Prince Charles: Three Degrees singer reveals all about disco Prince
The Three Degrees were known as ‘Charlie’s Angels’ after playing at the Prince of Wales’ 30th birthday. Forty years on, the group’s Valerie Holiday talks to KATHRYN SPENCER.
When Prince Charles celebrates his 70th birthday today, there will be a very special birthday message among all the cards. It has been recorded by The Three Degrees, the glamorous US soul and disco trio who performed at his request at his 30th birthday party when he was the world’s most eligible bachelor. Valerie Holiday, 69, below, who last year celebrated her 50th anniversary with the group and is its longest continuous serving member, will never forget that glittering November night in 1978.
“It was a very special occasion. The first time going to Buckingham Palace. I was like, ‘Wow!’ Charles told us how he enjoyed our music. We met quite a few of the other royals as well. They were all there.”
So captivated was the heir to the throne by the performance that he leapt up to join the girls, right. “He came up on stage and danced with us. He was a good mover!” So he wasn’t stuffy? “No!” she laughs.
The group were dubbed Charlie’s Angels thanks to their royal fan.
But speaking about their meeting on ITV’s Loose Women last year, Ferguson said: “He was a womaniser. I didn’t want to be a notch on his bedpost. I valued myself a little more than that.”
She also claimed that Charles later sent her letters.
While they were guests at the wedding reception of Charles and Diana in 1981, The Three Degrees have not had contact with Charles for some time, but would jump at the chance to perform for him once more.
In the meantime, the trio – whose present incarnation is Valerie, Helen Scott, 70, (who rejoined in 1976 having left in 1966 to have children) and newcomer Freddie Pool, 72, (who joined in 2011) – have recorded a message for Charles.
“It’s just a greeting wishing him Happy Birthday,” says Valerie.
“We’re hoping he gets to hear it!”
Charles wasn’t the only British admirer of The Three Degrees. They achieved 13 top 50 hits between 1974 and 1985, including the chart-topping When Will I See You Again and Woman In Love, Year Of Decision, My Simple Heart, Take Good Care Of Yourself and Givin’ Up Givin’ In.
The group were renowned as much for their soulful vocal harmonies as for their sophisticated visual image, synchronised choreography and elegant appearance in figure-hugging gowns.
It was quite a contrast to the platform-soled, brown-clad, feminine image of the early 1970s – and the polar opposite to pop contemporary Suzi Quatro with her tomboy leather jumpsuits.
It’s a trademark look they maintain to this day.
“Yeah! Love those sequins,” says Valerie, who is married to an Englishman and has a 26-year-old son.
She adds: “We wore hot pants but they were not your Daisy Dukes. There was nothing hanging out. They were short, but presentable. We featured a lot of leg, but you didn’t have all the boobs hanging out. We’ve always felt modesty was important.”
One of their first big hits in 1973 was Dirty Ol’ Man about a young woman being harassed by an older suitor.
Did they have any #MeToo moments?
Valerie says: “It was just a song! But in that time frame, it really did fit. Because we were in our twenties and were still very young and innocent. Our manager was our stopgap between us and whatever tried to get through.”
There were occasions when they were hit upon but they knew how to fend for themselves.
“Of course you’d have your dirty old man occasionally. You were standing up there with your arms around people for a picture and his hand would be sliding down further, and you’d have to correct them and tell them, ‘Excuse me’.”
Supporting younger women in the music industry has always been important to The Three Degrees says Valerie.
“We were trying to set an example to any females who were wanting to get into the business,” she says.
“Whenever we got the opportunity, we would always tell women to make sure that you are legally protected because this is a business that does not offer you very much protection. On any level. You really have to fend for yourself.”
The group didn’t experience much racial discrimination either, says Valerie. “We were born during the period where there was discrimination. We didn’t escape it all. But we escaped some. Our manager made sure that he was very, very selective in where we performed.”
In their early career, the Degrees even had a cameo role singing a song in a nightclub in the hit 1971 thriller The French Connection.
“For all of three minutes!” says Valerie.
They also toured as support for Engelbert Humperdinck.
Today, they are still touring internationally – “We still love it,” says Valerie – and will be seen next year in the UK in arena venues including Wembley as part of the 40 Years Of Disco UK tour with other 1970s acts such as The Village People and The Trammps.
Would they like to see Prince Charles at one of the dates?
“Now, that would be a hoot.” says Valerie.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK