It comes as no surprise to learn that on a recent radio show Bradley Walsh chose a Tony Bennett song as his ‘inheritance track’ – the song he’d most like to bestow to future generations.
Bradders is a huge fan of the man Frank Sinatra called ‘the best singer in the business’ and one of his dreams definitely came true the night, a few years back, when he went backstage at Mr Bennett’s request, after one of the singer’s sell-out concerts. “It was absolutely thrilling and I’ll never forget it,” Bradley recalls. “It came about when I was lucky enough to meet Tony Bennett at the BBC. I told him about how I’d become a huge fan of his.
“It started years ago when I was still travelling the country doing stand-up comedy. I went round to see my auntie Iris, who lived up the road from us in Watford, before setting out for a gig in Sussex. She asked me what I listened to in the car and I replied, ‘Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’.
"She suggested I give her favourite singer, Tony Bennett, a listen and she gave me a cassette of his. On the drive down, I listened to it three times and when I reached my destination, I kept driving round the block because it hadn’t finished. I became a huge fan – he’s such an effortless singer.
“Fast-forward 20 years and I find myself sitting next to Tony Bennett at the BBC. He was very interested in my story and mentioned he was doing a concert that night. ‘I know,’ I replied. ‘I’ve got tickets’. He then invited me to come backstage after the concert and bring the family. Sadly, Auntie Iris had passed away by this stage but the rest of us went backstage and spent some time with him. It was a real ‘pinch me’ moment.”
Bradley has proved himself to be something of a great singer. In 2016 his album, Chasing Dreams, was the only debut recording to sell more than 100,000 copies, beating the likes of One Direction’s Zayn Malik. “I just laughed when I found out,” he says, “I thought it was hysterical. I am probably the oldest new artist Sony has ever signed.
“I was absolutely thrilled and a little overwhelmed by the response to the first album. It was so much fun to work on. I wanted to make something that I could be proud of.”
The album, which made him the most successful debut singing artist of 2016, is made up of mostly classic American Songbook titles such as That’s Life and Mr Bojangles – the kind of music Bradley likes listening to. “I think the key is that the arrangements and the tunes are timeless. Singing with guys and girls in the 54-piece orchestra was extraordinary and I was lucky enough to be able to choose songs that meant something to me.
“For instance, Anapola is a beautiful song, which is my mum’s favourite tune. My grandfather used to sing it to her when she was a child. I like songs you can hum along to.”
At the end of July, Bradley goes back into the studio to record the follow-up to Chasing Dreams.
“This time, the songs will have been chosen by the public,” he says. “People will want to listen to it if they like the songs on it, so we had a website where they could register their favourites and the most popular tunes will be on it. In a way, it’s like the public are part of the album, which is brilliant.”
“Success is about being in the right place at the right time. No matter what happens, you don’t know what’s around the corner, so you have to take the bull by the horns and not be frightened to do anything. We’re just ordinary people with nothing to lose – so spread your wings and have a go.”
Well said Bradley, and we can’t wait to hear that second album.
- Interview and words by Alison James
- The Chase is on weekdays at 5pm, ITV