Saturday 19 December 2020
Phil Fryer opened his Churwell barber's shop in 1986 in the old Cooperative Society's premises at the corner of Hartley Street and Elland Road. In addition to successfully catering for the tonsorial needs of his fellow villagers Phil has also continually given his time and energy to charitable causes.
For seven years he organised the 'Churwell Five Miler' race that raised funds for the benefit of the Forget-me-not charity, Heart Research, the Coronary Care Unit, the Half and Half Appeal and the Candlelighters Unit based at St. James's Hospital. He has raced in events in many parts of the United Kingdom, completing the cycle marathons 'Lands End to John O'Groats Challenge' and 'Morley to Siegen (Morley's Twin Town in Germany) and participating in the most exacting of sports, the Iron Man Triathlons (non stop swimming, running and cycling) in places as far away as Germany and Lanzarote. To enable him to participate successfully in these gruelling events much time and energy had to be given to hard training, this in addition to the obvious necessity of working for his barber's shop business. The fuel that kept his fires burning was the benefits that the very worthy charities gained from his efforts.
Whilst on holiday in 1997 Phil was persuaded to have a go at karaoke singing in a bar. This he did reluctantly but his version of a Frank Sinatra song was so well received he decided to begin singing in venues around Morley in an attempt to establish himself in the area. At that time he received good advice and correction from two friends. Ken Christian a local singer, who had the experience of singing for many years on the club circuit, took Phil under his wing and allowed him to have a spot at some of his engagements. Allan Kent, a D.J. and singer also encouraged him and taught him how to include expression and emotion into his songs. A London based 'Look-alike' company registered him on its books, Mark Richie of the Stage magazine wrote "This young man successfully adopted the look and sound of Sinatra," and the first year culminated in an engagement to sing at the Jaguar S type car launch at Hessle.
In 1999 Phil's singing career gradually advanced further, enabling him to gain more experience and polish. There was a performance at the Leeds Irish Centre with Bobby Knutt. Together with engagements in quality hotels and restaurants in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. He auditioned for the BBC Children-in-Need competition, entitled 'Bears in Their Eyes,' attaining a position in the last five and singing live on television for the first time. After the ordeal of sitting all day waiting his turn he was shaking from head to foot. That year he became the resident singer at the Crystal Room (Ex. Batley Variety Club). His staunch local supporters were not forgotten and there were well-supported engagements at venues in Churwell, Morley and the surrounding area.
The year 2000 saw Phil form his own trio and there were engagements as a supporting act to Ken Dodd at the Frontier Club, Batley, to Les Denis at the Princess Theatre in Blackpool and then as the main act at the Civic Hall, Leeds before the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Bernard Atha. On 15th August Phil was filmed by Yorkshire TV and the next day he was interviewed live with Christa Akroyd and featured in the Sun newspaper under the heading 'The New Frank,' following in the next few days with interviews on Radio Aire and Magic 828, when his CD was played. Between 28th October and 4th November Phil, accompanied by his trio and a Yorkshire T.V. crew, flew to the United Arab Emirates to fulfil bookings in Dubai, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. The resultant 30-minute documentary, entitled 'Just to be Frank,' was broadcast on Yorkshire T.V. and in the Border Regions. There were gigs at top class restaurants and then on 15th December he sang live on Yorkshire T.V. with his trio and the Wakefield College Choir.
There were more engagements in 2001. A documentary shown on Granada T.V. in January, the Yorkshire T.V. programme repeated in February and in March Phil was the guest speaker at the Joseph Priestley College Award evening. He was booked to perform at Pontins, Blackpool every Tuesday throughout the whole of the summer season at the 'Sinatra Tribute Night.' At this time Phil experienced one of the personal highlights of his career so far when he had the privilege of a meeting with Mr. Frank Sinatra Junior who wished him good luck with his career, gave his autograph and graciously allowing himself to be photographed with Phil. This event left Phil quite overwhelmed and the photograph is now one of his most treasured possessions.
There was a major step later in this year when a big band was formed, with the assistance of his pianist Matt Stacey, who became his musical director and arranger. Before the end of the year there was the opportunity to stage three big band performances culminating in a wonderful evening at Morley Town Hall on Thursday 13th December 2001. Phil took the financial risk of booking the expensive hall with the hope there would be sufficient people willing to purchase tickets, and the people of his home town did not let him down. Every seat was taken and the lucky people in the audience that night will not forget the experience for a long time. The swinging band accompanied Phil on some 25 numbers that evening resulting in a thunderous standing ovation at the completion of the performance. The occasion was used to successfully launch Phil Fryer's charity CD 'Just to be Frank' with all the profits being donated to the 'Oliver Brooke Appeal' for the Candlelighters.
It started with "a few beers and a song" said Phil who is now performing full time with engagements nationwide, working with his pianist up to his 8 piece Swing Band.
The first engagement for 2002 was a flying return visit to Dubai for the New Year celebrations. Phil and his band are looking forward to their many forthcoming engagements at venues all over England; the coming years should be very exciting ones.
The tradition of Morley artistes successfully advancing into the professional world of entertainment, now has the name of Phil Fryer proudly set in lights at the start of this new millennium. He fully deserves the honour to be placed among a select band of Morley citizens who have progressed to international acclaim.