Obituaries: Christian, singer who enjoyed 60-year career as entertainer and panto star

Christian, singer and entertainer. Born: 25 May, 1943 in Ibrox, Glasgow. Died: 29 April, 2024 in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, aged 80.

It was an unusual career highlight. Scottish showbiz entertainer Christian in a kilt, looking like the cat who got the cream yet maintaining the focus of a consummate professional while his refreshed “bandmates” sway out of time behind him, flanked by bagpipers and a couple of tartan-clad lovelies. This was the 1982 Scotland World Cup Squad’s memorable appearance on Top of the Pops to promote their ever-optimistic single We Have a Dream.

The song was fronted by John Gordon Sinclair, a natural choice coming fresh from his role as the eponymous duff schoolboy goalkeeper in Gregory’s Girl, but the world’s worst mimer of lyrics as it turned out. Songwriter BA Robertson attempted to upstage him from the touchline but it was Christian who exuded the committed passion of the top sportsman.

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As a child, growing up in the shadow of Ibrox, he had harboured his own dreams of becoming a footballer. He played in the same Bellahouston Academy team as future Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh but his talents lay elsewhere and he was to carve a 60-year career as a singer, entertainer and panto star, working right up until his death, aged 80. Two days before passing away unexpectedly in his sleep, the man born Chris McClure had been performing at Fauldhouse Miners Welfare Club in West Lothian, where he reportedly blew up an amplifier, showbiz to the end.

Christian, right, with Johnnie Beattie and Una McLean in costume for the Sinbad the Sailor panto at Edinburgh's King's Theatre in 1984 (Picture: Bill Newton)Christian, right, with Johnnie Beattie and Una McLean in costume for the Sinbad the Sailor panto at Edinburgh's King's Theatre in 1984 (Picture: Bill Newton)
Christian, right, with Johnnie Beattie and Una McLean in costume for the Sinbad the Sailor panto at Edinburgh's King's Theatre in 1984 (Picture: Bill Newton)

McClure was a TV veteran by the time he finally made it to Top of the Pops, appearing on Scottish pop show Stramash in the Sixties, alongside the likes of Lulu, Tom Jones and Paul Simon, and then on Opportunity Knocks in the mid-Seventies.

Across his career, he toured with Billy Connolly and shared stages with Dolly Parton, The Jacksons and The Osmonds, the latter at the Royal Albert Hall, but was just as comfortable performing in a local club or entertaining at a care home. In particular, he enjoyed a special relationship with Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre, where he was a regular in panto and jukebox musicals, once even suggesting his ashes should be scattered there.

Jamie Gordon, general manager of the Pavilion, said Christian was “more than the entertainer, he was a true gentleman” and his agent Ean Jones hailed him as “one of the greatest examples of the ‘old school professional’. He would always turn up and put on a great show. He performed from the heart and with genuine conviction.”

McClure came from showbiz stock, learning the ropes from his mother Leonorra, a member of Pavilion dance troupe, the Morganettes, and his uncle Bruce McClure, a choreographer who worked regularly with Stanley Baxter. He only met his father Chris Gill, a US entertainer, once and was brought up by his Norwegian stepfather. He struggled at times growing up as a mixed-raced child in post-war Glasgow but found escape in football and especially music.

In his late teens, he began gigging locally in Govan, supplementing his income working as a clerk for a flour mill, before spotting an advert for a local band in search of a singer. Aged 19, McClure joined The Fireflies, a soul covers band who played nightly into the small hours at the Picasso Club on Buchanan Street and released a couple of singles, The Answer to Everything and I’m Just a Country Boy.

McClure enjoyed the life of a jobbing musician – groupies in Bellshill, brawls in Springboig, some racist heckles from jealous boyfriends – until his appearance on Stramash, a BBC Scotland pop show billed as “The Big Noise From Glasgow”, attracted the interest of London record labels. He recorded a handful of flops for Polydor and Decca under his own name or as The Chris McClure Section until, at his manager Frank Lynch’s suggestion, he adopted the stage name Christian.

He appeared on an Opportunity Knocks Songwriters Show in 1975, coming second on the audience clap-o-meter singing the song Clouds, written by a nuclear technician, Peter Hodges. His debut album, The First Christian, was released in 1976, featuring covers of songs by Neils Sedaka and Diamond, The Righteous Brothers and his favourite band The Drifters, who he supported at the Glasgow Apollo that year.

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Lynch was the venue manager so his charge was the obvious choice to headline what was believed at the time to be the final show in the hallowed venue before it was converted into a Mecca bingo hall. A rare licence was granted for the audience to drown their sorrows but the tears in beers were premature as the deal fell through and the Apollo rocked on for another seven years.

Around the same time, Christian vied to become the UK entry for the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest. His song, Shine It On, was written by Eurovision royalty Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who had already won the main competition with Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String and narrowly missed out with Cliff Richard’s Congratulations. Shine It On placed third behind The Bad Old Days by CoCo, featuring future Bucks Fizz member Cheryl Baker, but ahead of respected singer/songwriter Labi Siffre.

In the Eighties, Christian moved into panto at the behest of Uncle Bruce. He starred in Sinbad and didn’t look back, marking off successive performing anniversaries. The Chris McClure Section reformed in 2006 for a time and he was still playing summer season at Blackpool and regular appearances at his beloved Pavilion in his seventies. McClure had no retirement plans – “not unless the voice and the legs give up,” he said. “I still love the music.” He is survived by his second wife Rainey and his children.


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