Valentino King of The Music

International entertainer Valentino is one of the entertainment industries most colourful performers, and here are a few of the many highlights from his remarkable story… 

Irish-born Jackie Farn  attended school at Donore Primary School and Westland Row secondary school in Dublin. He was organist at St Bernadettes Church, Clogher Road, Crumlin  in Dublin where he played for religious ceremonies and weddings and trained a boys choir of fifty and a mixed adult choir of twenty four. He first performed on stage at the age of seven at local charity concerts around Dublin with a company called Broadway Productions. He won Opportunity Knocks at the age of eleven.  He studied piano and organ at The Leinster School of Music and later at the Municipal College of Music in Dublin where he performed his own composition The Dublin Concerto at the age of sixteen.  

 Jackie Farn Winning the All Ireland Accordion Prize 

The same year he did his very first professional engagement at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on The Joseph Locke Show. This was followed by performances at Europe’s largest theatre, Dublin’s Theatre Royal, in weekly variety shows with Danny Cummins. He made his British TV debut on The Val Doonican Show for the BBC. Also on the same show making his first TV appearance was another Irish entertainer, the comedian Dave Allen. Other TV shows followed including The Black and White Minstrel Show, Crackerjack, International Cabaret from the Talk of The Town in London, with Kenneth Williams, and appearances on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Club, with Bernard Manning, Colin Crompton, Bill Haley and the Comets, Lonnie Donnegan, Buddy Greco, Max Wall, Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison.

Jackie recalls: “I was born in Mullingar, County Westmeath. When I was about ten I won the junior section of the very first All Ireland Accordion Championships. Ivor Benyon was the adjudicator. Until then I was self-taught on the accordion. The winner of the Adult section of the competition was Vincent Campbell then became my teacher. I was part of the showband era. In fact I was on the same show when the Waterford Show Band did their very first gig In Waterford. They had only just formed and of course they were the very first showband and started the whole craze. That show was organized by Peter Walsh, who later went on to manage The Tremeloes, Marmalade, Chicago, and many other bands. (It was Peter who later organized the camel stunt down Regent Street in London many years later!). I toured just about all the ballrooms in Ireland after that. When I was at school in Westland Row in Dublin I started a Ceili trio (called the Jackie Farn Trio) and we did lots of gigs playing for dances in and around Dublin and recorded an album for the Eamon Andrews Studios in Dublin”. 

The Jackie Farn Trio

He toured Scotland with Ruby Murray and Frank Carson and performed in a summer season with Ruby at Arbroath with a group called The Harmonichords who later became The Batchelors. He worked as a redcoat at Mosney, Butlins’ holiday camp in Ireland and the following year at Butlins Metropole Hotel in Blackpool.

At the end of that season I went to Liverpool and had the great fortune to be booked by the entertainer, agent and impresario Don Ellis to appear on the very last Theatre tour of the Old Tyme Music Hall featuring  three legends of the British Music Hall - G H Elliot, Randolph Sutton and Hetty King. It was the most wonderful opportunity to see these incredible entertainers performing on stage each night. I learned so much from them about stage craft and presentation. They didn’t use microphones yet could be heard loud and clear at the back of the Theatre. They taught me elocution and voice production and after the show each evening I used to sit into the early hours each night at our “pro digs” (where all the entertainers used to stay) listening in awe to their stories about their lives and careers in show business. They were the real old pro’s, the likes of which unfortunately we will never see again. 

I remember one rehearsal with Hetty King when she was standing by the footlights waiting for the orchestra to rehearse a number. A tiny trapdoor opened in the floor of the stage and a microphone slowly came up. She stood for a moment glaring at it and then demanded in an indignant voice “what’s that?” before placing her hand on the top and pushing it all the way back down into its trapdoor. “My voice doesn‘t need any help, thank you very much“ she declared. 

They had so many hit songs. G H Elliot had “Lilly of Laguna”, Randolph Sutton  “Mother Kelly’s Doorstep” and Hetty King “All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor”. Very few entertainers nowadays have stage craft. Joseph Locke had it. So too had David Whitfield, Andy Stewart, Sammy Davis Jnr and Liberace.

He was one of five entertainers booked by the United Nations in the early 60’s to entertain the troops in The Congo during the civil war.

 Entertaining over 2000 children at a school in Leopolville - Congo 

Jackie Farn in The Congo

Jackie first burst on to the entertainment scene at the very beginning of Irish television (RTE). The first instrumentalist to appear on the new TV channel, he was a guest on The Patrick O’Hagan Show playing the theme from Exodus on piano with the Radio Eireann Symphony Orchestra (Jackie shown here practicing with the Irish Symphony Orchestra).

He composed a special song for Patrick called The Lagan, The Liffey and The Lee (three rivers in Ireland on which stand Dublin, Belfast and Cork) which Patrick recorded on an album. A year later he introduced the Cordovox electronic accordion to Irish audiences for the very first time. 

Jackie recalls “A dear friend of mine, and Irish nun called Mother Cecily from Loreto Convent told me about a new electric accordion that was on display in a Dublin music shop called Waltons. I went along to have a look. While I was playing it I was approached by an agent from the manufacturers who offered me a Cordovox for free if I would promote it for them. I readily accepted and as soon as my Cordovox arrived I ripped it apart and rebuilt it to my own specifications. I changed it so the sound filled any auditorium I played in. It opened up a whole new world for me musically and completely changed my life”. 

Jackie soon clocked up over 200 television and radio appearances. Sell out tours of Irish ballrooms soon followed, and also appearances with Jimmy Shand and the late American C & W singers Jim Reeves and Hank Loughlin. The Jackie Farn Fan Club was formed by a group of teenage fans which quickly swelled to twenty two thousand in it’s first year. He became a regular on Gay Byrne’s Late Late TV Show and did a TV series called Country Style and another called Curtain Up that lasted several seasons on TV. 

He then headed to London where be was immediately signed up by the Forrester George Agency who managed Ken Dodd, Rosemary Squires, Joe “piano” Henderson, Vince Hill and Eddie Calvert.

He became the very first instrumentalist to appear at the famous Astor Club in Berkley Square where he appeared six times in one year with many acts who went on to become household names including Vince Hill, Jackie Trent, Roger Whittaker and Jerry Dorsey (later to become (Englebert Humperdink). 

Peter Hepple, the Editor of The Stage and Television To-Day (the show business bible) wrote:

 “At the Astor I’ve seen a lot of things in my time - both on and off the stage - but I have never seen an accordionist in cabaret before, either there or anywhere else. Yet last week a young Irishman, Jackie Farn, all but brought the house down with a dazzling display on the old squeezebox. Well, I say squeezebox but I have no doubt that it cost more than my car, as from it, or rather its attendant amplifier, issued musical sounds as diverse as the Mantovani string section, a Hawaiian guitar and the pipes of the Scots Guards”. 

He also became the first male artiste to appear at the famous Raymond Revue Bar in London‘s Soho.  The following years saw him perform in summer seasons for Sir Bernard Delfont at Blackpool, Brighton, Great Yarmouth and Torquay, with Val Doonican, Freddie and the Dreamers, Frank Ifield and Arthur Askey, as well as Sunday concerts for Sir Harold Fielding with Shirley Bassey, Matt Monro, Kathy Kirby, Winifred Atwell, Kenny Ball, Englebert Humperdink, Gracie Fields, The New Seekers and Tom Jones. World tours soon followed with appearances at all the major venues including the London Palladium, Royal Albert Hall, Opera House Blackpool, Royal Festival Hall, Hollywood Bowl, Las Vegas and the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, with such famous entertainers as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr., Bob Hope, Tessie O’Shea, Dusty Springfield, Tommy Cooper, Morcambe and Wise, Liberace and The Beatles.

He worked for The Beatles manager Brian Epstein, doing tours and concerts with Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Freddie and the Dreamers. He did tours entertaining American bases in  the UK,  France and Turkey.

Jackie Farn At The Astor Berkley Square

Jackie Farn Becomes Valentino


He was managed for a while by Eve Taylor who also looked after Val Doonican, Sandie Shaw and Adam Faith. When he signed as a recording artiste for E.M.I. Jackie had a ‘name transplant’ and became known as Valentino. He was “launched” as Valentino when he rode a camel (hired from Chessington Zoo) down London’s Regent Street at mid-day, surrounded by a bevy of exotic dancers, to give a concert at London’s Café Royal accompanied by a 40-piece orchestra in front of invited  show business industry representatives as well as the press. His stunt on the camel brought the whole of London’s traffic to a standstill which resulted in the story appearing on TV channels all around the world and well as all the national newspapers including a half page in the Sun. After his Café Royal concert Peter Hepple (Stage & Television To-Day) wrote “Valentino’s technique is meticulous, his digital dexterity is phenomenal and it is allied with a deep musical feeling which makes his poetic treatment of numbers unforgettable.”    

E.M.I. released two LP’s on Studio Two, both produced by Bob Barratt. The first was called Valentino and featured him playing his own arrangements of classic pieces such as the Warsaw Concerto, Lawrence of Arabia and Aranjuez Mon Amour with a forty piece orchestra and the Mike Samme Singers. There were several conductors on that album including Alan  Ainsworth, Brian Fahey and Johnny Arthey. His second album was called The Cordovox Magic Of Valentino. He then released a Quadraphonic album under the Pye label. The following year he set up his own record company which produced twelve albums. He had massive success which resulted in three gold, three silver and three platinum discs. Over the years he has had many custom-made instruments including his famous four channel Synthaccordion, his Quadraphonic surround sound Elkavox accordion, and his amazing white electric piano, which was custom made for him in Japan by Yamaha.

With Troops in Salala

He worked for the British government on CSE tours all over the world entertaining the troops and the RAF. He also entertained on most of the world’s largest cruise liners and was honoured to be asked to perform on the maiden voyage of the QE2 and was invited back five more times. He toured Canada with Vera Lynn and the Robert Farnon Orchestra and toured South Africa with the Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart and also did a concert in Bulawayo for the Rhodesian president Ian Smith. He performed at The Pigalle in London for a six month season and worked all the major working men’s clubs in the North of England including Greaseborough Social Club with Luis Armstrong and Aker Bilk, The Scala Doncaster with David Whitfield and Dickie Valentine and the Batley Variety Club with Eartha Kitt, Johnny Ray, Sandy Shaw and Paul Daniels.

When he appeared for a week at the Starlight Rooms in Enfield,  Tommy Kane, the senior entertainment critic for The Stage and Television To-Day wrote:

 “One of the greatest pleasures for any critic is to witness an artist who is supreme at his or her craft. Such an artist is Valentino - a magical musician whose experiments over the years with electronic accordion have resulted in his ability to transport spellbound audiences to a rainbow coloured never-never land of musical fantasies.

Last Friday night he played….and howling winds tore at ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ - Orchestral strings swept upwards to an exciting pitch - and changed miraculously into sad cat chorus by a back alley choir - mandolins in the moonlight became Dam-Busting bombers with engines emitting deep, triumphant throb -  Hawaiian guitars serenaded - and the sounds swelled themselves into crashing chords from mighty organs - and yet in the tender treatment of the Theme from Love Story, Valentino emphasised that in his hands electronic music cannot ever be dismissed as a gimmick and a box of tricks. He is a pianist of the highest order. His final flourish was the last dot in keeping with his overall presentation of handsome elegance, and brought a crowd of admiring females in search of him following the performance. They found an artist who remains at heart rather shy and one who is totally dedicated to his work”.


Entertaining the RAF in the Indian Ocean


Following a sell out concert in Las Vegas he received rave reviews including:

Recently interviewed on BBC Essex radio he said: “Showbusiness has to be the greatest job in the world. Over the years I have had the pleasure of entertaining and becoming friends with Dukes and Earls, Kings and Queens, politicians and film stars and some of the greatest entertainers in the world. I have such mixed emotions when I hear a record on the radio by someone like Liberace or Dusty Springfield. I’m sad they are no longer with us but immensely proud to have worked with them and known them as a good friend. I’d known Dusty since the days when I was a redcoat at the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool and she was working on the North Pier in a group called The Springfields. Because I was Irish and she considered herself to be Irish (her mother Irish) we hit it off right from the start. We became great friends and I always enjoyed working with her. 

I was first introduced to Liberace while I was a student at Dublin University studying for my Batchelor of Music degree. My teacher Dr. John F. Larchet took me and my Mum to the Theatre Royal in Dublin to see Liberace in concert. Up until then I wanted to be a musician. After seeing Liberace perform I wanted to be an entertainer. He was amazing. At the end of his show the whole audience stood up to sing “For he’s a jolly good fellow”. I’d never seen that before or ever since. When the show was over Dr Larchet took me backstage to meet the great man. He introduced me to him as Irelands latest boy piano prodigy. Liberace had a practice piano in his dressing room as asked me to play him something. He gave me his card and said if ever I was in America to contact him. He was true to his word. Many years later I arrived in Las Vegas not knowing a soul with just Liberace’s card in my pocket. He remembered me after all those years and arranged for me to meet many influential people in the music industry in America.  I will always be grateful for his encouragement, his friendship and his help. Not only was he the highest paid and greatest entertainer in the world but he was the nicest person as well. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone and I’ve never heard anyone who knew him say a bad word about him. That says it all really.  

“Not only have I had the thrill of working in some of the most fabulous venues like the Royal Albert and Royal Festival Halls, the Prince Of Wales Theatre and The Theatre Royal Drury Lane but also the White House in Washington. I did a benefit concert there once with many famous names in the audience including Bob Hope, Shirley McLaine and Frank Sinatra. There wasn’t a band so all the acts had to be self-contained. At the end of the show all the acts were lined up on stage to meet President Carter and the audience started cheering and asking for Frank to sing a song. He came up on stage and I suddenly realized that I was the only one there who could play for him. He looked at me and said ‘My Way, in D’. I started playing the intro thinking ‘I’d better get this right otherwise I’ll end up with a horse’s head on my pillow in the morning!’. Anyway it went great and the audience went crazy when Frank had finished. When the applause had died down he said “Listen folks, next time I go on tour, forget the Count Basie orchestra, I’m taking this guy with me” pointing to me. It was one of the proudest moments of my life and the start of a long friendship“.



 “No two weeks are ever the same in this business. One week I would be doing a performance at the London Palladium and the next week I’d be working for the government entertaining the R.A.F. on the tiny island of Gan in the Indian Ocean. I’ve worked in a circus ring, on an aircraft carrier, on the front line for troops in Oman, in a boxing ring and even in a field but the most unusual gig was when I worked for the United Nations entertaining the troops in the Congo in Africa. All the cinemas and theatres had been burned down or looted so the only place to do the show was on out in the open on a runway with the troops sitting on the ground while we did our show under the wing of an aeroplane to shade us from the sun“.

“But no matter where the venue is all that matters is playing my music and making people happy. The largest audience I have ever worked to was during a tour of Canada when I worked the Maple Leaf Gardens to 23,000 people. The smallest audience was when a Saudi prince booked me to perform my show just for him. He had seen me on the TV show Blue Peter demonstrating one of my latest electric accordion and telephoned the B.B.C. after the show to ask to speak to me. It was the weirdest thing, just him sitting there and me doing a one and three quarter hour show for him. As it happened it went really well, and was a financial pleasure as they say!. I told this story once to Liberace and he said he had a similar experience before he was famous. He was working in a small hotel playing piano in the lounge bar when a TV producer came to see him work. As luck would have it there were just two people in the audience that night. Lee thought it would be a disaster but afterwards the producer offered him his own TV series. He explained that the average TV viewer was just one or two people sitting at home in a bed-sit watching the television. So if you could come across to just one or two people successfully then you had what it takes to entertain the whole world.”

 When asked by the radio interviewer what his ambition was Valentino replied: “My ambition is always to have ambition”. 



The London Evening News hailed him as “The world’s greatest keyboard entertainer”, “Liberace with a Guinness flavour”, and Tommy Kane of the Stage and Television To-Day wrote “One of the greatest thrills for any critic is to witness an entertainer who is supreme at his or her craft. Such an entertainer is Valentino”. After his one man show in Las Vegas he was hailed by the Vegas press as the “King of the Music”, a title he has used ever since for his one-man show. 



VALENTINO’S recordings include: Around The World With Valentino; Contrasts (Pye records); Valentino (E.M.I): The Cordovox Magic Of Valentino (E.M.I.): The Best Of Valentino; The Valentino Show: Anniversary; To The One I Love; Valentino – King of The Music Live in Las Vegas.