Sandi Ann Leigh

Vocalist Sandi Ann Leigh. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Growing up as the daughter of a Birmingham fire station officer Sandra Lippitt soon got used to being disturbed by the sound of the bells at the fire station flat she lived in with her parents and it was here at an early age she decided that she was going to be a singer.

She started her ‘career’ charging neighbours a penny a time for shows she’d perform and this flare for entertainment led her to the Teatro Maipo in Buenos Aries where she spent a year as one of the Bluebell troupe dancers. While in Argentina she learned to speak fluent Spanish.

After leaving the Bluebells Sandra adding singing to her dancing and with a female singing partner she picked up a six week engagement in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. When her singing partner met a man and left the duo to go and live with him, Sandra carried on as a solo performer and eventually raised enough money for her fare back home, where she began to work on the club and cabaret circuit.

By 1976, and now using the stage name Sandi Ann Leigh, she was voted the Female Vocalist of the Year in the New Cresta’s Midlands Variety Command Performance and with that award to her name she secured a summer season at Butlins in Skegness.

From July to September 1977 Sandi was part of the summer season show at the Pier in Cleethorpes. The summer spectacular starred Tony Christie, but for two weeks when Guys ‘n’ Dolls took over headline duties and the support acts were Cannon and Ball, Barley, Chris North and Jill plus Sandi Ann Leigh.

Just one week after the summer season in Cleethorpes finishes Sandi Ann Leigh was making a big impression on her television debut, winning the opening show of series six of ATVs New Faces talent show, qualifying for the first All Winners Show of the series. She finished in second place in the All Winners Show, just four points behind the winner, vocalist Pat O’Hare.

A few weeks after Sandi’s New Faces All Winners Show appearance she was on of some fifteen acts who performed at the Midlands Variety Showcase at Jollees, Longon, Stoke-on-Trent. At the showcase, held on 14-15 November 1977 a wealth of talent appeared over the two days. Sandi featured on the second night alongside two other former New Faces acts, comedians Mick Miller and Ian ‘Sludge’ Lees. A review in The Stage was complimentary about the vocals, but less so about the outfit, stating ‘vocalist Sandi Ann Leigh who started the proceedings, has a pleasing voice and friendly approach, but gets no marks for dress sense.’

Shortly after the New Faces appearances another name change saw the introduction to the entertainment world of twenty three year-old singer Maggie Moone, the name change suggested by Don Black and DJM Records, and in July 1978 Maggie was cast as the lead in a recording of a new muscial, Dear Anyone. Maggie took the role of Lillian Sherman, the queen of the agony columnists. Maggie sang the songs of Lillian, a feature writer on a New York newspaper, who takes on the job of agony columnist under the name Pandora. As Pandora’s fame spreads, her own marriage suffers. The story was conceived and the lyrics written by Don Black, who has worked on the music for films like Born Free, Thunderball and Return of the Pink Panther. The music was written by Geoff Stephens, who was responsible for hits like Winchester Cathedral, and Silver Lady. Other performers on the recording were Gemma Craven and Elaine Stritch and pop star Steve Harley. Over the next six months Maggie promoted the musical on Des O’Connor Tonight and the Jim Davidson Show, the host also a New Faces success, as well as six other network television shows.

Maggie with Dennis Johnson, managing director of Ansell’s Brewery, owners of The Kings, Birmingham.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

In June 1979 Maggie appeared at the King’s Theatre, Great Barr, Birmingham in the King’s Command Show, a show without a top of the bill, but with four acts worthy of top billing. It was staged to promote and encourage out standing support acts, without which no show is complete. Maggie featured her lovely version of Dear Anyone, in her act and she shared the stage with another singer with a fine voice, Frank Leyton, himself another New Faces success. Frank’s show highlight was his medley of Neil Sedaka’s hits, and with Frank’s voice quite reminiscent of the top American star, it was a real crowd pleaser.

In September of the same year Maggie was part of the all-star line-up for gala re-opening of the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham following its extensive redecoration and refurbishment. The gala reopening, on 17 September 1979 was a night of comedy, song and dance and among the acts appearing with Maggie on this special bill were Ken Dodd, Fenella Fielding, Liz Fraser, Derek Nimmo and Wayne Sleep.

In March 1980 the contest to choose the song and the singer who will represent Britain in the main Eurovision Song Contest saw Maggie perform Happy Everything, written by Geoff Stephens and Don Black, the duo behind the Dear Anyone musical and the former being the writer of Knock Knock Who’s There which came second in Eurovision in 1970. In a controversial and tense scoring process Maggie narrowly lost out to the Stephanie de Sykes and Stuart Slater song Love Enough For Two, sung by the group Prima Donna.

Maggie sings Happy Everything, which eventually finished as the runner-up in the contest

After the two songs tied for first place the fourteen regional juries were asked by Terry Wogan to vote for one of the two tied songs to decide who would represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague, Netherlands. In a vote that descended into chaos with the scoreboard operator and Terry Wogan failing to keep up with the votes from the regions it was eventually decided that he winning song by eight votes to six was the one from Prima Donna and Maggie missed out on the trip to The Hague.

The voting chaos at the end of the 1980 UK Song for Europe contest for chance to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest

1980 also saw Maggie as the special guest to Johnny Mathis during his four week sell-out British tour which opened with four performances at the Royal Albert Hall and she later sang in concert in Chicago accompanied by world famous pianist, Peter Nero.

Maggie answered 10 year-old Simone Fox’s wish to be a bridesmaid. With thanks to Reach PLC. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

In July 1980 Maggie answered the prayers of budding bridesmaid Simone Fox from Dagenham, Essex. Maggie read in the Daily Mirror about Simone’s secret wish to be a bridesmaid and no expense was spared in ensuring that the young girl had a day to remember. Simone was the honourary bridesmaid, in her dress costing £179, at Maggie’s wedding to company director Colin Davies at Solihull, West Midlands.

Maggie was back in song contest action again in 1981 when she travelled to Soeul, South Korea to represent the United Kingdom in the World Song Festival. She performed the song, No Hard Feelings, written by New Faces judge Les Reed and was runner-up to the Al Green who was representing the United States.

February 1983 saw Maggie make an appearance on ITVs London Night Out along with Jim Davidson and comedian Michael Barrymore, both successful New Faces acts. Maggie sang one of Neil Sedaka’s somgs, Going Nowhere and the host of the show was Opportunity Knocks winner Tom O’Connor.

A section of the show was £1,000 prize contest called Name That Tune, which in October of the same year would get its own twenty week series and see Tom and Maggie reunited as host and singer, respectively, on the new prime time show. Maggie’s role on the show was in the ‘Sing A Tune’ section. After hearing the middle section of a tune sung by Maggie, contestants had just seven seconds to write down the title of the tune. Three tunes were played and with each tune worth £50 to the contestant who identified it correctly.

On Wednesday 7th September 1983, shortly before the launch of Name That Tune, Maggie appeared in a song a dance routine in part of the first episode of Morecambe and Wise’s very last series on ITV (clip below).

Maggie appeared on Morecambe and Wise’s last series for ITV
Maggie in 1984.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

When the second series of Name That Tune started in October 1984, former New Faces judge Lionel Blair had taken over the host role from Tom O’Connor and, replacing the Irish trio Sheeba, a new musical group Kaluki joined Maggie on the show. Maggie certainly earned her money for the show as for each series she was required to learn around 100 numbers to perform in the ‘Sing A Tune‘ section of the show. The show, which aired at the 7pm pre-Coronation Street slot, was a huge ratings success attracting over sixteen million viewers during its peak.

1986 was a very busy year for Maggie. In February she appeared at Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham with Les Dennis and The Krankies in The Big Family Show and soon after toured with comedian Russ Abbot. Later the same year both Les and Maggie would go on to feature in sketches in all three series of Russ Abbot’s BBC One comedy special, appropriately named The Russ Abbot Show. It was a complete change of direction for Maggie as in the show she performed in comedy sketches rather than singing and dancing.

Taking the Saturday evening prime time slot The Russ Abbot Show introduced audiences to the bumbling Cooperman, the intrepid Basildon Bond and an endless variety of characters from the Russ Abbot repertoire. Delivering sketches in quick succession Russ was supported by other formidable figures, including Tom Bright, Suzy Aitchison, Gordon Kennedy and Bella Emberg’s who often performed as Blunder Woman.

Cooperman’s Christmas Pantomime, featuring Russ Abbot, Les Dennis, Bella Emburg and Maggie.

Maggie was in good company when she was nominated by the British public in the ‘UK’s Most Popular Singer’ category in the TV Times Annual Television Awards, alongside Madonna, Wham! and Cliff Richard. This year also saw Maggie get her own TV special when she recorded the show Maggie for Grampian Television.

Maggie ended 1986 in her first of over a dozen principal boy appearances in Pantomime. She appeared as the lead in Dick Whittington at the Southport Theatre with Roy Walker and Martin Daniels (son of magician Paul). In 1988 Maggie returned to New Faces appearing as a judge on New Faces ’88 hosted by Marti Caine. She may have been accused of bias that night, had the voting not been left to the theatre and television audiences, as one of the six acts on the show was Phil Walker, son of comedian Roy.

In 1991 Maggie was reunited with Name That Tune host Lionel Blair as she joined other guests Amelia Bullmore, Keith Chegwin, Kenny Everett, Frazer Hines and Gillian Taylforth along with Lionel’s opposing team captain Liza Goddard on the television charades game Give Us A Clue. In 1992 Maggie was a guest on STV’s Art Sutter and Friends show where she performed Gloria Estefan’s hit song 1-2-3. Also on the same show was John Inman who Maggie would later star alongside in the 1993 pantomime, Mother Goose at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

In the 1990s Maggie formed her own ladies Polo team, The Moonbeams, who for seven years competed nationally for and were based in Cirencester. For six years from 1996 onwards Maggie toured with Coventry vocalist Mark Rattray who was the last ever winner of the Opportunity Knocks talent show in 1990. They performed together is two theatre productions The Magic of Bacharach and Musical Magic which featured songs from past and current musicals.

Now a registered exercise professional and qualified fitness instructor, Maggie was, before the Covid-19 lockdown struck, teaching six fitness classes, including Zumba, Hula-hooping and Pound fitness drumming, in the Dorchester area of the UK.

Sandi Ann Leigh on New Faces