Singing sister dies after fight against cancer

The McKinley Sisters in the 1960s
The McKinley Sisters in the 1960s
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A CITY singer who performed with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones has died following a battle against cancer.

Sheila Casey nee McKinley, 71, died in the early hours of Sunday. She is survived by her husband Howie Casey, saxophonist and band leader of Howie Casey and the Seniors, the first Liverpool group to ever record an LP.

In their mid-60s heyday the McKinley Sisters, comprising Sheila and her sister Jeanette, recorded pop singles including Sweet and Tender Romance, which they sang on TV pop show Ready Steady Go!, as well as touring with and becoming friends with the Fab Four.

Her older brother, Jim McKinley, from Blackford, paid tribute to his “hugely talented” sister, revealing Sir Paul McCartney has passed on his regards, sending a wreath to the family.

He said: “It’s a measure of the man that he took time out of his busy schedule to send a wreath. It underpins just how very close they all were back in the day. They were huge friends and generated some great memories together.”

Remembering his sister, he added: “She was absolutely gorgeous and was one of the best. Sheila was a friend to everyone and was very well thought of by all who met her.

“I’m very proud of what she and Jeanette accomplished. For two girls from Little France they did very well.”

Stars such as Donovan and guitar legend Jimmy Page played on the sisters’ records and they also performed with the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, James Last and Ringo Starr.

The siblings first began performing in their early teens touring various working men’s clubs around Edinburgh and the Lothians. In 1963, they embarked on a Scottish tour with Glaswegian band The Fabulous Falcons, which eventually resulted in their signing to EMI Records. They released four records as sisters: Someone Cares For Me, When He Comes Along and Sweet And Tender Romance all in 1964, followed by Give Him My Love, written by Donovan, in 1965.

Jeanette, who lives in Dunbar, said: “We had great fun, it all happened very quickly. One minute we were in Little France, the next we were off on tour around the UK with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

“I remember playing the ABC on Lothian Road and we had a dressing room next door. My mother Annie had come along and she was teaching them how to say “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht’.”

This wasn’t the last meeting Sheila was to have with one member of the Fab Four as both herself and Howie, went on to record with Paul McCartney, as well as with by George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Sheila married her “soul mate” Howie in 1980, and the couple settled in Dorset.

The singer was being laid to rest at 3pm today in a woodland burial at Harbour View, Bournemouth.

Big in Germany

The McKinley Sisters’ career in the UK was a mixture of bad luck and poor management – but on the Continent their efforts proved more rewarding.

In 1964 the sisters signed to Iver Music and teamed up with the songwriting and production duo of John Carter and Ken Lewis for their debut single Someone Cares for Me.

The follow-up, When He Comes Along, appeared that summer, and in December of the same year they resurfaced with Sweet and Tender Romance. They performed the single on Ready, Steady Go! but it failed to dent the charts and after one last stab, Give Him My Love, Iver terminated their contract.

The sisters’ main career successes then followed in Germany, where they both scored hits, Sheila with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s If Not for You while Jeanette as one-half of a new band called Windows, scored a number 1 hit with How Do You Do in 1972.