Anne Nolan is the eldest of the world famous Nolan Sisters and was born in Ireland in 1950. Her parents Tommy and Maureen Nolan were singers in their own right in post war Dublin, and after a visit to Blackpool in the North of England in the early 1960's they realised the potential for work there and relocated in June 1962, minus Anne!! At the time 11 year old Anne was suffering from pains in her legs, so it was decided she should stay behind and continue with treatment, then join her parents in England when she was better. Which she did! On arriving in Blackpool for the very first time Anne remembers "I was so naive… I was fully expecting to see an enormous black pool!!"
After some time Tommy and Maureen began to incorporate the rest of family in to the act – and so 'The Singing Nolans' were born!
It wasn't too long before audiences were queuing around the block for entrance to any club or venue where 'The Singing Nolans' were appearing, and in 1973 things were set to change for ever. An impromptu gig at the prestigious Cliffs Hotel on Christmas Day that year was attended by a Mr Joe Lewis, the boss of a company called Hanover Grand. He loved the fact that it was a family act and offered the group gigs in London. The male members of the family seemed hesitant but the Nolan Girls were adamant, Anne remembers: "I was 23, Denise was 21, Maureen 18, Linda 14 and Bernie 12 – and we were certain... we wanted to be famous... we couldn't wait to start our new adventure! The Nolan Sisters had just been born!"
So bags were packed and off to London it was. Playing the glitzy London Room and other corporate functions and cabaret venues for Hanover Grand, including the Grosvenor House and Royal Garden Hotel, meant the girls were busy at nights, but earning £120.00 each a week and being free in the daytime meant they could shop on Carnaby Street, and visit London Zoo and Hyde Park. A BBC Producer called Stewart Morris, who was also head of light entertainment, was introduced to the girls before one of their shows and cut straight to the chase:
"I've seen your act girls – and it lacks polish, your patter needs to sharpen up and your harmonies could do with some help, but if we get all that right, we may be able to make stars of you yet!"
The girls were invited on every variety show going including Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnie's, but it wasn't until Cliff Richard visited the London Room one evening to watch their act that the girls were really heading for the big time, they were instantly booked as regular guest artistes on Cliffs prime time Saturday Night Show. He loved their act and had commented how pretty they all were. The girls got straight to work learning chorography and harmonies for all the numbers on Cliffs Show. They would also duet with him as well as performing their own songs on each show. The schedule was grueling as the girls would perform at The London Room in the evenings and rehearse and record Cliff's shown in between.
In 1975 the girls received a phone call from Stewart Morris:
"You're going to be the opening act on Frank Sinatra's European Tour!!"
It seems he'd been right - they were going to be stars after all!
Many wonderful albums, performances and tours followed, including a trip across the pond to New York City where the girls supported Englebert Humperdink. Between 1974 and 1978 The Nolan Sisters recorded eight singles for Target Records, and all of them failed to make the charts. Everything was to change once again in 1978 when Denise announced she wanted to leave the act and concentrate on a solo career. So five became four! Anne, Linda, Bernie and Maureen were the new line up, and in the summer of that year the girls appeared at the ABC Theatre in Blackpool with the Bachelors. Autumn saw the release of the "20 Giant Hits" Album with a heavy television campaign and marketing drive by Warner Brothers. The album entered the top 5 in the charts and earned them a gold disc, and a performance at The Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium topped the year of nicely.
When CBS signed the girls they wanted to change their name to simply 'The Nolans'. They felt it was a bit snappier and a bit less old fashioned than The Nolan Sisters. The girls were also put up to represent Britain in the Eurovison Song Contest, but a strike by BBC technicians made it impossible to perform live on the day. They had a wonderful song and dance routine all rehearsed and with Anne on lead vocals it was a sure fire hit! It wasn't meant to be, and they came in fourth place.
Anne Nolan married Brian Wilson in 1979, and made the decision to step out of the lime light and spend more time with her husband, but agreed to wait until Coleen was old enough to replace her. The debut Epic/CBS album was released and 'Spirit Body & Soul' was a hit reaching number 34 in the charts. Although not a smash hit the record did however ensure that the Nolans achieved another of their ambitions. They got to appear on BBC 1's 'Top of the Pops' and at the close of the year the mega hit 'I'm in the mood for dancing' was released and reached the top 3. In February 1980 it went on to sell more than 350,000 copies in the UK alone. Astonishingly the song reached number one in Japan which was to prove to be a whole new chapter of their career. The Nolans are bigger in Japan than the Beatles, and the girls have recorded and performed in Japanese.
In 1980 the girls landed a 16 week summer season at the Blackpool Opera House, which holds 3,500 people. On the Sinatra Tour the girls sang to audiences of around 10,000 people and were at home with gigs of this gravity. Anne recalls:"I always loved the live performance, much more so than being in a studio…"
During the summer season in Blackpool Anne discovered she was pregnant so naturally her decision to leave the group and concentrate on family life seemed more appropriate than ever. On the last nights performance emotions got the better of Anne:
"for nineteen years I'd rehearsed, performed, toured, eaten, slept, and drunk the life of my siblings, and now, almost suddenly, it was coming to an end."
During their version of Cliff Richards 'Miss You Nights' she broke down in tears on stage and Coleen walked on from the wings and took over her part. There wasn't a dry eye in the house!
Only two years passed, and Anne missed singing and her Sisters terribly so decided to rejoin the group in 1982, just in time to rehearse for the tour that was due to kick off in November that year. Amy (Anne's daughter) was also on the tour being looked after by Anne's Mum, Maureen. 1983 saw the end of the relationship between CBS and The Nolans.
In 1983 The Nolans entered the charts with 'Don't Do That' which was a collaboration with rock stars Lemmy from Motorhead, and Cozy Powell. Linda decided that she too wanted to branch out as a solo artiste leaving the five piece as a four piece once more. A tour was then scheduled with Anne, Maureen, Bernie and Coleen as the new Nolans line up. The family spent Christmas together as usual that year, and the group was still very popular on the touring circuit enjoying great successes wherever and whenever they appeared.
By this point Denise, the first Nolan to go solo, had a successful career and had been appearing in Pantomimes, so it wasn't long before the other Nolans began slapping their thighs and also topping the bill in Panto's up and down the country. Anne has appeared in many pantomimes, most recently playing Evil Queen alongside her daughter Amy in Snow White, which she thoroughly enjoyed! Her other notable performances were as Cinderella alongside Peter Howitt and Margi Clarke and at The Liverpool Empire.
The Nolans found themselves once again back in the studio recording a new album. 'Tenderly' is considered by many to be the greatest album the Nolans ever recorded. It features songs from the 1950's and was a testimony to how diverse the act had become. Two of the tracks were sung a cappella. The album's release coincided with a UK tour.
In 1987 Anne gave birth to her second daughter, Alex.
The Nolans went into the studio in 1989 and re-recorded 'I'm In the Mood for Dancing.' This version was given the 'Stock Aitkin Waterman' treatment with a funky disco beat, Bernie singing lead vocals. The girls still enjoyed TV work most notably singing The Smiths song 'Panic' On Jonathan Ross' show, and an appearance on the Rick Mayall comedy 'Filth Rich and Catflap'!
In early 1990 The Nolans were approached by Universal Panasonic in Japan with a view to releasing several albums for the Japanese market. In addition to the new Japanese releases several greatest hits were released featuring newly recorded versions of their hits.
In 1995 Anne and Maureen toured the UK with a revamped Nolans act as Bernie had also decided to go solo by this point. Not all together happy as a duo backed by dancers, Anne's eldest daughter Amy, who had by now reached sixteen years old, stepped in to the line up with her best friend Julia to once again make up a four piece Nolans.
The new 21st century Nolans line up, Anne, Maureen, Amy and Julia were performing at Blackpool's Grand Theatre in summer 2000 in a variety show when Anne noticed lumps in her breasts. Tests were carried out and breast cancer was diagnosed. Anne had fourteen lumps removed and had to undergo extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Anne continued to perform whilst being treated for cancer, missing only one or two shows, when youngest sister Coleen would step in and take Anne's place.
In 2001 Anne and Maureen were invited as special guests on the 'Reelin and Rockin' Tour'. The girls provided backing vocals for a variety of 1960's stars such as Dave Berry, Brian Poole and Gerry Marsden, and also had a spot in the show performing some female classics by the likes of Dusty Springfield. The show was a great success and the two original Nolans stayed with the tour for three years, which also included a trip down under to Oz.
In 2005 Anne took on her first gig as a solo performer in a major variety show. Sadly the impresario of the show was inexperienced and after only a couple of performances an unpaid cast, including Anne Nolan and Bobby Davro, were left without a show! Not letting this set back get the better of her Anne continued to perform solo and took on a season at The Hilton Hotel in Blackpool and then performed her one woman show to packed out audiences in Spain, 2007. Anne's flawless pitch and powerful vocals have always been the foundations of The Nolans, and continue to please audiences who attend her live performances!
In 2008 Anne released her autobiography Anne's Song. It took her five years to write this inspiring and 'real' account of her life, which charts the world wide success of The Nolans, her marriage and subsequent parting from footballer Brian Wilson, which led to her contemplating suicide, and the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her father Tommy, who later went on to manage the girls. The book is also now available in paperback.
Anne is now heavily involved in charity work for the Alzheimer's Society after her Mum passed away with the illness. So far in 2009 Anne has fronted the 'Join The Fight For Women's Survival' Breast Cancer Awareness March in London alongside Green Goddess Diana Moran.
2011 saw Anne release her debut solo album 'Just One Voice' along with a charity single 'When I Need You' for Save the Children. Also Anne was invited to appear on a Christmas Charity Video for Cancer Research Uk a charity that is very close to Anne's heart and indeed the Nolan family.