Updated: Saturday, 11th July 2020 @ 7:39am

Stockport’s Sinatra crooner Bob Blakeley on The Voice rejection and going from taxi driver to 'dream come true'

Stockport’s Sinatra crooner Bob Blakeley on The Voice rejection and going from taxi driver to 'dream come true'

| By Kate Brady

Back in January a 56-year-old warehouse operative was rejected from The Voice as all four mentors failed to turn their chairs.

Four months on, thanks to writer and producer Mike Batt, Bob Blakeley is preparing to release his debut album, Performance.

Despite reaching the end of the road on BBC’s The Voice after his goosebump-inducing rendition of Cry Me a River, Bob’s future career in the music industry was far from over.

Attracting the attention of big entertainment names such as Chris Evans, who launched a 'Justice for Bob' campaign, and fellow radio DJ Edith Bowman, it seemed Bob’s days of collecting pallets were rapidly coming to an end.

However it was hit-maker and owner of record label Dramatico Entertainment, Mike Batt that rekindled Bob’s dream by offering the Stockport grandad a record deal live on BBC Breakfast.

Recollecting the early morning offer of a lifetime, Bob told MM: “I just couldn’t hold the tears back. It really hit me. It was a realisation of a dream.”

Like millions of viewers across the country, Mike Batt was left bewildered as none of the mentors turned around during Bob’s performance on The Voice, despite Kylie’s encouragement of Sir Tom Jones to hit his button.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mike Batt said: “He [Bob] was just so phenomenal. I felt such a sense of injustice that I thought I ought to do something.”

Recorded with an orchestra at the legendary Air Studios in London, Bob’s debut album is a compilation of classic and contemporary covers from the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Righteous Brothers and even The Steve Miller Band.

Bob admitted that although Mike had the main influence on selecting the songs, Abracadabra by The Steve Miller Band was a personal choice for the final track list.

The former taxi driver of 30 years told MM: “When you think about it the track is a little bit ironic because the whole experience of it all has been magic.”

“I had to listen to Mike because it was like a teacher pupil experience.”

However despite Mike’s experience there were some tracks that Bob had to refuse, such as Fix You by Coldplay.

“I didn’t think that would suit me at all,” he said.

While realising his dream of a career in the music industry, Bob also came to see the true extent of recording an album.

He told MM: “It’s such hard work to record an album. People don’t realise how hard it is. It’s very mentally tiring. It took about two months, which is very quick.”

However with Mike’s experience, who has previously written and produced for artists such as David Essex and Cliff Richard (and of course The Wombles), Bob has come out the other side in awe of the music legend.

Speaking of his mentor during the recording process, Bob told MM: “Oh my word. I was watching Mike who had written every note for every instrument in the orchestra, for all the arrangements on that album, and I just realized what a genius he is. Amazing.

“He’s absolutely wonderful. The man’s a genius – there’s no two ways about it.”

Looking forward to Monday’s release date, Bob said: “I just can’t wait! I’ll be honest – I’m a little bit nervous because you can never know how everything’s going to go.”

However it seems that the charismatic crooner has little to fear after Performance shot to number one in Amazon’s Movers and Shakers Chart earlier this week.

Since closing the deal with Dramatico Entertainment, Bob has left his warehouse job.

However the former employee of Kerry Foods said: “They were absolutely fantastic to give me time off to do The Voice and record the album. When I left, they were so nice.”

On leaving the warehouse, Bob’s colleagues, who had previously christened him as Bob FM, presented him with a bottle of champagne and the manager wrote a poem before telling him, “We don’t think you’ll be back, but there’ll always be a job for you here.”

Following a bad experience with the XFactor, Bob had sworn to never enter into a contest again, however it was daughter Joanne who urged Bob to audition for The Voice at Manchester’s Hilton Hotel.

Showing who wears the trousers in the Blakeley household, Bob admitted: “I wasn’t about to argue with the women of the house.”

After receiving the call inviting him to the blind auditions in London, Bob travelled to the capital with high hopes of things to come.

Reflecting on the auditions, Bob said: “I was just happy to be on that stage because it was such an achievement in itself.

“There were about 30,000 people auditioned for that show and I was down to the final 100.”

The blind auditions were also a chance for Bob to meet the idol of his teenage years, Sir Tom Jones.

Bob told MM: “Meeting him properly and singing in front of him was fantastic. To get any advice for free is a bonus and I took their comments on board.”

Despite the standing ovation of the studio audience, none of the mentors chose to turn around.

The Voice judge Will.i.am told Bob: “I’m trying to put my heart back together because I think you deserve to be on the show. Your voice was just pristine. You sound like a pro.

“If Frank Sinatra was here he’d be like ‘I want to take you on tour with me’,” added the Black Eyed Peas frontman.

Sir Tom himself was also full of praise saying: “You should be a professional singer. That’s how good you are.”

However, with a heavy heart at the height of summer, Bob was forced to sit out his rejection for almost 6 months before his performance was aired in January, unable to breathe a word of the outcome.

Bob said: “I was a little bit down but my wife kept saying, ‘Wait till it’s shown. You don’t realise how good it was.” And it seems that Bob’s wife Carol couldn’t have been more sure of things to come.

Four months on, since his audition was first aired, Bob said that the life-changing events are only just beginning to sink in.

He told MM: “The reality sank in more than any time before when we finished the album.”

Following his initial TV appearance Bob also continues to be recognised and praised for his performance back home in Stockport.

The down-to-earth crooner said: “I went in Marks & Spencer to get a new dressing gown. The dressing gown I had, I’ve had for 12 years, so I thought it was time I got a new one.

“The guy behind the counter said, ‘I saw you on The voice – it was amazing’.”

Despite his previous misfortunes with singing contests, Bob said that The Voice gave him a platform, without which, he wouldn’t be where he is.

However he agreed that in a strange twist of fate he may well be better off for having not progressed to the next round of the The Voice.

In a word of inspiration, Bob was also keen to encourage anyone with a dream to pursue it.

He said: “Have a go, go online and register. Have a go at it because those dreams could be realised and that’s what’s happened to me.”

Coinciding with the album’s release on Monday May 19, Bob will also be performing and signing albums at HMV in the Arndale Centre on at 5:30pm.