest is history!"
Pearl and Teddy were chosen to represent the UK and flew off to Cannes for the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest with an open mind. "We didn't go with any expectancy at all really, we just wanted to do a good job".
"We didn't stay to listen to the votes actually, we sat smoking, which is what people did in those days. We were happy to be told the results rather than hear them coming in. At one point the French floor manager came running up to us shouting "Vous gagnez." My French was good enough to know that he was telling us we were winning at that point. We finished second in the end after the Italian jury gave the Dutch their votes but nothing to us. I still love singing the song, it has been a very good friend to us over the years."
Life after Eurovision
Pearl and Teddy continued as a double act on the variety circuit until the 1980s. In 1987 they performed in the musical Follies in London's West End before retiring in 1990. In 2015 the pair celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and lived together in London.
On behalf of the Eurovision Family we would like to send our condolences to Teddy Johnson's loved ones.