||Tessie O'Shea was a
great star of the variety stage; her trademarks
being an exuberant personality, a 'larger than
life' figure and a ukulele-banjo technique to
match the brashness of her character.
her signature tune was the comical Two
Ton Tessie From Tennessee, she
was in reality Welsh: born in Cardiff in 1914.
began singing as a young girl and joined a
concert party around the age of eight, where she
learnt the arts of stage craft and comedy. She
also began to play the mandolin, and soon
progressed to the uke. After making her stage
debut at the Hippodrome Bristol, Tessie slowly
worked her way up the showbiz ladder, and a lucky
break came when she was called in at the last
minute to replace an artiste who had fallen ill
at Blackpool's North Pier Theatre. In the
thirties, she began to make a name for herself.
was a great success in summer seasons and touring
variety, and progressed into records and
broadcasting. In the war years she worked for
ENSA, and in 1944 she shared top billing at the
London Palladium with the great Max Miller. Her
style on the ukulele-banjo was powerful,
confident, and entertaining, and while she lacked
the technical prowess of George Formby or Billy 'Uke'
Scott, she lacked nothing in spirit and vigour.
At the end of a song she would often throw her
uke from one hand to the other with bravado - a
stunt few musicians would risk!
the war Tessie toured with the famous Billy
Cotton and his Band, and she diversified as an
actress, appearing in films and plays.
the sixties Tessie headed for the USA, starring
in Noel Coward's The Girl
Who Came To Supper, and
more films, musicals and TV work followed.
made America her home, and died in Florida in