These immortal words soon became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and to this day it remains the best known song in football; the sound of the massed chorus of supporters on match day is always an emotional moment.
But the song has associations with other events and individuals. This includes an airport in Liverpool; a golf course in Cheshire, England; the television series Dallas; spectacular Broadway musicals and one of the most successful musical theatre writing teams of all time. That link is provided by one of the legends of Broadway, a star of stage and movies and one of the most distinguished individuals I have ever met… Howard Keel.
Born in 1919, he starred in many film musicals of the 1950s but is probably best known to modern audiences for his starring role in the TV Series Dallas from 1981 to 1991.
But years before Dallas, his rich baritone singing voice made him the star of some of the most famous stage and film musicals ever produced.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the team Rodgers and Hammerstein created a number of popular Broadway musicals, it was the golden age of musical theatre.
Their first musical Oklahoma opened on Broadway in March 1943. Keel opened with the show in London in 1947 before a packed Drury Lane Theatre audience which demanded 14 encores. Keel was the toast of London and hailed the next great star.
Keel had also previously understudied for another famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel.
In the second act of Carousel, the character Nettie Fowler (no relation to Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler!) sings “You’ll never walk alone”. That was in 1945, Gerry Marsden was just 3 years-old.
Following his stage success Keel went into film musicals, then the Dallas TV series, and then aged 64 he kicked off a recording career.
Amidst all this activity he and his wife Judy were active in community charity events. One of his favorites was the Annual Howard Keel Golf Classic held at Mere Golf Club in Cheshire, England.
This event, the biggest and most looked forward to in the celebrity golf calendar was a huge success and raised money for NSPCC. After golf would be one of the most spectacular dinner and cabaret evenings imaginable. Always a plethora of celebrities from every walk of life.
But the climax undoubtedly was when the great man would take the stage to thunderous applause and sing his favorites, including ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
He attended this golf event for a number of years until his death at home in California in November 2004, after a short illness aged 85 years. His ashes were scattered at some of his favorite places including John Lennon Airport and Mere Golf Club, the place I first met him many year ago, and the last place I saw him.
For me the Liverpool anthem has very special meaning. Howard Keel, you will never walk alone.