Simon McDermott – Q&A

Simon McDermott’s memoir The Songaminute Man, details the life of his father, Ted, and how Ted’s Alzheimer’s led him to have fans all around the world. It was published by HQ Stories on 5 April 2018.

Simon kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Songaminute Man.

The Songaminute Man is the story of my Dad, Ted McDermott. He’s been a singer all his life, sang with bands, in pubs and clubs, as well as having a stint as a Butlin’s Redcoat in the 70s. He worked in factories during the day but singing was his passion and it’s what defines Dad as to who he is. The book is the story of his life and how, eventually, while suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, he finally went global and now has legions of fans around the world. It’s also my therapy in a book.

2. What inspired you to write the book?

A number of reasons. Dad was a story teller all his life and I always told him he should write down some of his stories – but he never did and then he was diagnosed with dementia – which kind of put a spanner in the works for that. Secondly, I wanted to write about what we were going thru with Dad’s illness.- the last few years have been absolutely horrendous at times but thankfully we had a moment of light with Dad’s singing. Finally – I was conscious about Dad not being just tarred as the “Alzheimer’s singer”. He’s more than his illness and I hope this books paints a fuller picture of who he is as a man.

3. How hard was it to write? How did you know where to start your dad’s story?

I wrote the book from back to front – if that makes sense. I initially wrote about what I knew of which was us dealing with dementia and my life with Dad growing up in Blackburn. The earlier parts of Dad’s life I knew from stories I was told growing up – but then actually going out and meeting the people Dad used to talk about was incredibly emotional for me.

4. Is there anything that surprised you about the writing of the book and the process of it being published?

All my life I’ve always wrote things occasionally for magazines and I trained as a journalist years ago, though went down the digital media route, so it was no surprise really. What did surprise me though was when everything was finished – I had a big slump. You invest a lot of time into it and then suddenly it’s gone to print and it’s out of your hands. Then begins the regret of things maybe you should have wrote differently or things that you may have missed out. Ufff!

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

Moan to my friends about dementia and getting old and missing out on nights out. LOL.

6. If you could only sing one song in carpool karoke again which would it be?

I’d have to say Quando for all the memories – however, at the moment Dad loves us singing to I Will Survive (even though he doesn’t know the words anymore).

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you have done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

What would you change?

Nothing. Everything – every single thing – happens for a reason. The universe really is on your side – that’s if you let it.

About the book

The nostalgic memoir of a young man, eldest of fourteen, growing up in 40s Wednesbury. The heartbreaking true account of his son struggling to come to terms with his father’s dementia. A tribute to the unbreakable bond between father and son.

When Simon McDermott first noticed his dad Ted’s sudden flares of temper and fits of forgetfulness, he couldn’t have guessed what lay ahead. Then came the devastating, inevitable diagnosis. As Ted retreated into his own world, Simon and his mum Linda desperately tried to reach him until at last: an idea. Turning the ignition in his mum’s little runaround, Simon hit play on Ted’s favourite song Quando Quando Quando. And like that, they were just two mates driving around Blackburn, singing at the top of their lungs.

Simon filmed their adventure, uploaded the video to YouTube and woke up to messages, tweets and his phone ringing off the hook. Their carpool karaoke had gone viral all the way across the globe.

But a record deal, Pride of Britain Awards, over 130,000 raised for The Alzheimer’s Society and a Top 10 single later, Simon was still losing Ted. That’s when he made a decision. His Dad the storyteller of his childhood and his best friend couldn’t tell his own story, so Simon would tell it for him. This is that story.

Set in the heart of the Black Country just before WWII, and written with the help of Ted’s friends and family, The Songaminute Man recalls a boy who became a gutsy and fiercely loyal man. It remembers a childhood of sleeping top-to-toe, rationing, adventure in the woods and making-do-and-mending, a close-knit community, and a life-long passion for music.

Full of poignant moments, the ups and downs of family life and treasured memories, The Songaminute Man is a story of two halves: a celebration of the man Ted was, and a powerful and moving account of caring for a loved one.

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