John Wheeler lives in UK info@shirleyandjohnny.co.uk   John has just launched his web site www.shirleyandjohnny.co.uk

RHMS Amerikanis May 1970 to June 1971

 

 

 A bit of background��..

Shirley and I had some success during the years 1964 through to the time we boarded the beloved �A� in May 1970. A number of singles were released by EMI on the Parlophone label + considerable TV and radio coverage, but a hit was not to be. We had just finished an album for Philips records when we signed the contract with Chandris and as work in the northern clubs was becoming tedious we decided a year afloat would be good for us. Shirley had married Australian Banjo player Mel James in Manchester during 1969 so the agreement was that Mel would not only act as our MD but do a number of solo spots too. After a few rehearsals with the rest of the cruise staff we were all flown out to Piraeus to set off on the gig of a lifetime (or so we thought). Looking back it was a fantastic experience but at the time there was a lot of grief too! I�m sure anyone who has worked on the ships will agree it wasn�t all laughs. However, one can�t help but remember the great, boozy nights and sun filled days spent on the old tub. More sex than even a greedy man could wish for! No wonder I only weighed in at eight and a half stone when we returned to Blighty! We met so many lovely people too, not just the fabulous members of the cruise staff & crew but passengers also. I�m still in touch with a couple of our gang and have �met� a couple more since logging on to the �A� web site a few months ago. I was endeavoring to find Gene Crowley who was the lounge entertainer on board. Then out of the blue I received an e-mail from his grandson who had also found the site and seen my letter concerning Gene. Sadly Gene died in 1989 but one can�t feel too sad, that man lived life to the full. As I look back now I have very fond memories of all those beautiful islands we visited, living on a shoe string but we still had SO many laughs and made many, many friends and got paid for doing it! Oh, and we made some music too! 

I feel I must mention my lovely girlfriend on board, Debbie Roberts. We kept each other sane when the pangs of home sickness and living in such 'confinement' for so long kicked in. As an aside, I was cruising about three years ago on a Celebrity Cruises ship, Galaxy, guess who was the master of the vessel. Yep Korres, I couldn�t believe the coincidence. I asked him if he remembered the �A� when we were on board, he did, then smiled!! 

 

 Above-Back, - Derek Jason - Me - Jan Soprovic (hostess) - Angela - Mary - Shirley & Mel.  Front - Paul Freeman (ass. cruise director) - Carol - Debbie - Brian - Marianne & Pat.

A formal night in the restaurant. Back - Mary Copeland - Paula ? - Derek Jason -Me- Mel - Shirley - Angela (ooh) and some French guy!  At the table - Pat Doolan - Carol Okey - Debbie Roberts - Brian Harrison - Marianne Courtney? - Jennie Jones at the front.

One of those boozy nights that were SO common! Me & Debbie on top bunk, Jennie Jones looking a little worse for wear! At back member of crew talking to Angela (?) a dancer. Pat Doolan (ballroom dancer) grinning at camera. Next to her  Marianne (?) lead dancer. Next to her is a guy I can't remember at all then  Shirley trying to devour the bed. Derek Jason (singer/comedian) is the half naked bloke behind her. Above, BACK R. - Paul Freeman (ass cruise director) Me (John Wheeler of
 Shirley & Johnny), Shirley James (S&J), Mel James (Shirley's husband + S&J
 musical director), Malcolm Baldwin (cruise director- deceased), Jan
 Soprovich (hostess). Gene Crowley (pianist/singer/comedian - worked in the
 bar area - deceased 1989), Pat Doolan & Brian Harrison (ballroom dancers -
 Brian later became ass. cruise director), Derek Jason (singer/ comic later
 joined the Rockin' Berries), Jo Michat (band singer- now in New Zealand).

 FRONT ROW- Angela ? - Jennie Jones - Debbie Roberts - Paula ? - Marianne ?
 - Mary Copeland - Carol Okey.

I have lived in High Wycombe for the last 27 years.  I'm in touch with Shirley & Mel who live in Sydney - Gene Crowley's
 grandson mailed me recently - Pat Doolan I saw a few years ago but not now
 in touch - Jennie Jones (now Fraser) lives in Poole and we speak
 occasionally. Debbie lives in North Devon we send cards occasionally. Mary
 & Carol have mailed me recently.

 I would love to hear from anyone from the 'A' during mid 70/71. 


One could go on reminiscing about the good times on the ship but for me it�s time to get ready for tonight's gig in Harefield!!  (That's me on the left on my 60th B'day). Still going strong at 60 can�t be bad, it must be a legacy from those days on the �A� eh?  

Home