These days she is perhaps best known for being the wife of TV antiques expert David “cheap as chips” Dickinson, but Lorne Lesley, from Cardiff, was once a cabaret star and recording artist.
Lesley hailed from Cardiff Docks. Her real name is Irene Spetti. Before taking up a career in showbiz she was a presser in a garment factory. Like other black female singers from the area she hoped to follow in Shirley Bassey’s glittering footsteps. Lesley, however, was keen to distance herself from the whole Tiger Bay mythology. Rather than adopting a ‘sex kitten’ persona emphasis was, instead, put on her strong sense of humour. In fact, during the early part of her career she was promoted as a comedienne/singer.
Between 1959-1966 she released a string of singles (on Parlophone, Polydor and Philips) none of which did anything spectacular in commercial terms. Part of the reason for this was because Lesley had moved to Scandinavia and was unable to properly promote her material. She lived in Copenhagen and worked as a cabaret singer on the continent.
That said, she did make occasional appearances on British television. She was interviewed on Top of the Pops in 1964; later that year she stood in for an ill Cilla Black on Sunday Night at the London Palladium; and in 1965 she performed on Thank Your Lucky Stars. You can see the YouTube here.
The above YouTube, I Don’t Know, is taken from a 1959 single. It was actually the b-side but it is a pretty cool rendition. Her recording career never really fired but you can hear the potential in this song. After she stopped making records she continued her career as a cabaret artist, appearing in clubs in the UK and on the continent.