Tom Oldham’s The Last of the Crooners photographic exhibition is a sensational look at the crooners of The Palm Tree public house in Bow.
Oldham feels a particular connection with the Last of the Crooners project, as the Palm Tree and the crooners are such a an important part of the local community and its heritage.
Tom Oldham, who lives just north of Victoria Park in Victoria Park Village, says ‘it was very close to home for me so I really felt the pressure to get it right. There are lots of people that really love this pub and value the feel of the place dearly. I deliberately tried to nail the lighting tone so we could replicate the look of the pub in the portraits, so onlookers would know it was the Palm Tree – it was key to the integrity of the work.’
When Oldham first clapped eyes on the crooners, he knew they would make an amazing series of photographs. ‘It’s such compelling subject matter. They’re 100% genuine showbiz and that’s just gold for me, talented singers that perform so gloriously and with such evident passion.’
Working with the crooners was a breeze as they they are all professional to the last. ‘So easy – I mean it. They’re proper pros. Helen Keating may well be 81 but she’s still got it and has been in the Minder and The Sweeney. They know how a photo shoot work, that’s meat and potatoes to these guys’ explained Oldham.
As part of the Last of the Crooners launch, the singers are releasing a vinyl LP of live recordings from the pub, featuring some favourite vocalists crooning classics from the great american songbook.
Oldham has been part of this project every step of the way, including being present during the recording of the LP.
‘The recordings were made live in the pub with wild mics to record the room. We sat in the basement cellar and listened in or pressed record remotely so the artists didn’t feel the pressure of the red record light. It worked great and the LP is like a social document of a time in history. I’m so proud my name is on it, alongside the producer and my friend Andy Gangadeen’
The Last of the Crooners exhibition is launching on the 21st April with an evening of live music from the crooners themselves. On the night, a limited run of vinyls will be sold for £20. There are only 500 copies, which are bound to sell out, so best to get there sharpish.