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.