Tommy BlaizeTommy Blaize with permission for Varsity

I’m going to throw you back to 1970s Liverpool. You’re at a Labour club, it’s a Friday night and you’re ready for some good entertainment. You take a long draw of your cigarette, ruefully recall your dire luck in the bingo round you’ve spectacularly failed at, but you’re eager to hear the next act: The Blaize Brothers. It’s a group of singers, brothers apparently, your friend tells you. Here they are! You strain as you can’t quite see them over the heads in front – odd as you had a good view before. You lift your gaze just a little higher, and, wait, how old are they!? They open their mouths and begin a joyful tune. Nine, eight and six, your friend informs you. Nine, eight and six …

“This is the world I want to be in”

And leading that trio of brothers was singer, musician and Strictly star Tommy Blaize. He began his music career before he’d even reached a decade, his and his brothers’ talent spotted as they sang to their neighbours around the streets of Liverpool. Quickly, their local renown grew, as they joined a well known north-west roadshow run by Hilda Fallon. Blaize remembers their first gig from the other side, that of the stage: we “walked into this room, filled with smoke – a proper Labour club, and I remember seeing this red electric guitar and thinking, this is the world I want to be in.” Thrown onto the scene, they would perform in between other sets – bingo, music, dancing – a whirlwind of entertainment that nonetheless made a lot of professional work after seem “really easy in comparison”: the smoke-free air and pre-4am hours were welcome bonuses after this beginning.

The more Blaize performed, the more he got into it. “We would be in social clubs and one night, it would be a fantastic piano player, but the next the players might be terrible and I’d be upset.” He wanted to know how it all worked, the ins and outs of the band, how to read music, compose and write, so he went to Mabel Fletcher music college in Liverpool, completing a practical undergrad and then a Jazz master’s. Able to delve into the world of the genre, this passion continued – he’s “fascinated by Jazz. It doesn’t have many rules and there’s always windows you haven’t opened.” However, he does admit that “deep down in my soul, I’m a soul singer.”

“Deep down in my soul, I’m a soul singer”

But of course, on Strictly Come Dancing for four months of the year, Blaize is tested on all kinds of styles. He “likes the challenge” because “you don’t know what you’re going to get: they throw a tune at you and you see if you can handle it.” Alongside three other talented singers, they cover a lot of ground – “we’ve all got three or four different hats.” And each hat is certainly used. Blaize explains that you might go from country western (which must be a cowboy hat) to jazz (black fedora?) to musicals (top hat) all in succession, not only requiring mental agility, but being rather knackering for a vocalist. The musicians also record the results show after singing all day in the main show – you’re “praying your main song doesn’t come back!” The most challenging part for Tommy remains when “the BBC bravely trust a Scouser to tackle songs in different languages”. So far, there have been no viewer complaints, but Ed Balls’ decision to do Gangnam Style was certainly one of the higher hurdles he’s encountered.


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I ask Blaize what his most surprising moment has been: “I never expected to be on stage with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder singing happy birthday to Nelson Mandela.” With the incredible position of being part of the house band for Mandela’s 90th at Hyde Park, Blaize learned a range of songs from different artists, ending with the unforgettable moment of singing to the head of state face-to-face. He’s often reminded of this by the “letter we all got, thanking us from Nelson”. Like all the best things, he keeps it in his bathroom.

And before Blaize returns to our screens and graces our ears this September on Strictly, he’s doing his first UK solo tour. Bringing together his array of skills – piano, guitar and vocals – he’s performing at 51 different spots in the UK until late summer. It’s a packed calendar, but Blaize’s not worried about his voice getting tired. His fool proof trick for a tickle? You can’t go wrong with pineapple.