Ricky Valance – the first Welsh man to have UK number one – dies aged 84

Welsh star Ricky Valance has died aged 84, following a battle with dementia.

The singer’s agent confirmed that Valance had passed away on 12 June, and that he had been in hospital since the start of lockdown.

Valance is best known for his 1960 song Tell Laura I Love Her, which sold over a million copies in the UK and spent three weeks at number one and 16 weeks in the charts.

The teenage tragedy song made Valance the first Welsh male solo singer to have a number one in the UK.

Shirley Bassey had become the first Welsh woman to get a UK number one a year earlier with As I Love You.

Tell Laura I Love Her – originally sung by Ray Peterson – was the tragic tale of a teenage boy who wants to marry a girl called Laura and enters a stock car race to get the money for a wedding, but his car overturns during the race and he is killed.


Peterson’s version was not released in the UK (although was released after the success of Valance’s rendition) as Decca Records considered it in ‘bad taste’, and ballad was reportedly banned from airplay by the BBC.

Despite this, it became Valance’s only major UK hit.

Valance, born David Spencer, was born in Ynysddu, now in Caerphilly county, and joined the RAF aged 17, where he saw active service in north Africa for three years.

After leaving the military, he began performing in clubs in the north of England, where he was discovered and signed by EMI’s Columbia label.

Throughout his career, Valance released singles including Jimmy’s Girl and Movin’ Away, which reached number one in Australia.

And in 1961, Valance competed to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest with Why Can’t We?, but was beaten by The Allisons and their song Are You Sure? 

In 2015, the crooner was honoured with an award at the St David’s Day concert at the Wales Millenium Centre for being the first Welshman to have a UK number one.

Valance’s final single, Welcome Home, came in 2017 and was released to raise money for the Royal Air Force Museum and the RAF Association.

The star and his wife Evelyn had previously lived in Torrevieja, Spain, but moved to Skegness, Lincolnshire, in 2015, where he remained until his death. 

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