Gladys MILLS (1918-1978)

Gladys Mills This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 421
  • Subject No: 418
  • Broadcast date: Wed 24 Dec 1975
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 17 Dec 1975
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 16
  • Edition: 7
  • Code name: Joyful

on the guest list...

  • Barbara Benton
  • Taffy Scott-Williams
  • Bill Davis
  • Guy Compton
  • residents of Hathern
  • Eric Easton - manager
  • Mary Easton
  • Fred Reeves
  • George Ridgewell
  • Johnny Lavender
  • Derek Reeves
  • Ted Rogers
  • Joe Henderson
  • Pete Murray
  • Lily Dormer
  • Ron Dormer
  • Norman Newell
  • Geoff Love
  • Don Donavon
  • Peter Shepherd
  • Brenda Osborne
  • Mrs Raymond Jerough
  • Richard Benton
  • Ron Carter
  • Val Carter
  • Billy Dainty
  • Vera Callow
  • Cyril Barlow
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Minnie - mother
  • Roy Castle
  • Ray Sonnen

production team...

  • Researchers: Lavinia Warner, Marilyn Gaunt
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Royston Mayoh
  • Executive Producer: Jack Andrews
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Musical Life

blowing a trumpet for the musicians

Geoff Love

Pete Murray

Ted Rogers

Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life Gladys Mills This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Gladys Mills This Is Your Life

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

The news that Glad Mills had just won a silver disc for world sales of her latest LP, "Non Stop Honky Tonk Party", was music to our ears indeed as we approached Christmas 1975.

After years at the top, the world's most lovable pianist had good reason to celebrate. So why not celebrate with her, we thought, by throwing a non-stop honky tonk party of our own with an extra special surprise present for Glad?

We could have great fun surprising Glad as she tinkled the ivories in her own inimitable style. A style that was first shaped at the keyboard of the upright piano in her parent's home in Bletchley, where she was born.

But throughout most of her career Glad had concentrated on two keyboards. The typewriter she used in her job as a Civil Servant in the Paymaster General's Office and the piano she played in her every spare moment. Her first Top Twenty hit was made in her lunch break from the Civil Service typing pool and it was not until 1962 that she eventually turned professional.

Despite the success that won her fans the world over, wherever Britons enjoyed a good sing song, Glad had always been a home bird at heart. And home, in the 1960's, for Glad and her late husband, Bert, was a pub called the King's Arms in the village of Hathern in Leicestershire.

No matter how far she had travelled or how hard she had worked, when Glad got back home to the pub she was always ready to sit down at the piano and lead the regulars in a sing song.

At first we thought of staging our surprise programme at the pub where she still had so many friends and fond memories. We checked it out to see if it was technically possible.

Then we got the sad news that Glad's mother was not well and, at 86, had been confined to bed by her doctor at the Buckinghamshire home she shared with Glad. But she insisted that we went ahead with our plans to surprise her famous daughter.

Knowing that there was no one in the world more important to Glad than the gentle woman she affectionately called "Little Mum", we knew it would be a waste of time, even if we wanted to, to try and lure her away from London.

We decided instead to build our own pub in Studio Five at Euston and invite Glad along to star in her own programme.

Gladys Mills This Is Your Life

She was told by her manager, Eric Easton, that she was wanted to play the piano in a Christmas Special called "Glad Tidings". It would be a singalong with an audience and would provide me with the perfect cover to offer Mrs Mills and her audience of unsuspecting revellers my own seasonal glad tidings.

To enable ourselves to prepare properly on the day, we didn't want Glad to arrive at the studios until the very last minute. It was director Mike Dormer's job to keep her away. He told her that it would be impossible to rehearse for Glad Tidings in the studio while the set was being built and that he had hired the Dance Centre in Floral Street, Covent Garden.

While Glad rehearsed there with the Tony Mansell singers we were busy wrapping presents that every one of our surprise guests had brought for Glad. There were boxes of chocolates, perfume, talc, hankies, tea sets, ashtrays. You name it, they'd brought it.

Shortly before 6.30pm, the audience who had been issued with tickets for "Glad Tidings", began to take their seats in the studio. Soon they were applauding enthusiastically as Glad walked into the studio and took her place at the piano.

What she didn't know was that on her way to the studios she had walked right past my dressing room door which I had firmly locked.

The audience were in fine form and singing from song sheets at the tops of their voices as I crept around the back of the set.

Glad was so engrossed in her music making that she didn't notice me walk on to the set. But when I interrupted her she nearly fainted. The only words she could utter were: "Oh, dear."

Gladys Mills This Is Your Life

She was so taken aback that I thought it best to take her to the dressing room for a few minutes breather while the guests assembled backstage.

We offered her a glass of champagne, but the former typist who used to make hit records in her lunch break politely declined and in her own homely way asked if she could have a quick cup of tea.

After the cuppa, the show went on. And having assured Glad that her mother was being cared for at home we surprised her with a message from "Little Mum" sitting up in bed and talking into one of our cameras.

Not surprisingly, Glad was visibly moved as "Little Mum" told us all how proud she was of her daughter, wished her "God Bless" and blew her a kiss. unknown date

Gladys Mills, famous pianist, known professionally as plain Mrs. Mills

Gladys was known the world over for her cheery personality and her traditional sing-along style of entertainment. Hathern folk have a special reason to remember her as she and her husband Bert ran the Kings Arms pub from 1964 to 1967.

The daughter of Minnie and policeman Samuel Jordan, Gladys was born on August 29th 1918 in Canning Town. Her uncle Henry was a harpist and encouraged her budding talent in music. She had piano lessons from the tender age of three and a half until she was twelve, and soon began entertaining her family and neighbours. In February 1947 she married Bert (Gilbert) who worked for London Transport.

Throughout her working life in a Civil Service typing pool, she played the piano at dinner dances and receptions. Some of these took place in quite prestigious venues such as the Woodford Golf Club in Loughton, Essex, where Frankie Vaughan's manager spotted her in 1961. This proved to be her big break which saw her sign up for contract with Parlophone Records and have her first big hit at Christmas that year with a single entitled Mrs. Mills' Medley. It reached the Top Twenty and featured familiar numbers such as I Wanna Be Happy, The Sheik of Araby, Baby Face, Somebody Stole My Gal, Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me, Swanee, Ain't She Sweet and California Here I Come. At one time she shared a manager with the Rolling Stones and recording space with the Beatles in the Abbey Road studios. Altogether she produced nearly 40 albums: four of which reached the charts between 1964 and 1971. Alongside her chart successes, she became a household name on television. Her first appearances were with the Billy Cotton Band Show (Wakey-Wakey!) in December 1961. On two occasions she featured in the Morecambe and Wise Show. Tours included a gig at Buckingham Palace. She toured many places in the UK, Canada, Germany and South Africa until well into the 1970s.

Gladys and Bert had been looking for a pub to run for 18 months before selecting the Kings Arms at Hathern. She admitted that it was "blooming hard work," but believed that it was worth it since they enjoyed meeting new people and having a chat and a joke. She bought a new piano and her fans soon flocked to Hathern, especially at weekends. Val and Ron Carter remember her as a jolly woman who could hardly read any music, and her husband Bert was "a lovely man." The pub was very busy in those days, and the garden was always packed in summertime. On Sundays, lunchtimes featured 'killer' darts contests played for money, and in the evenings up to fourteen 'mystery tour' buses parked along the Zouch Road while passengers enjoyed their refreshments. People came from miles around to hear Gladys play, although they were often disappointed when she was away on tour. One special engagement that was planned with top precision was her appearance on This Is Your Life. A party of sixteen guests watched her receive the famous red book from Eamonn Andrews. These included Ron and Val Carter, Harry and Lily Lacey, and Richard and Barbara Benton.

The couple left Hathern to retire to Penn in Buckinghamshire in 1967, where Gladys' health slowly declined. She died in February 1978 at the age of 60.

Series 16 subjects

Ronnie Dukes | Ray Milland | Mike Hailwood | Frank Windsor | Magnus Pyke | Bill Tidy | Gladys Mills | Andy Stewart
Windsor Davies | Ray Reardon | Patrick Mower | Alberto Remedios | Susan Masham | Betty Driver | Henry Davies
Gwen Berryman | Vince Hill | Arnold Ridley | Beryl Reid | Alan Mullery | Percy Thrower | Gareth Edwards
June Whitfield | Terry Fincher | Richard Dunn | Norman Croucher