An Amazing Talent written by Barbara Fletcher
The last time David’s story was told for this website, his sister Mary was the narrator. Mary, my mother, is now 88 years old and it is my turn to tell the story of this remarkable man.
My memories begin when David was approaching the height of his fame as ‘Mr. Heart-Throb’ in the 1950s. He was working on Radio, in Theatres throughout the UK and then TV. In 1959 he had his own TV series called ‘Make Mine Music’ and had worked alongside top artists of the day in Musical Theatre and Variety Shows. Ginger Rogers, Sally Anne Howes and Jo Stafford are among the many talented performers who worked with David at this time. He sang at a Royal Variety Performance, met the Queen and was happily married with a growing family. For me he was ‘Uncle David’. Throughout all of this success he maintained close links with the family and was a loving and compassionate man. He had yet to face his greatest challenge.
David started life as Geoffrey Paddison on 11th October 1925. He took part of his Father’s name, David Hughes Paddison, when his professional life took off and he was working on the radio show ‘Welsh Rarebit’. My Grandfather was Welsh, the family having moved from Swansea to Birmingham to find work when he was a young boy. The Welsh culture underpinned family life and when David Hughes Paddison met my Grandmother, Susan Thompson, the strong Welsh traditions were part of their family life too.
David, my mother Mary and sister Glenell grew up in a home where music was part of life. David heard recordings of Caruso, took part in Church music and sampled a wide variety of songs with his Father. A love of music was deep-rooted in David.
The World outside this family unit was changing and David’s life took him from schoolboy to Railway Clerk and then to the RAF. All of this was before my birth, of course, but I have read the letters he sent to my mother during this time. He had maintained his musical experiences, singing in competitions, choirs and concerts. He was now burning with ambition to become a professional singer but still always speaking with love and concern for the family.
The singing lessons, musical experiences and David’s determination were rewarded in 1947 when he was demobbed and obtained a grant to study singing at Wigmore Hall. Training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art followed. He had made a recording of ‘Silent Worship’ and encouraged by the positive response to this and enthusiasm of those around him, David worked very hard to achieve his goal.
In 1949 David got a part in the musical ‘Belinda Fair’ at the Saville Theatre and for the next twelve years he worked continuously increasing his reputation as a talented singer. I remember being taken to the Theatre many times to see him perform. I became an avid autograph hunter! The Fan Club parties were wonderful. David valued his fans and colleagues highly. He made time for other people, indeed visitors to this site have said how David inspired and supported them. He had high moral expectations, was a perfectionist and a man whose friends remain loyal to this day.
David Hughes Pop Star to Opera Star
Introducing DAVID HUGHES: David Hughes was a pop idol in the 1950s who became a celebrated opera singer. David was born Geoffrey Paddison on October 11th 1925 in Birmingham and affectionately used his father’s name, David Hughes Paddison, as a stage name. After being demobbed from the RAF in 1947 David began a career in singing. Record contracts and television shows made him a household name by the end of the 1950's. His fans fondly called him Mr. Heart-Throb. He made a brave decision early in the 1960s to switch to singing in operas. The end of the 1960s established David Hughes in the opera world. Amongst his performances were Idomeneo at Glyndebourne, Don Jose in Carmen with the Welsh and English National Opera Companies and in Verdi’s Requiem in Genoa, Italy. In October 1972 David collapsed on stage while performing Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. He revived and went on to complete the performance but died in hospital the following day of a heart attack. Click on the musical notes to hear David sing “None Shall Sleep Tonight”.