Tessie O'Shea

(1913—1995) singer and actress

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b. Teresa O’Shea, 13 March 1913, Cardiff, Wales, d. 21 April 1995, Leesburg, Florida, USA. A warm, ebullient, and immensely endearing entertainer, ‘Two Ton Tessie’, as she was billed, was taken to watch variety acts perform at Cardiff Empire when she was only four years old. She later won talent contests for her singing and dancing, and when she was 12, made her solo stage debut at the Bristol Hippodrome. This was followed by an engagement at the Chiswick Empire, and further variety circuit bookings. Always conscious of her more than ample girth - she eventually reached 17 stones in weight - O’Shea dressed initially in comic clothes - elastic-sided boots, striped stockings and over-large hats. In the early days she based her act on the legendary Lily Morris, and belted out numbers such as ‘Josh-u-ah’, ‘Don’t Have Any More, Missus Moore’, ‘Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy’, and ‘Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid’. By the late 30s she was a star, regularly playing summer seasons in Blackpool, and topping bills throughout the land, accompanying herself on the banjulele while singing songs such as ‘I Met Him By The Withered Weeping Willows’, ‘Nobody Loves A (Fat) Fairy When She’s Forty’, and, as war broke out, ‘I Fell In Love With An Airman Who Had Big Blue Eyes, But I’m Nobody’s Sweetheart Now’. During World War II she toured with ENSA, and in 1942 appeared with Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, Cecil Frederick, Robby Vincent, and Harry Korris in Robert Nesbitt’s revue, Happidrome, at the Prince of Wales theatre. In 1944 she topped the bill at the London Palladium with Max Miller, and, two years later, was back at the Palladium starring with Nat Jackley, Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss in another Nesbitt production, High Time. In this show, O’Shea made her entrance atop an elephant that became pregnant during the run and threw the star off, necessitating a three-month period of recuperation. However, she was fit enough by November 1946 to take part in the Royal Variety Performance of that year. In 1949, she toured with another of Britain’s favourite ‘characters’, dance band Billy Cotton, and their lively musical revue Tess And Bill was also resident at London’s Victoria Palace for a season.


From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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