United Kingdom: Teddy Johnson passes away at the age of 98

by Jessica Weaver 1,295 views

The United Kingdom’s second ever representative at the Eurovision Song Contest, Teddy Johnson, sadly passed away earlier this week at the age of 98.

The sad news was confirmed earlier today via the official Eurovision website, who confirmed the singer’s passing had taken place earlier in the week.

Teddy Johnson was the United Kingdom’s second ever representative at the Eurovision Song Contest, competing back in 1959 alongside his wife, Pearl Carr.

The duo competed at the French-hosted contest with their entry Sing, little birdie, finishing at runners-up against the eventual Dutch winner, receiving a total of 16 points on the night. Since then, the country has competed at every single competition to date, having only missed the occasion in 1956 and 1958.

Pearl and Teddy at Eurovision 1959

Life before Eurovision

Johnson was born in Surrey on the 4 September 1920 and started performing at an early age, before forming his own band at the age of 15 as a professional drummer and recording artist.

Starting his musical career on cruise ships, the singer soon started performing on theatre stages across the country, performing then as a solo act.

Johnson met his eventual wife, Pearl Carr, in 1950, before marrying shortly after in 1955 and becoming a musical duo.

Participation in Cannes

Pearl and Teddy entered the United Kingdom’s national selection for Eurovision 1959, with Johnson revealing to Eurovision.tv last year that he had in fact never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest previously:

I had never heard of Eurovision to be honest. When our agent phoned and asked if we would like to do it, I asked what it was!

We went to the offices at Shepherd’s Bush in London where we selected the songs. In hindsight I was surprised they allowed a duo as there were no groups. There was one song that nobody wanted, it was called Sing Little Birdie and as soon as it played, Pearl and I looked at each other and agreed to do it. The rest is history!

Winning the selection, the duo flew to Cannes to compete at the competition in Cannes with no expectations in mind.

We didn’t stay to listen to the votes actually, we sat smoking, which is what people did in those days. We were happy to be told the results rather than hear them coming in. At one point the French floor manager came running up to us shouting “Vous gagnez.” My French was good enough to know that he was telling us we were winning at that point. We finished second in the end after the Italian jury gave the Dutch their votes but nothing to us. I still love singing the song, it has been a very good friend to us over the years.

Following their success the 1959, the duo returned to the British national selection in 1960 in an attempt to return to the competition, however it was Johnson’s brother Bryan who went on to compete at the event with his entry Looking high, high, high, also placing in 2nd position. Bryan passed away in 1995.

Bryan Johnson at Eurovision 1960

Following Eurovision

Pearl and Teddy released yet another single together in 1961 entitled How wonderful to know, charting at a peak position of 23 in the UK charts.

Pearl and Teddy performing their song How wonderful to know

The duo continued their careers together over the years to follow, with the artists’ being the subject of an edition of the BBC’s This is your life in 1986, appearing in the West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies following their television success.

Pearl and Teddy announced their retirement in 1990, living their latter lives at the Brinsworth House in west London, a home for retired entertainers.

Here at ESCToday, we offer the family and friends of Teddy Johnson our deepest thoughts and sympathies during this difficult time.

ESCToday is growing and always looks for new members to join our team! Feel free to drop us a line if you're interested! Use the Contact Us page or send us an email at [email protected]!