After watching the Video above, why not listen to the SONY Award Winning Programme Chicks life - Frank Wappat Click Here
CHICK HENDERSON - "the first British popular Singer to sell a million copies of a record"
Having founded the Chick Henderson Appreciation Society I was suprised at the interest in this singer and decided to reasearch his life and death in order to write a book on the first British popular Singer to sell a million copies of a record - Begin the Beguine. Chick Henderson (real name Henderson Rowntree) was born in Hartlepool.
His story is interesting, he first started singing in St Hilda's Church Choir in Hartlepool before approaching a local bandleader for the opportunity to sing with his band. A star was born. Known to his friend as Hendy (Henderson) no-one really knows when or how he became known as Chick Henderson although many theories have been put forward,, From there, it was a fairytale start for Chick until eventually he found fame with the Joe Loss Band, where he found himself singing alongside luminaries such as Dame Vera Lynn. It was whilst singing with Joe Loss that Chick recorded the million seller Begin the Beguine - although Chick was only refferd to as "Vocal Refrain by Chick Henderson",. Joe Loss took the credit on the label and Chick's wife Pamela told me that this upset Chick, and eventually he fell out with Joe over it.
With the country at war, Chick joined the Royal Navy, and was killed at only 31.
It was near the end of the War and for the firat time, his wife Pamela was beginning to relax , and not worry too much, then she received the dreadful news. There were no particular suspicions surrounding his death, and his wife Pamela told me the official version. This totally contradicted the story I had been told by Joe Loss, and I began to feel uneasy. But Pamela showed me the Padre's letter afterall "a Padre shouldn't lie" in which he stated that following the Air Raid Warning he and Chick made their way to the Air Raid Shelter close to the Royal Pier Hotel , Southsea which was requisitioned by the Navy for its personnel. His version continues, British Ack Ack guns were firing at a German V2 Bomber, and Chick stumbled and fell. They carroed him into the back of the hotel which house 1,000 British Naval Officers. Chick had been hit by a piece of shrapnel rfrom a British Ack Ack gun!!!. He died before help could reach him. I sensed she shared my unease, and confiede in me that she wanted to believe the official version, but too many questions remained unanswered and her attempts to get any information about her husbands death went unheeded by The Royal Navy.
Many theories were given to Pamela, one that he'd been out posting a letter to her (indeed she did receive one a few days later) and it was on his return in the alleyway that he was hit. I promised Pamela that I would continue her quest for any information about her husbands untimely death.
I traced and spoke to the Padre who reiterated his version of events, maintaining he was actually with Chick when he was killed. So despite the niggling uncertainties, I completed the book the "Chick Henderson Story" back in 1990. and offered it to a Hartlepool Printer who published and printed the book.
But my doubts about his death were stilll there, and I continued to probe every aspect of the official version trawling through official records of the time. It seemed, like Chicks name change, his death was shrouded in mystery, and I never forgot my promise to his widow that I would investigate his death further. sadly, she died before I completed my investigation which revealed astonishing facts:
- There was no Air raid Warning that night
- No British Guns were Fired
- The cause of his death was a bullet
- Chick was not taken to the main hospital, and there was a delay of an hour and a half, before his body was taken to the mortuary (even then, he was not taken to the main mortuary)
Why the cover up, how did he die?
I offered the truth to the Hartlepool Printer who refused to reprint the book with the truthful ending. To this day despite my Solicitor contacting him to prevent further sales, i still see the book around. Sadly, he never honoured our gentlemans' agreement and I was never paid a penny, and the firm who made the free cassette to accompany the book contacted me to say that likewise, they had not been paid by the publisher.
I broadcast the real story with the actual interviews from people who knew the truth. This amazing story which included Chick's widow telling her part won me a SONY Award, in the millenium year 2000 one of Radio's highest accoldades for my investigative journalism.
The story is available on CD now.