2010/05/26

Veronica Young - The Little Girl from Pulau Brani


During the early 60s, a little kampong girl and her family moved from the serene island of Pulau Brani to mainland Singapore where they made their home at Cantonment Road. Her first taste of the local music scene was through the courtesy of her classmates who conveniently used her as a passport to convince their parents to allow them to periodically attend Tea Dances that soon became a weekly routine.

It was during one of those Tea Dances at the South East Asia Hotel in Waterloo Street where The Silver Strings & The Cyclones were performing that this teenager met Siva Choy who was practising his guitar at the back of the hotel and they instantly struck up a conversation. Siva asked whether she sang and did she know any songs? Her reply was “Never before” although she was finally coaxed into humming “That’s All I Want From You” which impressed him enough to suggest that she sing with The Silver String on the following Sunday’s show.

The teenager did not take Siva’s invitation seriously and forgot about it until the next weekend when her classmates wanted to joget again at the same joint. Siva recognized her instantly and promptly invited her on stage. From that moment, a star was born, Veronica Young, a legendary stage name given to her by some of her close friends who found her cute and irresistible!

In the next few months, the combined talents of The Silver Strings, The Cyclones & Veronica brought in the crowds every weekend and demands for their shows kept them busy, coupled with regular practices. As Veronica was still schooling at that time, she had to strike a fine balance between her studies and singing. Mum was obviously concerned, and it took some convincing for Mum to allow Veronica to continue her singing during the weekends. About a month after she joined The Silver Strings, Audie Ng suggested that they participate in the Millie Small of “My Boy Lollipop” fame Singing Competition.

Veronica & The Silver Strings won the competition with flying colors and were presented with a Roxy black & white TV which she brought home with immense pride and joy for herself and the family. Till this day, Veronica still feels a lump on her throat whenever she speaks about her triumph fondly. Since winning the competition, Veronica found herself spending more time in the entertainment circle with increasing demands for her performance from various sources. With Mum’s consent, she finally made the difficult decision of quitting school in 1964 to concentrate fulltime on her singing career which reaped steady good income to supplement her parents in providing for their reasonably large family of brothers and sisters.

As expected, her new found fame brought her several new singing contracts at popular entertainment spots like the Golden Venus, Dragon Room, Celestial Room, New Penang Way, West Point, Changi Hawaii Village, Singapore Badminton Hall, National Theatre, Naval Base, etc. She was also invited to perform in Malaysia with Keith Locke & The Quests, Ronnie See & The Burns, The Sunny Low Dancers, and more. Back home, she had the opportunities to share the same stage with the best of local talents, which included the late Susan Lim & The Crescendos, and regular appearances on the very popular weekend Early Bird and Musical Express Shows at the Odeon, Roxy and Capitol cinemas. It was around this stage of her career that Shirley Nair came into the scene with The Silver Strings as well and Veronica finally decided to move on by herself to meet new challenges and she sang her way to greater heights of popularity at music bars from 3 to 7pm daily with much zest.

In 1966 she had her first overseas contract in Kuching, East Malaysia with The Echo-Jets, led by the late Patrick Seet. Other members in that group include Raymond Lim, Ricky, Salem, Sunny and Ronnie. More contract offers came along which saw Veronica appearing in places like the Ocean Park Hotel, Multi-Storey Car Park, G.H. Café at Battery Road with the late Peter Richards and Moses Tay, Shamrock at Dublin Road, Prince Gurney Hotel, Continental Hotel, Ambassador Hotel and several TV appearances as well. Somewhere along this period, she also performed with Robert Song and recorded an EP with The Moonglows on the Philips label, featuring four original compositions by Patrick Seet, titled Lollipop, Dreams of Love, The Thrill to Love You and Thank You for Your Kindness.

In 1967 she packed her bags again and took on another overseas assignment with The Impian Bateks in Vietnam. Upon her return to Singapore after 6 months, she appeared at Shindig (the old Shamrock at Killiney Road) with The Tidbits (RTS Talentime winners in 1967/68), which was followed by another stint in Vietnam, again with a mix of Korean and Filipino entertainers, including versatile drummer Cedric Cork. Returning in late 1968, she accepted another contract to perform at The Paya Lebar International Airport, the only place that closed as late as 4am at the time, until late 1969. Next, she moved on to the Country Club in East Coast where Matthew & The Mandarins were also performing. In 1975 she hit Peyton Place, Orchard Towers with Terry & Tony until she met her husband and left for Korea later.

Besides singing, Veronica was also an active sportswoman, representing Singapore in tenpin bowling and participating in overseas competitions in Manila, Jakarta, Helsinki, London, among other places. In 1988 she resumed her favourite pastime, singing at Club 5, Plaza Hotel with Ernesto whom she worked with at the Paya Lebar International Airport together with his brother Greg, and subsequently moving on to Act 1, Mandarin Hotel with Penny Lane until late 1989 before she finally migrated to France with her husband. Before she left for France, Veronica recorded a compilation CD album titled “Down Memory Lane” with a mixture of songs by Connie Francis and some other popular artistes from the 1960’s era.

Despite her commitments, she found time to raise two children and she played an active role in raising funds for charity as a member of the Lions Club of Singapore Changi. In 1989 she performed at the Thanks For The Memories Show together with other popular 60s groups like The Checkmates, The Gaylads, The Cyclones, The Trailers, The Thunderbirds, and The Quests, among others. At the same show, Veron paid moving tributes to the late Susan Lim and Shirley Nair by dedicating two of their past hits, “Silver Threads & Golden Needles” and “Too Late for Tears” to them respectively. Although she has been in France for the last 20 years, Veronica still makes periodic trips back to Singapore and has performed to packed audiences at various shows and functions.

In 2004/5 she did three surprise gigs on board the cruise ship “Funchai” from Perth to Bali, the “Athena” in the Baltic Seas that covered places like Amsterdam, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, London, the Norwegian Fjords and Cap North, and finally the “Le Diamond” from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and Santiago along the Chilean Fjords, Cape Horn, back to Ushuaia, the Antarctic and return to Ushuaia again. Words cannot express how fortunate she felt to be given the opportunities to perform gigs on board the three ships. She will always treasure those wonderful memories deep in her heart forever.

Today Veronica still packs a punch when she takes the stage in Singapore and she would often jokingly introduce herself as Veronica Old and not Young anymore. But to us fans, we will always remember her affectionately as Veronica Young from the 60s. Thanks for the music and fond memories, Veronica.

Photo of Veronica Young with The Jets.
Compiled by Vernon Cheong, with thanks to Veronica Young.

27 May 2010.

23 comments:

Vernon Cheong said...

Recently, I had the opportunity of attending a show at the Singapore Swimming Club that featured Veronica Young as the special guest artiste. The Millie Small of Singapore still packs a punch with her powerful voice and led the crowd back to the good old 60s days with her wide repertoire of songs. Accompanied by PennyLane led by Jap Chong of The Quests, other members of the band for the evening included his Quests buddy Wee Guan, Michael Png (Matthew & The Mandarins), David Loh (Blackjacks)and versatile keyboard specialist, Ricardo Chow. It was indeed an evening to remember and Veronica still has what it takes that made her one of the top local acts during 60s era. Thanks for the memories.
26 Oct 2008

Anonymous said...

Hi Vernon,

A very comprehensive write-up on the Connie Francis of Singapore. Veronica is a class of her own with an amazingly powerful voice that easily blends with any variety of songs she choses to perform. You should be writing a book on 60s Music as well. Great work ! Thanks for evoking my 60s memories again.

warm regards,
Irene Lim

Anonymous said...

Wow..reading Veron's climb to success is also a learning curve on "who was who" in the local music industry during the golden 60s. A very interesting career path that crosses time and distance. She literally sang her way across the world....from a little kampong in Pulau Brani to the glittering lights of Paris ! Well done Veronica.

Pat Seow

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Irene Lim's comment above, many Singapore musicians and fans do not see V Young as the Connie Frances of Singapore. The true blue Singapore Connie Frances is the undisputed Patricia Pestana who is living in Australia today.

Tian

Serene said...

I beg to differ on Veronica being referred as the Connie Francis of Singapore here. I believe Veron has the quality to stand on her own along the best local talents during the 60s. She is better known to fans as Veronica Young per se rather than the Connie Francis or Millie Small of Singapore.

Thanks for posting this interesting blog on one of our leading ladies from the Golden Years of local music. Thanks for sharing your career story with us, Veronica.

regards.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading the story of The Little Girl From Pulau Brani. I sure recall Veronica singing at the old Paya Lebar Airport during the late 60s because I used to work there and often have a drink or two before calling it a day after a Hard Day's work at the airport. Yes, memories are made of this...... thanks for a great post about the past.

Leow

Laila said...

A very indepth summary post on one of our local talents from the past. It captures the zest of the 60s scene then, the common places we used to have fun, the joy and occasional pains of group life, sacrifices made for the love of music, family and fans, the way we were..

Hope you can feature more similar stories of some of the other local artistes from that era, Susan Lim, Shirley Nair, Naomi Suriya, Keith Locke, Vernon Cornelius, Frankie Cheah and others.

Keep up the good work, pal !

Laila

Anonymous said...

That's a fantastic photo of Veronica Young & The Jets. Its a real catch for the collectors of old photos of local groups from the 60s. A thousand thanks for sharing, Vernon & Veron.

LiMay

Arnold said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Montana

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Anonymous said...

This is a great write-up of Veronica Young. Many artistes contributed to the best era of local music during the 60s and 70s but sadly not much recognition has been given to most of them. Its also a great pity that not much has been said about the history of our own super stars from the past. What you have written about Veron is exactly what fans like us like to know about our teenage idols. How it all started, the long and winding road to success, the obstacles they encoutered along their career path, the usual challenges of group life, many groups broke up because of their own success and differing visions of each member, even the great Beatles suffered the same fate. Thanks for a very well written piece of local pop history from the past. Congrats on a great blog with substance.

Jenn

Pamela said...

Hi Vernon,

Interesting blog on Veronica. I have a couple of questions which I hope you can assist me:-

a) The Jets - I can make out Richard Tan, Alan Poh and Edmund Tan. Who is the 4th member? Herald Chiang ?

b) Veron's tour of Vietnam must be very interesting, especially in the heat of the war. How was the scene out there ?

c) Its a real pity that Veron did not have a resident band with her during the 60s, like Naomi & The Boys or Heather & The Thunderbirds. Otherwise, I'm sure she would have made a few more recordings. Her only EP with the Moonglows was a good take. Why limit to one EP only ?

Thanks.
Pamela

Anonymous said...

Hi Vernon,

Thanks for sharing. I grew up in the 50s and 60s and have not left.
I have been compiling great songs from that era and have reached 600 songs that I think many baby boomers remembered and loved.

Great like The Chantels, The Chiffons, Martha & the Vandellas,
The Marvelettes, The Ronettes and The Supreme were simply incomparable.


Ben

Anonymous said...

The last time I saw Veronica Young & The Silver Strings perform together was at the REUNION of the 60's Show at the Vivocity Amphitheatre around November 2008. Other groups/artistes that participated in that show were The Trailers, Esquires, Wilson David, Andy Young, Max Surin, Mike & Herb n more. Veronica was obviously the star performer that evening and she really got the audience behind her with some of the 60s hits and her song that really brought the house down was Hippy Hippy Shake by the Swinging Blues Jeans. It was an encore performance from the Little Lady From Pulau Brani. Cheers to Veron !

Hazel Ding

Anonymous said...

Hi Vernon,

Is there a club in Singapore where the DJ or band plays mostly oldies ?

I would love to hang out there and meet people who shares the same passion..

Ben

Dario said...

Not sure. Club 5 at Plaza Hotel Beach Road used to play oldies but now not anymore.

Max Surin is now singing at a new Bistro Bar in Suntec City beside the Eng Wah Cinema. He jams there with his band Mon - Sat from 8 - 10.30pm.
The location can be found in www.ledanz.com.sg

Anonymous said...

Hi Vernon,

About the image in your article titled "Veronica Young - The Little Girl from Pulau Brani", do u have the contact number for the source of the image?
i need it for the cover of a magazine, please reply as soon as possible.. or can i have your email address?


Thx
Felicia

Vernon Cheong said...

Hi Felicia,

Please do NOT use the image for any magazine without the approval
of its source. Suggest you provide
me your email address while I
check with the source. Thank you.

vernon

Vernon Cheong said...

Had a lunch gathering with Veron and some members of The Quests last week at the Orchard Garden Court Restaurant, our usual haunt for chat-ups! Those present included Reggie, Jap & Sam of The Quests and a few 60s local music fans. We had a great time recollecting the 60s days with Veron sharing some interesting snippets of her singing career during the 60s, the excitement of stints in Saigon during the Vietnam War era, her time with Jap's PennyLane band, Brani days etc. It was an afternoon of great nostalgia, thanks for the fond memories Veron. Cheers to Life !

Vernon Cheong said...

Friday 12 Aug 2011 - Had the opportunity of attending a one hour special show by Veronica Young at the Serangoon Country Club. She was backed by PennyLane led by Jap Chong with his former Quests mate Sam Toh on bass guitar. Among the audience were several local artists from the 60s, including one Mr. Reginald Verghese. What a night of fun and good music. Thanks for the memories, Veron !

Anonymous said...

Are these Veronica Young and the Echojets who were in the Kuching Hotel in 1964-65?

Anonymous said...

My previous should have read "Borneo Hotel, Kuching", I think.

Vernon Cheong said...

The group on my blog was the original Jets whom Veronica sang with on some occasions in gigs during the 60s.

The Echo Jets was the group who accompanied Veron during her first solo contract in Kuching after she left The Silver Strings.

Yes, Veron & The Echo Jets were staying near the Borneo Hotel in Kuching in 1966. Cheers.

Airina Margot Falafel Frou Frou Tenenbaum Imran said...

Hi Vernon,

I'm doing a project on the pioneers of Singapore - including the music pioneers of the 60s/70s.

Your blog has been a wonderful resource and source of information on many of the bands and singers of that golden era.

I'm wondering if I can speak to you in more detail about some of these people, and maybe hear your insight on our music history?