Swinging with the Beatles

Piano man: Jazz and swing singer Joe Martin began playing piano at the age of just six
Piano man: Jazz and swing singer Joe Martin began playing piano at the age of just six
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Teenager Joe Martin is the son of rubber faced comedy star Phil Cool and was chosen, aged just 11, by starmaker Simon Cowell to star in pop classical crossover band Angelis.

So it’s no surprise that, even at the tender age of 18, the fast rising young jazz and swing singer seems marked for great things.

He has just released his debut album with his band, The Joe Martin Trio, a remake of Beatles classics called Swinging With The Beatles.

And he showcases the record at Chorley Little Theatre next Sunday, his first headline show at a venue where he joined his comedian and impressionist father onstage to perform as a schoolboy.

Joe, who also plays in local duo The Mirrortones, credits his parents with inspiring his love of the Fab Four from his earliest years. From the family home in the Forest of Bowland, overlooking snow covered Parlick Fell, he says: “The Beatles are my favourite band by far.

“Since I was about four or five. I was brought up on the Beatles, Elvis and the Beach Boys. That’s what my parents liked so they brought me up on that.”

Joe was born after his father’s TV heyday, when he starred in his own hit shows like Cool It, and says his childhood wasn’t particularly showbiz.

The only star he remembers in their home was comedian and now Golden Balls presenter Jasper Carrot, a great friend of his father who often toured with him.

Joe recalls: “He got me into golf a bit. I had some plastic golf clubs, this was when I was really young. And he was just showing me how to go about it. Shortly after, I got myself a set of golf clubs and started playing.”

But if Jasper thought he’d created a future golf star, he was disappointed. Joe laughs: “I was no good. It’s one of those things you’ve got to spend years on to get half decent.”

Music however he took to at an extraordinarily young age. He remembers: “The first thing I ever played was a song called The Little Tin Soldier. I was about three. I remember I was strumming a toy guitar and singing it.”

His talent was such that his parents sent him for music lessons aged four. But he says: “I remember my teacher was a bit wary of taking me on when I was so young because she didn’t think I’d grasp it at that age. I remember at the first lesson, I had some Beanie toys and I had to march to the beat of the music she was playing on the piano.

“But I think she saw I had potential and she took me on. I took up piano a year later when I was six and she wrote the letters on the keys of the piano. So she gradually eased me into it. Playing piano has definitely stood me in good stead for everything I’ve done.”

At Kirkham Grammar School, he discovered a love of classical singing and also starred as Joseph in a production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat.

He was aged only six when he performed in public for the first time, at Lytham Festival. He says: “I sang a song called Lavendar’s Blue. I don’t know if it was unaccompanied or not but I remember standing up and singing it,

“I must have been about six. After that, I think I did the festival every year. That’s how I found out about Angelis from that festival.”

Aged 14, he had just won the festival’s top honour, The Rosebowl Cup, when a strange woman approached and told him of a national competition to find an “Aled Jones type of singer” that she thought he might go for.

Joe says: “I said, I might give it a shot and see what happens,” and it transpired to be Angelis.”

He was down to the last few before he met Cowell. He says: “It was at the final selecting stage. There were about 10 of us and they had to whittle it down to six. I remember him walking in and he said, ‘Can we have them all singing for us?” So we all sang individually and then he said, “I want that one, that one, that one and that one!”

“He was a fairly nice chap actually. He seemed alright. But I dunno, I probably didn’t speak to him enough on an individual basis to really form an idea. But he seemed nice - wasn’t as ruthless as he is on TV. It’s all for the cameras, I think.

“I was thrilled but I guess I didn’t understand fully how big a scale it was going to be, I didn’t really think anything of it. For me, it was just go on, sing - that was it.

“But I thought it was a great opportunity. Apparently they auditioned people for about four years, up and down the country. they were about to give up actually, I think, because they couldn’t find the right people.”

Sadly the Angelis debut album sold only 390,000, missing Cowell’s projection of half a million sales - and the dream was over.

But Joe, who admits he never watches X Factor, says he’s happier now doing his own thing.

It was through his father that he first met Pete Gill, the leader of the Joe Martin Trio. Pete, a talented musician based in Cheltenham, was also a promoter and had fixed up gigs for the comic.

But he never realised there was talent elsewhere in the family until he came along to one of Joe’s gigs.

Joe recalls: “Pete saw me sing, just at a gig and he said, “I’d like us to see if we can do something.” He knew my dad so he had met me that way but I don’t think he knew I was a performer really until he saw me sing. “And after that, I met the rest of the band and it all just sort of worked, it just sort of clicked.”

It was Joe’s suggestion to apply swing beats to his favourite band but Pete immediately saw the possibilities of the idea. Joe says: “We sat down and started playing through, just rattling off Beatles songs that we knew and liked.

“We found the earlier ones worked better. You are not going to get one of the psychedelic songs and turn it to swing because that would be weird - like I Am The Walrus or something!

“I remember Pete saying, ‘We need to get this idea recorded because it’s a good one.’ People like the familiarity of Beatles songs because everyone knows them back to front but this new twist adds another dimension.”

They recorded the album live at shows last year and Joe loves the raw feel that results. He says: “It’s got the feel that you’re actually there which is a nice touch. I didn’t want it to be really overproduced, I wanted it to be raw - how it actually is. I think we’ve captured that quite well.”

The Joe Martin Trio play Chorley Little Theatre on Saturday January 27. Tickets are £10 at Malcolm’s Musicland on 01257 264362.