British singer Karol Keyes failed to find success with her covers of US soul tunes in the 1960s. However, after changing her name to Luan Peters, she carved out a career for herself on TV and the big screen and appeared with the band 5,000 Volts in the 1970s.
She was born Carol Hirsch on 18 June 1946 in Bethnal Green, east London.
She first performed on stage at the age of four in a pantomime and at 16, after appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth night, she was offered a drama scholarship.
When her training was over, she signed up with the management company Keystone Promotions, from whose name her stage moniker, Karol Keyes, was derived.
Soon she found herself with a contract at the Fontana label, and in December 1964, her first single was released, a version of Motown girl Mary Wells’ You beat me to the punch. The highly regarded No-one can take your place was issued as the B-side.
Despite promoting the release on TV’s Thank your lucky stars that month, the single flopped, and Karol was quietly dropped by the label.
She reappeared a year or so later fronting the group Karol Keyes and the Big Sound. The band had previously been known as The Fat Sound, but, for fairly obvious reasons, Karol insisted on a name change. The group appeared at numerous gigs in and around its Manchester base.
When Karol was offered an audition with Columbia in 1966, she took the group with her. However, the label declined to use the band and opted to record Karol as a soloist. She quit the group as a result.
Sticking with her soul-based repertoire, she issued the first of two singles for Columbia, a version of Ike and Tina Turner’s A fool in love, which had been arranged by Ray Davies of The Kinks.
A second single, released later the same year, featured her take on Maxine Brown’s One in a million on the A-side and Fontella Bass’s Don’t jump on the flip. Like its predecessor, sales were slow, though the 45 has since proved popular on Britain’s northern soul scene.
Perhaps surprisingly, she made a brief return to Fontana in 1967, where she cut the poppier Can’t you hear the music. When it, too, met with no success, she enrolled herself in the Joan Littlewood drama school back on home turf at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
This proved an astute move and led to various small roles in TV series such as Dixon of Dock Green, Z cars and Doctor Who.
A further name change followed – and one that would bring with it some success. Gordon Mills, the manager of Tom Jones and others, suggested she become Delilah Jackson, after his Welsh protégé’s hit. However, she rejected this and opted for the name Luan Peters instead.
In this guise, she took to the stage, appearing in plays such as Pyjama tops and A man most likely to, both in 1969.
The release of the single Crazy Annie in 1970 failed to attract much attention and she returned to TV. Roles included appearances in On the buses and Coronation Street.
She also carved out a niche for herself as saucy temptress on the big screen, appearing in Not tonight darling and in Hammer Horror’s Lust for a vampire and Twins of evil, all in 1971.
A return to the recording studio that year saw the release of This love of mine in the UK and Wenn du mich liebst in Germany, both on Polydor.
She continued her acting career until, finally, she enjoyed chart success with the band 5,000 Volts on their UK top-five disco hit I’m on fire in 1975. (The single went on to top the German charts and make Italy’s top ten.) However, this achievement was not all that it appeared. Future solo star Tina Charles had, in fact, provided the vocals for the track and fronted the group in most television promotion work across Europe, while Luan stepped in for an appearance only on Britain’s Top of the pops.
1977 saw the release of the disco-styled Love countdown on CBS, though Luan’s acting work proved more lucrative. Stage appearances included Dirty linen in 1976 and Shut your eyes and think of England two years later. TV work included parts in Target, Robin’s nest, The professionals and Fawlty Towers.
She was last seen on television in 1990 in The bill.
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One in a million
A fool in love
You beat me to the punch
No-one can take your place
Can't you hear the music
The good love, the bad love
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Find Karol Keyes 45s at GEMM