All shook up as Tony Skingle gets ready to put on a New Years show at Scarborough Spa
The first time Tony Skingle sang an Elvis song was an unorthodox performance.
He was around five years old, and sang Old Shep for his family from underneath a coffee table, too shy to stand up in front of the room.
Despite this inauspicious start, after two minutes of meeting Tony and his wife Gill in their home in Scarborough, it’s obvious he grew up to be a natural entertainer.
Next week he will ring in the New Year with his Elvis tribute act in the Ocean Room at Scarborough Spa, 20 years after he first performed in the venue.
“On New Year’s Eve it feels like there’s 1,000 friends in the room,” Tony said.
Over the past 11 years, the New Year’s Eve show has become a popular fixture on the town’s calendar, and is usually a sell-out for the former South Cliff golf pro whose career as an Elvis tribute act has taken on a new dimension since he left the club in 2017.
“I left the golf club earlier than planned because I felt I was treated unfairly,” Tony explained. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I’ve gone on to do things I could never have done when I was full time at South Cliff.”
When we spoke earlier this month, Tony and Gill were recently back from Tenerife – their 28th flight of the year.
Since retiring from his golf career, Tony has poured all his energy into Elvis, leading him to perform all over the world.
Growing up in Chesterfield, Tony was introduced to Elvis’ music by his dad and has been a fan ever since.
After he won a karaoke competition in Scarborough, a friend convinced him to put on a show at The Corner Cafe, for which he sold 500 tickets to raise money for charity.
“I only knew about 10 songs,” he said, “but it didn’t matter because everyone just loved it.
“I hadn’t realised the effect I was having on people.”
It was a friend from Scarborough, Paul Woodhouse, who was instrumental in setting up Tony’s first gig in Asia.
When visiting Paul in Phuket, he explained to Tony and Gill about the work the Good Shepherd charity were doing in the area to help Burmese children, which led to a charity gig.
The money raised from the latest gig in 2019 is enough to cover three school meals a week for 150 children for a year.
Other gigs in Singapore, China, India and Spain have followed and travel is now a big part of the couple’s life.
A gig in Hong Kong is already in the diary for December 2020.
Despite this experience, the shy little boy under the coffee table still reappears before a show.
Tony said: “I’m nervous every single time, until I’m on stage. Then when I get on I don’t want to come off.
“Elvis was a natural. He’s now been dead longer than he was alive and he’s still massive – that’s because his character comes out in his songs.
“I mean every word I sing, I’m not acting, I am completely myself singing the songs as I think they should be sung.”
It may be Tony’s name in lights, but it’s clear Gill plays a big part in the operation.
She explained: “I keep him sane, he wouldn’t do it on his own, he needs the moral support.
“I keep it all together, and on New Year’s Eve I’ll be telling him to stop talking and start singing so we hit the cue for the countdown on time.”
Tony agreed: “Without a doubt, we’re a team. I couldn’t do it all without Gill – someone has to rein me in.”
His favourite songs to sing are the ballads, in particular Just Pretend, his song with Gill.
Looking ahead to next year and Tony is doing a Best Of show at the Spa in August and a special performance in the round of Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special (his first live performance in seven years) at The Stephen Joseph Theatre in May.
There doesn’t seem to be any stopping Tony, whose energy and excitement for life are contagious.
“I’ve had two amazing careers,” he said. “It’s humbling. I feel incredibly lucky. I do pinch myself.”
As Tony nears 60, what are the chances of him slowing down and hanging up his microphone in the future?
“Well I’m going to retire in 2065,” he tells me with a wink. “I’ll call it a day then.”
Tickets for New Year’s Eve Extravaganza with Tony Skingle as Elvis at the Spa are available from www.scarboroughspa.co.ukTony's Top 10 Elvis Songs
1. Just Pretend
2. The Wonder of You
3. Suspicious Minds
4. Burning Love
5. How Great Thou Art
6. Walk a Mile In My Shoes
7. Love Me Tender
8. I Just Can’t Help Believing
9. Loving Arms
10. An American Trilogy