Big Broseley star disappeared off the radar

A hobby genealogist has turned up new information about a Broseley-born singer who was a big star in the 1960s but then disappeared from view.

Broseley-born singing star of the 1960s Janie Marden.
Broseley-born singing star of the 1960s Janie Marden.

And it transpires that Janie Marden was married to the composer of one of the most familiar pieces of 1950s music, even though many people will not recognise it from its title.

“Puffin’ Billy” by Edward White is a jaunty instrumental evocative of 1950s jolly japes and children's programmes and is so quintessentially “middle England” from that era that it was used as the opening theme to the Comic Strips’ two parodies of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures.

Mike Grainger from Newport has been doing some digging among the records about Janie, who was born Janet Instone in Broseley. Although her family almost immediately moved to Bristol, she still has surviving relatives in Shropshire.

Mike’s researches show that Janie was the daughter of Edward and Eveline Instone – Eveline’s maiden name was Garbett – and that she was born Janet Hilliard Instone on February 23, 1934.

Janie’s husband Ed White, a noted composer of light music, was much older than her, being born in 1910. Their marriage date is not known.

Janie went into showbusiness in the 1950s. A report in the Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News of August 1955 on the progress of the "local girl" said: "A native of Broseley and a former telephone operator at Bristol, where her parents now live, Janie Marden, mezzo-soprano, made her debut as the star singer with Cyril Stapleton's BBC Show Band in the Show Band Show broadcast on the Light Programme on August Monday.

"She succeeded as resident vocalist in the show Rosemary Clooney... Her real name is Miss Janet Instone and she is aged 21.

"She is the only child of Mr and Mrs E. S. Instone of 35 Burley Crescent, Downend, Bristol, and formerly of New Road, Broseley, where she was born. When just under two years of age she left Broseley with her parents to live in Bristol..."

Her singing career shone brightest throughout the 1960s when she was a staple on various television shows like Morecambe & Wise, the Frankie Howerd Show and the Benny Hill Show, rubbing shoulders on stage with the likes of Liberace and Cliff Richard, and also in cabaret.

She also worked with the German pianist Horst Jankowski, and photos of them together point to a close friendship.

Janie then seems to disappear off the radar and Mike has found that she died on some unknown date during the 1980s in Can Pastilla, Mallorca, where she and her husband had no doubt moved. It would mean she died relatively young, in her 50s.

Her husband survived her, living to 1994.

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