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Eve Graham: How Perth singer found fame with The New Seekers, Eurovision tilt and Barack Obama

Eve Graham and The New Seekers were one of the biggest acts of the 1970s.
Eve Graham and The New Seekers were one of the biggest acts of the 1970s.

Perth lass Eve Graham was the singing waitress who took The New Seekers to second place for the UK at Eurovision 50 years ago.

After leaving school she worked in a Perth post office with her mum.

She then got a job at the Rendez-Vous restaurant in Union Street in Dundee at the age of 18, where she was billed as “the singing waitress”.

“Each evening I’d get up and sing with my tray in my hand!” she said.

Eve’s brother Ian joked that she should “get the hell out of there” so she replied to an advert in the NME.

The bright lights of London

The young hopeful set off in 1964 with £20 her mother had given her and found herself singing for Cyril Stapleton, a well-known orchestra leader.

“That same night I ended up on stage singing Secret Love and Anyone Who Had a Heart. I got a job on trial at £20 a week for two weeks.

“Next morning I was handed 10 singles by Cyril and was told to learn them for that night. I don’t know how, but I pulled it off!”

Eve Graham.
Eve Graham.

Eve went on to join a group called The Nocturnes with Ross Mitchell and Sandra Stevens, later of Brotherhood of Man.

After a couple of years Sandra left, to be replaced by a young singer called Lyn Paul.

“Keith Potger, who had been in The Seekers, heard about us and phoned me,” she said.

“He was looking to form and manage the New Seekers and wanted it to have a young image.

“Being 26, my age put him off but he asked me to audition anyway and he decided I was right.

“Lyn didn’t get the job originally but a year later I recommended her when another female vocalist left.

“By now Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma was in the charts in the States.”

Eve partied with Dylan and McCartney

The band’s song I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing made its debut in February 1971, before being adapted for the Coca-Cola “Hilltop” television commercial later that year.

The song shot to number one and earned the band a Grammy nomination and was voted the best ever for a television commercial in a UK poll in 2005.

The New Seekers were chosen to sing Beg Steal or Borrow for the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest in Edinburgh where they finished in second place.

The New Seekers - Laurie Heath, Eve Graham, Marty Kristian, Sally Graham and Chris Barington - in 1969.
The New Seekers – Laurie Heath, Eve Graham, Marty Kristian, Sally Graham and Chris Barington – in 1969.

“After the show we were mobbed by fans on our way back to the Caledonian Hotel.

“Our car had to drive right up the pavement to the revolving doors and, as we piled inside, the doors were forced off by the pressure of the crowd!”

The band, then also including Lyn Paul, Paul Layton, Marty Kristian and Peter Doyle, sold more than 25 million records.

They worked with the likes of Liza Minnelli and Andy Williams, and partied with Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan.

Eve attracted plenty of male attention.

She declined the advances of Hollywood actor Burt Reynolds, had a fling with football legend George Best, and lived with TV and radio presenter Ed Stewart.

New beginnings with husband Kevin

Eve quit in 1974.

Eve does look back fondly on her days as a New Seeker, though.

“We always had top-quality songs from the best writers — Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, and so on,” she says.

“We had a great following. When we were in Edinburgh for Eurovision, the fans were thronging Princes Street and the riot squad had to be called.

“I was at a record launch in the ’70s and walking through a crowded area when a voice from behind shouted: ‘Hi, Eve, how’s Scotland?’

“I turned round and it was Paul McCartney, who was sitting with his wife Linda and Bob Dylan.

“I was so gobsmacked that I said: ‘Fine,’ and kept walking. I was just too shy. He must have thought I was a dummy.

“If we’d stayed together, I suppose we’d still have a good career.”

The New Seekers arrive at Heathrow Airport following a month-long tour of the US and Canada.
The New Seekers arrive at Heathrow Airport following a month-long tour of the US and Canada.

Eve joined a reformed New Seekers in 1976 where she met husband Kevin, who was also in the new group.

They stayed for two years, before leaving to sing as a duo.

They married in London in 1979.

From 1978 to 1985, they performed together as a duo, releasing two singles and touring with Gene Pitney and Max Boyce.

Virtually every week since she was last a member of The New Seekers, Eve has been asked if the hit-making line-up of the group will ever reunite.

Top theatre producer Bill Kenwright tried to make it happen but Eve has always given a firm no because for most of the intervening years Paul Layton has led his own version, and Peter Doyle died from throat cancer in October 2001.

A favourite for millions of Americans

Eve returned to Scotland in 2004 with Kevin to live in Crieff.

Only a few years ago, Eve learned that Free To Be… You And Me, a song The New Seekers recorded in 1972 with her distinctive lead vocals, became a favourite of millions of Americans including Gwyneth Paltrow and Barack Obama when it was the title song of a US TV special and record.

“I’m told Obama has said that Free To Be… You And Me taught a generation of kids that they were strong and beautiful, and that my voice on the song helped inspire him when he was growing up,” she said.

“When she appeared in The Actors’ Studio TV programme, Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that as a little girl, she spent lots of time in her room singing along with the song.”

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