And here is your host…Miss Cillllllllaaaaaa Blaaaaaack! For many of you, that small sentence alone will have conjured up memories of what was a TV institution from 1985 to 2003: Blind Date. This Saturday-night dating show had one star (apart from our Graham) and that was the ever leggy, bubbly redhead, Cilla Black OBE.
As the front of this hit family show, Cilla secured her status as a national treasure for generations to come - proving to the masses that she was much more than the singing voice she first found fame with.
Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White (the name change we'll come to later) on 27th May 1943, Cilla Black was and still is a through and through Liverpudlian. From an early age, she developed the showbiz bug, and her first job was as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, which was where The Beatles hung out. In between taking coats, Cilla got the chance to perform on the stage and impressed the audience and showbiz stars there, to the point that she became a guest singer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. But hardworking Cilla kept her feet on the ground, working extra shifts now at a coffee shop, where she would eventually meet her now-late husband, her beloved Bobby.
The name change? Like many stars, this happened by accident. Early on she was mistakenly called Cilla Black in an edition of local music mag, Mersey Beat. She liked it so much, the rest they say is history.
Having befriended the Beatles, John Lennon introduced Cilla to Brian Epstein. He then had her signed by George Martin and Parlaphone Records in 1963, who produced her first ever single 'Love Of The Loved'. Although it had been written by music legends Lennon and Paul McCartney, the single only got to number 35 in the charts. But all was not lost, as Cilla's second single - a cover of Burt Bacharach-Hal David's 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' and had originally been written for Dionne Warwick - shot straight to the top spot! And she was on a winning streak, as her next single, 'You're My World' also went straight to No.1.
On the release of her cover of the Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Loving Feelin', Cilla was about to make history. She reached number 2 with it, only stopped by the Righteous Brothers themselves at the top spot!
Cilla continued to work closely with the Beatles during these early years, and covered a number of their hits to much acclaim from her fans and the Beatles themselves (compliment indeed).
By 1966, Cilla had built up a huge following and was appearing on all the popular talk shows of the time, including Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Not Only… But Also. Attempts at carving a screenside career for herself did not quite take off though. Parts in Ferry Cross the Mersey and Work Is A Four Letter Word were panned, while she narrowly missed out on the part of Michael Caine's girlfriend in the classic movie, The Italian Job (doh!).
When Brian Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose in 1967, Cilla's boyfriend Bobby took over managing her career and was involved in writing a number of her subsequent hits, including: 'Something Tells Me (Somethings Gonna Happen Tonight)' and 'Baby We Can't Go Wrong'.
In 1993, Cilla released Through The Years, an album of duets with Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard, Barry Manilow and more. The in 2003, she released her album 'Beginnings… Greatest Hots And New Songs' although nowadays she rarely sings on stage. To date, the star has released 15 albums and 37 singles. But she's been equally as busy in the world of TV entertainment.
In 1968 she was given her own series entitled Cilla, which featured guests such as Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and, yep you guessed it, the Beatles. It was her success on the small screen that led to her music career fading off, many would say. She gained a taste and talent for situational comedy, too, and her comedy show Cilla's Comedy Six was aired in 1975 in which she was the main star.
After a lull in air time during the late 70s and early 80s, Cilla came back with a bang when she was named the host of the now cult shows, dating gameshow 'Blind Date' in 1985 and heart-wrenching good-deed show 'Surprise, Surprise' a year earlier. Cue a "lorra, lorra" tears AND a "lorra, lorra laughs", as Cilla herself would say.