IN history, the expression Try, try again belongs to Robert the Bruce, in music it is surely the sentiment of Charlie Landsborough, who found fame in his 50s after decades of near misses.

“My cousin once told me what I’d done was remarkable. He said, ‘Although there are a lot of old timers in the music business, they didn’t start as old timers’,” jokes the Birkenhead country and folk singer-songwriter.

He started singing professionally in the 1970s, but Landsborough’s performing dreams didn’t come true until 1994 and What Colour Is The Wind became a hit song for the 53-year-old. Now 75, he continues to tour twice a year and heads for Billingham and Whitley this month.

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Landsborough recalls his son once asking if he’d ever make it as a singer. “Some nights I’d be optimistic and feel, ‘I think so’ and other nights you’d be saying ‘No’. When I got into my 50s I was faced with an industry dominated by youth and good looks, neither of which I had, I thought I’d got no chance. Then, out of the blue, I decided not to go on moping and phoned up RTE who reckoned it had been trying to get me for a month. I went to do the show and my son picked me up from where I worked as a teacher and said, ‘Dad you’re in the Irish charts’. The thing that I’d sort all my life came about when I least expected.”

Among the incredible near-misses of this youngest of 11 children were an invitation to sign with Roy Orbison which ended when the famous US artist had to return home suddenly.

“There were a host of times including when The Beatles started Apple and my band had an invitation through Ringo Starr to go down but that didn’t happen. I won a talent competition in Germany in the wrong week because the manager told me that the prize seven days earlier was a recording contract with TV appearances. That decision was entirely my fault. We won a bottle of champagne, which was gone in half-an-hour,” says Landsborough, who also had to turn down a German recording contract “because I was too skint to go out there”.

The performer confesses that he finally did a deal with God in the 1990s to go into teaching although he didn’t like it very much. “It’s almost that from there, my career began to lift off. I suppose I am a source of hope for all those people who have got nowhere, but can now say, ‘Well, if that old gezzer can do it at his age...”

Landsborough believes that self-belief is important and what matters when you finally get the chance to release 28 albums, a mass of singles and win every award available to UK country artists.

He laughs when asked how his wife, Thelma, has put up with a husband who is constantly ditching full-time jobs when the next chance of professional performing came along. “When I first met her, I was despairing about anyone recording me and with our last few bob I made a tape and she told me how stupid that was. In effect, that did lay the groundwork for what happened later and I did other silly things like buying bass pedals and an amp when I had no money. I did all sorts of barmy things, but she stuck with me.

“When I was out playing pubs for 22 years and she was home minding the kids. When my big break came she also gained the fruits of success because she was able to come everywhere with me to places like Australia and New Zealand. But I remember coming back once from the Albert Hall, where nobody knew who I was, and I phoned the school at Birkenhead about midday the next day and told the long-suffering head teacher I’d slept in a bit. ‘We’ll expect you in late then,’ he said. I replied, ‘No, I slept in at Watford Gap’. How on earth I got away with it I don’t know,” he said.

And as for his launch-pad of Birkenhead, Landsborough says: “I once described it as an old dishevelled friend that you love for its self-effacing nature, it’s good humour and generosity, but lack of pomp and circumstance. It’s never going to be a tourist attraction, although I would miss it incredibly because of the characters.”

His last release was a live 26-track double CD from the Liverpool Philharmonic, Live From Philharmonic, released on Lana Records. Now, as a new enterprise, many of the backing tracks have been made available via download from his revamped website charlielandsborough.com

Landsborough confesses he has no idea how many songs he’s composed. “I know I’ve written a lot, but some of them are not that good. I must have written thousands, but most of them don’t deserve to see the light of day. Occasionally, I write something half-decent. I subscribe to the idea that the more shots at goal you have, the more likely you are to score. When you write something good you want to continue doing that for the rest of your life.”

Thursday, October19, Billingham Forum Theatre, Box Office: 01642-552-663

Tuesday, October 24, Whitley Bay Playhouse. 0844-248-1588