BECOMING an over-night celebrity is all too common these days. But for two ambitious Fulham singers, a chance spotting at a Parsons Green social club 50 years ago led to a rollercoaster ride of stardom. GREG BURNS took a trip down memory lane with one half of The Allisons to hear their life-changing tale.

GOING from a wannabe celebrity to global superstar may seem like a very 21 st Century phenomenon.

Shows like the X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent have transformed people's lives in the blink of eye – sometimes will little talent to their name.

For John Alford they are tales that are all too familiar.

The 71-year-old almost can't believe it has been five decades since his life was turned upside down by a talent contest at Olympia in Earls Court.

You can still hear the excitement in his voice as he speaks about how it led to a million records sold, knocking Elvis off the top of the charts and a runner-up spot in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Not bad for a pair of chances who admit they were just 'out to have a laugh'.

Mr Alford was just a starry-eyed teenage dreamer living in Linver Road, Fulham, performing in the St Dionis Church choir, in Parsons Green, with friend Bob Day when the urge for stardom struck.

Training as an engineer at Wandsworth Technical College, the 17-year-old was gripped by the glamour and prestige of the new pop music era and singers like Dickie Valentine and David Whitfield.

The pair decided to form a harmony group and began to play gigs in the local community in 1959 when John was 19 and Bob just 17.

"I love singing and popular music was growing rapidly in prominence in entertainment culture," said Mr Alford. "I had decided that popular music would be a nice satisfying way to earn a living.

"Life was very small scale in those days and we were two lads full of energy and ambition. We liked to sing and liked the look of these new rock and roll stars and wanted a piece of the action. Little did we know how far it would take us."

Named The Allisons – for no other reason than to emulate the likes of the Everley brothers – John and Bob were regulars at St Mark's School, in Bishops Park Road, and St Mary's Ball Room, in Putney.

It was there that West-Indian singer Emile Ford – who was number one in the album charts at the time – spotted their talent.

Mr Alford said: "Emile Ford came up to us after a gig and said he really liked our voices. We couldn't believe our ears. He had won his success and told us about a talent show at Olympia called the 'Boys and Girls Exhibition' and said we should enter."

They entered a talent show called the 'Boys and Girls Exhibition' at Olympia in front of a panel of judges including Cliff Richard's manager Tito Burns.

Sound familiar?

Well the duo had stumbled into a 1960s version of the current X-Factor and were crowned the winners at the Wembley finals.

Snubbed by Epic for a record deal, the pair were snapped up by Fontana Records who asked the lads the question that would change their lives; 'Have you ever heard of the Eurovision Song Contest?'

"To be honest, neither of us had televisions so we had never heard of the contest before," said John. "It was a relatively new thing at the time and we were just so excited to have a deal that we just went along with it.

"Fontana liked one of my songs, 'Are You Sure', and sent it to the BBC to be considered for the Song for Europe show that chose the British Eurovision entry. They loved it and invited us down to perform it live.

"This was crazy. A month ago we were two kids singing in the hall and now we were on our way to Shepherd's Bush and the BBC to go on live television."

The Allisons' success rocketed when they beat nine other professional acts, including Ricky Valentine and Craig Douglas, to be selected to jet off to Cannes, in France, for the sixth Eurovision Song Contest.

'Are You Sure' bagged the friends a second-place spot at the event and continent-wide stardom.

Mr Alford said: "When we came home our parents' phones were going off the hook with press and media. We were suddenly in all the papers and the song started flying off the shelves.

"It was a total shock but we were so young we didn't know what was happening."

The Allisons' were a British phenomenon. 'Are You Sure' quickly sold a million copies across the world and Mr Alford was picking up an Ivor Novello award.

It topped the charts in 22 countries and knocked Elvis Presley's Wooden Heart off the UK chart summit on April 8, 1961.

A nationwide tour followed but all the glitz and glamour they awaited never arrived as swindling music executives pocketed all their earning.

The Allisons' broke up in 1963 but John, who moved to Lincoln five years ago, and Bob, who now lives in Essex, remain friends.

"We probably took about 10 per cent of what we earned. Compared to nowadays, there was very little promotion of celebrity as it has come to be known.

"It was considered impolite to be boastful and to draw attention to personal achievements would be referred to as showing off.

"I would have liked to have got my dad a car and my mum a washing machine or perhaps helped my two sisters and brother get a house. But life has had to be lived more modestly.

"But we have always been very proud to have played a part in UK music history."

Eurovision has turned into a mocked song contest these days blasted for rigged voting and humiliating British entries.

Mr Alford said: "Terry Wogan's free hand to use his humour to mock the Eurovision has encouraged people to regard it as a joke and that Britain's efforts are rubbish.

"But it is still a good competition and is a lot more about entertainment than real song-writing talent and vocal ability like back in 1961.

"It was an amazing time and we are both very proud to have played a little part in pop music history."

You can watch The Allisons' belt out 'Are You Sure' at the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest by visiting .