October 1965, London

The Nina Simone UK fan club/appreciation society I’ve started is getting a few members and one of the early newsletters lists the great Esther Phillips as a favourite among Nina’s fans. Esther is visiting London at the invitation of The Beatles for a TV special since they love her version of “And I Love Him!”. Short version of my memorable meetings with Esther: I’ve been to see her perform on the weekly TV music show “Ready Steady Go!” and she’s asked if I will ride back to her hotel with her.

I’m in her hotel room when she’s on the phone with her manager in the US, telling him how much she wants to stay in London to work. Her manager Jack Hooke is insisting she’s got to return because he’s got her a booking opening for Tom Jones in Bermuda. Esther’s not happy. While she’s been on the phone, I’ve been staring at a strange object on her dressing table. “Miss Phillips,” I ask meekly, “may I ask you what this is?” I say, pointing to this mystery object. Esther Phillips, tough, no nonsense sharp shooter, is in hysterics at this British teen’s naivete! “That’s my wig, sugar!” she roars, referring to the blonde hairpiece on a wigstand! A year later, the same wig adorns the cover of an Atlantic LP but more importantly, a bond is forged between us that endures for many years.

This video clip is from The Beatles’ TV Special…