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Shaun Foster Conley

FORMER shipyard worker Shaun Conley has the kind of powerful voice people remember. Many workers at Austin and Pickersgill’s in the 1980s will remember him singing at the yard, where he worked as a plater. And his voice has left such an impression on the North East clubland that he has just been voted the best male vocalist in the region for the third time in succession. Shaun picked up his top award last Thursday at a special event in Gateshead. “To win the award three times in a row is quite an achievement,” he says. “I’m very proud.” Like hundreds of others, Shaun was made redundant when the axe fell on the Wear yards. He tried his hand at a few other things but eventually moved into singing professionally. “It started with karaoke and just spiralled from there,” says Shaun. “My dad, Peter, was the lead singer in a band called The Apaches in the early 1960s and a big club singer of the time, Billy Angus, was a good friend of our family. “My dad and Billy Angus put some money up so I could get some gear – an amp and speakers – and I started doing the clubs.” Shaun has performed at many clubs in the North East and regularly travels abroad to sing for holidaymakers in Spain. He prefers singing live with backing musicians and has made the popular ballads, from famous names such as Sinatra, Tom Jones and Al Martino, his speciality. One of the biggest influences in his life, says Shaun, was his mother Kathleen, who died in December, 1999, at the age of 51. “She was a big, charismatic, popular woman,” says Shaun. “We buried my mother on New Year’s Eve and I was singing at the Greenbank Social Club in Chester-le-Street that night. “I decided to go to the club that night and give it my best in memory of my mother. That’s what she would have wanted.” Two years ago Shaun produced a CD, Here In My Heart, which has sold more than 30,000 copies. Now he is planning something big for later in the year. “I can’t say too much about that at the moment,” he says.