Just occasionally, and as if by magic, the stars align to create a story so uplifting it’s hard to believe.
This one involves a chance meeting between a 50-year-old singing plumber from Leicester, called Kev Crane, who has dreamt of being a pop star all his life, and a retired physics teacher called Paul Conneally.
Paul hired Kev to refit the three bathrooms in his Leicestershire home and quickly spotted his musical potential.
It led to a record deal, a barrage of press attention on both sides of the Atlantic and a Hollywood movie deal.
Now, even UK hottie Jude Law is in the mix, rumoured to be playing the lead part of — yes, you’ve guessed it — singing Kev Crane.
Paul hired Kev (pictured) to refit the three bathrooms in his Leicestershire home and quickly spotted his musical potential. It led to a record deal, a barrage of press attention on both sides of the Atlantic and a Hollywood movie deal
‘Things like this don’t happen to people like us!’ says Kev, as he tucks into a cheese toastie and bottle of cider. ‘It’s like an out-of-body experience that’s happening to someone else.
‘But Jude’s a good-looking guy — he’ll make me look great. And now they’re talking Colin Firth or Jason Statham for Paul.
‘None of it feels real!’
But it is real, and it all began last July when Kev started work in Paul’s house. It was sunny outside, the windows were thrown wide open, and as Kev toiled and tiled, grafted and grouted, he sang. And sang.
‘He sang all day long, to anything and everything that came on the radio, whether he knew it or not,’ says Paul. ‘If it was from the 1980s, he was word for word. If not, he just made it up!’
Soon the neighbours were commenting.
‘What’s all the noise?’ ‘Who’s the singer in your bathroom, Paul?’
And he would tell them: ‘Oh, it’s just the plumber.’
And soon they all wanted his number. No wonder Kev had a six-month waiting list.
Now, even UK hottie Jude Law is in the mix, rumoured to be playing the lead part of — yes, you’ve guessed it — singing Kev Crane
Paul, meanwhile, who is also a poet, is mad about music and has an ear for talent, was lapping it up.
‘You don’t get many plumbers who can sing in perfect pitch — Kev’s got a really classic voice,’ he says.
‘And we couldn’t not listen. It was very loud — particularly when he got on to Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House.’
Even better, Paul had recently launched his own independent record label, New Reality Records — which was quite a change after 38 years in local education.
But after surviving a massive heart attack in 2017, and having been told by doctors that he had ‘just three good years left’ and needing to learn to walk again, Paul vowed to live what was left of his life to the fullest.
And so, half joking, he said to Kev: ‘You should record an album.’
Kev, not remotely joking, replied: ‘Funnily enough, I just have.’
Bored rigid in lockdown, and with the help of YouTube videos, Kev had built and soundproofed his own recording studio in the cellar of the terraced house in Quorn, Leicestershire, that he shares with his wife Karen, 52, a holistic therapist.
Next, and again thanks to YouTube, he learned how to mix, produce and record — and finally finished the eight-track album he’d started as an aspiring pop star in his 20s but abandoned before he turned 30.
Bored rigid in lockdown, and with the help of YouTube videos, Kev had built and soundproofed his own recording studio in the cellar of the terraced house in Quorn, Leicestershire, that he shares with his wife Karen, 52, a holistic therapist
‘I gave it to Paul on a Friday so that if he thought it was total rubbish, I could just come in on the Monday, get on with the work and pretend we’d never discussed it,’ he says.
But Paul was entranced. He signed Kev to his label immediately, took a snap of him looking moodily handsome in front of his white plumber’s van for the album cover and started contacting local radio stations.
It didn’t need much of a push. Within days, ‘Kev the singing plumber’ was being played on BBC Radio Leicester and Times Radio.
‘I had a proper cry,’ says Kev. ‘A real cry. I never cry, but I was so overwhelmed. For 25 years I’d kept this dream going, and finally people were listening to my song!’
By September, things had snowballed. Not that Kev ever let it get to his head, though. Initially, he turned down an interview request from BBC News because, as he put it: ‘I’m going to my sister’s for my tea.’
In the end, he did it from his laptop, sat on her sofa, and soon after a pal called to tell him he was trending on the BBC website ‘somewhere between the Taliban and whatever Boris had done that week’.
The Washington Post got in touch for a big profile interview with both Kev and Paul, and their story cropped up in U.S. podcasts.
Suddenly, Kev the singing plumber seemed more famous in America than in Leicestershire. Though, when the Ellen Degeneres Show got in touch, he turned them down flat because he ‘had a lot on’.
Every few days there’s fresh excitement, mostly about casting. ‘Just this morning, Stacy was talking about Drew Barrymore for Karen,’ says Kev. ‘That’d be good. Drew would do a great Karen’
Meanwhile, his plumbing bookings went through the roof. ‘Waiting times went up to a year, but he is a brilliant plumber!’ says Karen — and locals started congratulating him in the street and asking for selfies.
And just when he and Karen thought things couldn’t get any better, Hollywood came calling in the form of Oscar-nominated director Stacy Sherman, who wanted to make a film about Kev’s life — though he dismissed her first Instagram message as a wind-up.
The next day, when he and Karen popped to their local, they accidentally video-called Stacey from the pub. ‘All of a sudden, she was there! She was a bit surprised!’ recalls Kev.
Happily, their flushed faces beaming in from The Royal Oak in Quorn didn’t put her off and, last Sunday, with the film already racing into pre-production, Kev signed over the full rights to his life story — with dramatic licence, which means they can add a few bits and bobs and perk it up a bit.
Not that Kev’s real life lacks drama.
Born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, he spent his childhood singing into a hairbrush and his teens playing air guitar, bunking off school and getting into a lot of trouble.
He got just one GCSE in English and, perhaps enraged by his ‘horrible bullying father’, was forever in fights and run-ins with the police, narrowly avoiding juvenile detention when he was 16.
‘I got in with a bad crowd,’ he says. ‘But I was just so angry.’
It was two years later, when he was studying to become an upholstery cutter, that he and pal Aaron formed their own band — initially called Ultimate and later Reprise — and started playing clubs, pubs, weddings and 21sts.
Kev had a great voice and was desperate to make it big.
‘I tried everything,’ he says.
He entered every contest going, got to the second audition stage for both Fame Academy and Stars In Their Eyes and sent off dozens of demo tapes with the three songs he’d written and recorded.
‘One company said they loved my voice but it was not what they were looking for,’ he recalls. ‘And then it just sort of fizzled out.’
But while early success eluded Kev, the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle didn’t.
‘I embraced it much too fully,’ he says. ‘So fully that, if I’d actually made it big back then, I don’t think I’d be alive today!’
For a decade, he and Aaron partied like maniacs until, at 29, Kev saw the light and stepped away, focusing instead on his work in upholstery. And that was his life until the 2008 financial crash, when he was made redundant, retrained as a plumber and started his own business.
‘But the music never leaves you,’ he says. ‘Or the dream.
‘My life philosophy is that if you don’t have a dream, how can your dream come true?’
So instead of performing on stage, he belted out 1980s tracks in the shower. He sang while he cooked dinner for Karen and he sang as he walked their spaniel. And, of course, at work, as he wrestled with u-bends and various valves.
‘Maybe I sing to cheer myself up,’ he says. ‘I’m good at being a plumber but I can’t pretend that I love it. It’s hard work; it hurts my knees and I hate the tiling.
‘The only bit I really love is the happy customer at the end.’
For now, he won’t contemplate giving up the day job. ‘I’d never let my customers down, and I’ve got to put food on the table,’ he says.
But it must be a juggle being caught between two worlds — plumbing by day (when the BBC spoke to him again last week, he was in a customer’s bathroom — it was the only time he could spare them) and writing songs in his studio and chatting to U.S. film executives at night.
There have also been countless Zoom meetings with UK writing duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who wrote television series including The Likely Lads, Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, and who have already written a script for Kev’s movie.
Every few days there’s fresh excitement, mostly about casting.
‘Just this morning, Stacy was talking about Drew Barrymore for Karen,’ says Kev. ‘That’d be good. Drew would do a great Karen.’
And the other day, he says, Stacy even floated the idea of Kev playing himself. ‘I’d be up for that!’ he says. ‘Why not?’
Despite everything, it’s clear that, however grounded Kev is, change is coming. Already, he can’t walk down the street in Quorn without someone stopping to congratulate him.
‘At the village fete at Christmas, we couldn’t get from stall to stall!’ says Karen.
‘Two girls even jumped on my lap for selfies!’ laughs Kev.
And recently, some lads were so excited to see him at Loughborough Station that he treated them to a rendition of Robbie Williams’s Angels on the platform.
If the film gets made, he’s set to become a wealthy man. There are even talks of a follow-up musical, Mamma Mia-style.
But for all that, he seems remarkably steady. ‘I haven’t changed have I, Karen? I hope I haven’t.’ He looks suddenly worried, until she shakes her head.
‘I’m not bothered about flash cars and all that — but I’d like a bigger garden so our dog can race about.’
‘Next year, we might go out to LA for a month if we’ve got time,’ adds Karen. ‘It would be great if we could retire a teeny bit early.
‘Imagine if maybe, one day, Kev could earn the same from his music as he did from his plumbing.’
I’d put my money on him earning an awful lot more than that. Let’s just hope that, unlike so many fickle Hollywood promises, this one goes all the way.
But perhaps Paul sums it up best. ‘I really hope things come good, because Kev’s not just a singing plumber but a really good songwriter who writes from the heart and is also a very, very, nice person,’ he says.
‘But, if it all fails, he’s still a bloody good plumber.’
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