The Story of
Mavis and the Melody Girls
Back in 2003 I was put in touch with Mavis Robinson (nee Carr), founder of Mavis and the Melody Girls, who very kindly shared her story and photographs with me for the following article which I am certain you will find fascinating.
Mavis can be seen centre stage presenting cheque with the Melody Girls around her
Pictured above is Mavis Robinson (nee Carr) singing proudly at the tender age of 8 with children from the Betty Eagan's Juveniles in 1935
From an early age Mavis Robinson (nee Carr) had always wanted to be a performer. The photograph above shows Mavis at 8 years old performing with Betty Eagan's Juveniles in 1935. Mavis was always a very confident performer unlike the other children pictured with her who appear to be rather more reserved.
Mavis' first musical experience was when he joined a choir at the age of 12. Following this she concentrated on being a musician, playing the piano and organ and so became an academic musician rather than a singer.
Strangely enough it was quite by accident that her true singing potential was discovered.
After suffering from a number of colds and bronchitis her doctor noticed that she did not breathe properly and he suggested that she learn the technique of breathing from a singing teacher, which he was sure would help her.
And so, Mavis was sent to a singing teacher.
After the first few lessons in breathing properly, the teacher suggested that she sing a couple of notes, and she did.
Surprised by what she heard, the teacher called in Mavis' mother telling her that Mavis' voice was clearly good enough to be a singer. Then through the correct training the true potential of her voice could be realised.
Thanks to her singing teacher, Mr Ernest Amphlett who was from Wednesbury, Mavis and her vocal talents were identified.
From then on Mavis embarked on a career in music using both her vocal talent and her musical talent as an outstanding pianist.
Mavis, centre stage performing in Hit the Deck at Darlaston Town Hall in 1952
Mavis' singing career took off in the realms of opera and oratorio which she enjoyed immensely for which she was highly regarded.
After Mavis married, she continued to perform and sing caberet. So impressed by her singing on one occasion she was asked to show someone how to sing, which she did.
Following this she sang, played and taught for many years and still did back in 2003.
In the early 1960's Mavis joined the Townswomen Guild in Pelsall, who at the time were seeking to raise money for charity. Mavis put forward the idea of putting on a variety performance show which could be put on at Pelsall Community Centre. And so with the help of June Davenhill, Mavis and the Melody Girls was born and what a sucess it was.
After performing for the Townswomen's Guild, Mavis and the Melody Girls then continued to perform independently for a further 25 years.
During their time as performers, Mavis and the Melody Girls were completely dedicated to raising money for good causes. All time and cost of production, ie stage sets and costume was all done completely at their own expense which was a very admirable trait of this very special troupe.
As with any variety performance outstanding costume is a must. There had to be a huge variety and a wide range of colours and styles.
For each performance made by Mavis and the Melody Girls a range of 20 costumes were required. Each of these costumes were made and maintained by Mrs Mavis Sodden whose presence behind the curtain was as, if not more important than the job of the performers in the group.
Over the years, Mavis Sodden, manager behind the stage, made a myriad of different costumes for each performance and was always ready and waiting at each performance with a row of safety pins attached to her apron, and needles and cotton in her pockets ready for any emergency.
As an academic musician and vocalist, Mavis always took performing very seriously, not only did all members have to be experienced dancers or/and singers, but all members of the troupe had to be correct for their part which was importantly based on height, appearance and character. Every member had a special part to play.
Through her experience and professional judgements, Mavis was able to make the best out of each performance.
On one occasion she identified the perfect character to perform a comical part of an act. The lady she chose proved to be an absolute success and moreover was relished by each audience who saw her.
It was also imperative that Mavis laid down strict rules to be adhered to in order to make a success of each performance.
One of the most important items on the agenda was to always be punctual and present at each rehearsal which was just as important as each performance.
Mr and Mrs Bill Brown of Lichfield Road, Pelsall kindly loaned a room in their house known as the ball room for Mavis and the Melody Girls to rehearse. Not only was it the perfect place in which to practice, but Bill Brown played the drums and so the whole situation was ideal.
Being such a large troupe, transport to each venue was sometimes difficult, and of course help was always required when transporting musical instruments. Bill Brown took his drums to each performance and there were always people to help set up the show and dismantle at the end of each performance, all in aid of a fund raising event. The help was always very much appreciated by the girls.
Raising money for charity was always the main concern of Mavis and the Melody Girls, however, they did like to make sure that something was seen for their money, hence if a hospital or home required specific equipment, such as a television or wheelchair Mavis and the Melody Girls would either arrange to fetch the item or would make sure that it was ordered rather than just handing over the money.
One of their proudest donations was to the Guide Dogs for the Blind. The dog seen below was called Gem.
Mavis recalled how once the girls performed at a retirement home. So overjoyed by this special entertainment, after the performance, one of the elderly gentelmen went out into the garden and picked the very best roses he could find, all of which were grown by himself.
Mavis and the Melody Girls have touched the hearts of many bringing delight and pleasure to all they have performed.
For her tireless efforts in raising money Mavis was presented with a medal by Stan Ball, the then Mayor of Walsall in recognition of her good work.
When Doreen Wilkins (Mavis' Head Girl) retired, she was presented with a musical box in honour of her outstanding work and efforts within the troupe.
One of their last performances was made at the Prince of Wales Theatre, seen in the photograph below, where all performers at this show entertained free of charge in order to raise money for cancer research.
After 25 years or so and hundreds of performances over the years Mavis and the Melody Girls sadly disbanded.
At some point during its reign of 25 years between the early 1960's and the late 1980's all of the ladies on the following list were part of Mavis and the Melody Girls:
Val Beard, Paula Clissard, Margaret Perkins, June Reid, Dorothy Davis, Doreen Wilkinson, Betty Evans, Carole Norris, Peggy Garrington, Mavis Seddon, Maisy Ward, Francis Holland, Marion Davis, Alfreda Adams, Mona Westwood, Jean Green, Esther Newton, Rita Elliot, Joan Aston, Joan Buttroid, Lynn Buttroid, Phylis Croxall, Doris Higgins, June Davenhill, Mary Selley, Sheila Birch, Christine New, Eva Upton, Maisy Williams, Joan Greaves, Sheila Harding, Sheila Jennings, Gwen Lake, Anne Lake, Dorothy Jones, Dorothy Burns, Rita Staples, Evelyn Timmins, Sue Harker, Kate Andrews, Christine Partington, Audrey Collins, Lynn Marsha, Angela Harris, Margaret Harris, Sheila Carr, Joan White, Agnes West, Doreen Deeley, Sandy Chapman and Shirley Worrallo.
The disbanding of Mavis and the Melody Girls did not mark the end of Mavis' musical career as due to her outstanding reputation Mavis' services were regularly called upon thereafter.
Her opinion of other experienced entertainers and performers was also highly regarded. In fact, shortly after I interviewed Mavis back in 2003 she was asked to be a judge for the 'Silver Stars' event which was ran by 'Yours' magazine.
The event was featured in the Cannock Mercury a couple of weeks later.
Performing certainly runs in the Robinson household.
Mavis' son, Ian Carr (who takes his stage name from his mother's maiden name) is a professional comedian.
Above: Mavis and Jean Green of Mavis and the Melody Girls
If you were a former member of Mavis and the Melody Girls and would like to share your memories, I would be delighted to hear from you.