Glenn Irving emigrated from the UK to become a proud resident of Rhodesia on the 8th November 1972 following two earlier successful cabaret tours to the country, one in 1969 when he played Bretts Restaurant in Salisbury with the Vance Clayton Trio and Kerry James, and again in 1971 when he revisited Bretts before continuing to venues in Port Elizabeth and Durban. It was while playing Durban he was asked to extend his tour by coming back up to Rhodesia to top a five act bill at the La Boheme nightclub in Bulawayo, with a stop off on the way to do two nights at the Royal Hotel in Ladysmith.
Glen Irving was an experienced professional cabaret entertainer with six years in the business before his emigration to Rhodesia. Working throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland he was equally comfortable working a distant stage as he was working close on a cabaret floor. Throughout those six years he appeared with and supported many top British show business names and was one of two acts selected to appear at a formal dinner where the guest of honour was none other than Harold Wilson. (Not one of Glenn’s favourite people he adds, but the money was good!).
R.T.V. viewers first heard and saw Glenn when he made a guest appearance with a song on the Mini Christmas Cheer Show in December 1972. His relaxed style and easy-on-the ear baritone voice, with shades of Val Doonican and Bing Crosby, immediately had viewers writing to Pocket’s Hill wanting to know who this singer was and when would he be on television again.
Between that Christmas and the New Year, Lyn Mehmel approached him to appear with the Marden Singers in a half hour show she was producing called “Light and Bright” and again letters came pouring into R.T.V. Then, in 1973, he had one of his most memorable nights when he did cabaret at the Doma Sports Club, Mangula, with Tony Logan on keyboards. This show was for the farming community and to aid the Police Reserve Fund. The evening very nearly had to be cancelled due to a ‘contact’ the previous night, but those farmers weren’t going to be done out of their long awaited entertainment so the club was surrounded with security forces and the buffet dance and cabaret went ahead! “What a fabulous night, what an unforgettable audience, what wonderful people”, Glenn recalls.
Appearances on the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer and Troop Shows followed, in which he not only sang, but acted in comedy sketches with Paul Tingay. He had his own Christmas show called ‘A Song for the Season’, and provided the vocals for the ‘Founders’ and ‘Glen’s Care’ television and
radio commercials. He hosted a weekly radio programme for Kaplans Paint and Glass, sang Neil Jardine’s haunting song, ‘I Come From Lalapanzi’ for R.T.V’s Rhodesian history production called ’84 Years On’ which was produced by Glenn’s great fishing friend Michael Hart-Jones. In addition, he made many guest appearances on numerous R.T.V. productions.
Then in 1974, R.T.V. built a one hour show around him called ‘Welcome to My World’ which was filmed entirely on location at Mermaids’ Pool with a guest appearance from Jo-Ann Pezarro from South Africa. Jo-Ann was working at the Le Matelot in Salisbury at the time and Glenn had seen her show and was so impressed with her voice he invited her to join him on the show. ‘Welcome to My World’ was directed by Martin Norris and produced by Brian Ault and it received great press reviews stating this was the best music show R.T.V. had ever produced. At that time Glenn was working as a graphic artist with R.T.V. and providing cartoons for Jack Ogston’s fishing column in the Herald newspaper.
A cabaret trip to South Africa saw him record a single on the Nitty Gritty label for David Gresham, ‘My Mother’s Hands’ and ‘Over The Hills’.
R.T.V’s Australian producer/director Rick Larkins approached Glenn to play the part of a Mafia type with violin case for a Hertz Rent-A-Car television commercial with the then Miss Rhodesia, Trudy Cliffe. Apparently when the commercial was aired, kids were heard copying the voice, saying “Scusa me, is this-a where I renta da car”…..
1975 saw him on a four month tour of South Africa, South West Africa and Rhodesia with Chris Joubert’s ‘Meet the Stars Show’ with Gert Potgieter, Gwynneth Ashley Robin, Shelena, Johnny Noble, Len Cooper of the ‘Dealians’, Jody Wayne, Sammy Brown and Sandy Ann-Lee who, later in the UK, changed her name to Maggie Moon and became well known on British television. The show was compered throughout by Canadian entertainer Gerry Leader, and the music was from ‘The Sounds of Ohio’ band.
Sadly, following that tour, due to family problems back in the UK Glenn had to leave this beautiful land with its short history and its peoples he had come so much to love. He had committed the rest of his life to Rhodesia and he was having to leave to start over in England. He was devastated.
He made three more cabaret trips back between then and 1981 and it was on one of those visits he contacted Martin Norris and Steve Roskilly at Shed studios in Salisbury with some words he had been inspired to write through his admiration for Rhodesians and their stand, calling it ‘The Cecil Rhodes Man’. Martin liked the words and Glenn recorded a single which was released on the Shed label through Teal Records with a song called ‘Tribute’ on the B side.
Today, Glenn Irving is a successful wildlife artist and cartoonist living in England. He specializes in African elephant and lion studies, working in oil, pastel and ink. He has appeared on British television with the stars of the film ‘Born Free’, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers who founded ‘Zoo Check’, the organisation aimed at improving conditions for wild animals kept caged in zoos worldwide. He travelled to the Tsavo National Park on a painting safari with a television film crew and was invited to exhibit at the Fourth World Wilderness Conference in Denver, Colorado in 1987. He tries to visit Kenya every year now, not only to gather photographic reference for his painting, but also to simply be back in Africa.
Glenn has not been back to Zimbabwe since 1981 but still regards himself as being very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience the clean way of life and the Rhodesian spirit. He, like so many today, still lives with Rhodesian memories that will just not fade and his one regret today is that he no longer has any contacts there to correspond and share memories with.
- MY MOTHER’S HANDS
- OVER THE HILLS on the Nitty Gritty label, South Africa
- THE CECIL RHODES MAN TRIBUTE on the Shed Label through Teal Records, Zimbabwe