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By Tina Campanella
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2013 Tina Campanella
All rights reserved.
'TRIPLE J' AND GEORGE SEPARATE PATHS
Louis Walsh definitely took notice as he watched the three earnest young boys bound onto the stage and yell: 'Hello, London!' Already he could already see the potential in this new group.
Met by girlish screams from the 8,000-strong audience in the capital's O2 Arena, they were a refreshing change from the hundreds of hopefuls the judges had seen that day. Shy and nervous, overconfident and bizarrely talentless, weird and wacky – the four-strong team of judges must have been tearing their hair out in frustration at what they'd had to sit through already.
With two of the lads casually dressed in white T-shirts and the other one in blue, they all shared broad smiles when Louis asked: 'So who have we got here?'
'We're Triple J,' said the confident boy in the centre to more screams of support.
The camera panned around the audience to show just a few of the giggling girls in the crowd, all whispering and pointing. It was clear that their first impression had been a good one.
Attempting to calm the growing atmosphere, Louis asked: 'Have you got people with you here today?'
'Yeah, all our mums are backstage,' laughed a very cute second band member, setting off another round of clapping – this time from the boys' families, who were anxiously waiting with presenter Dermot O'Leary.
'They're more nervous than us, I think,' added the third and final boy in the act.
'Off you go then,' Louis said abruptly, giving them the cue for their one chance to begin.
The crowd was suddenly silent. Would these three young boys have the talent to match their looks? Might this be the last time Triple J would grace a stage before disappearing into obscurity?
From the moment they launched into song, the boys' powerful voices echoed throughout the arena as they gave the Rihanna and Calvin Harris classic 'We Found Love' everything they had. Moving effortlessly around the stage, their voices harmonised and soared, brimming with emotion.
Judge Gary Barlow instantly sat back in his chair – it was as if he had been metaphorically punched in the face by the wall of sound! Guest judge Rita Ora bobbed her head in time to the beat as the rumbling cheers from the audience grew and grew.
'Shine a light through an open door ...'
The lyrics were spookily appropriate because everyone listening to them suddenly knew that this performance had definitely opened the door for three talented boys. Finally they finished, throwing their heads down with the effort of the last few notes. Then the trio anxiously stood back up, to be greeted by thousands of instant, screaming fans. One by one they had risen to give the boys a standing ovation.
The crowd loved them. Now all they could hope was that the judges felt the same way ...
Judge and solo artist Tulisa Contostavlos was quick to voice her praise. 'This is what a boyband's about – good-looking lads,' she announced.
Louis had the excited sparkle that said 'definite potential' in his eyes, while Rita Ora enthusiastically agreed, saying: 'I think the girls will love you.'
But it was Gary Barlow who fated the boys to stardom.
'In a good boy band it's not just about looking good, you've got to sound great, too – and you really do sound great,' he told them.
Brimming with excitement, the three boys could barely believe what they were about to hear.
Gary: 'That's four yeses, well done!'
The arena exploded as the boys patted each other on the back in disbelief before running backstage. Throwing their arms around their mums, all three were nearly toppled over by the force of their families' affection.
And that was how the world was introduced to singing sensations Jamie Hamblett, 23, Jaymi Hensley, 22, and 19-year-old Josh Cuthbert.
Within days of the boys' audition being aired, their Twitter account, @triplejofficial, had gathered more than 60,000 followers. It was obvious that they had been a staggering success, and the boys could hardly keep up with the constant stream of tweets from fans – all wishing them luck and declaring undying love for the instant heartthrobs.
But that was just the beginning. No one could anticipate the transformation that these three boys would undergo.
By contrast, Bristol teen George Shelley was alone when he took to the stage for his X Factor audition. He had no one to share a nervous smile with, or to sneak him a comforting wink if the judges were a little harsh on him. Prompted to audition by his good friend Emily Tollner, he didn't even tell his mum that he was going until the last possible moment. And so it was probably a shock to everyone who knew him when he casually walked out to take his spot in front of the judges.
Wearing a hoodie and jeans, with a guitar slung across his front, the first thing anyone noticed was his mop of perfectly constructed, immaculately messed up curls. Then he flashed his killer smile at the audience and got himself an instant fan base. With his peachy skin and fresh-faced good looks it was obvious he was going to be a firm favourite with the girls.
His grin was definitely verging on cheeky as he stood in front of the judges. Tulisa looked stern as she asked his name.
'I'm George Shelley,' he replied, without a hint of nerves.
The audience cheered and made a mental note to themselves to remember that name. If he could actually play the guitar he was clutching, and even half hold a tune, then surely this gorgeous boy was going to go far.
'How old are you?' Tulisa continued, still refusing to smile.
'I'm 18,' he said, prompting a wave of 'Awww's.
And the questions kept coming.
'What are you doing with yourself at the moment?' asked another judge.
George explained that he worked in a coffee shop, before he began chuckling to himself – making a few hundred more audience members fall hopelessly in love with him in the process. 'I'm going to sing 'Toxic' by Britney Spears,' he added.
It was a brilliant song choice – so different to what everyone was expecting from the teen dream standing in front of them. Tulisa suddenly took notice and cracked a smile.
'Hmm ... Interesting choice,' she said. 'Go for it ...'
Both guitar and voice sprang to life, surprising everyone in the room. The girls in the audience were transfixed by his sweet voice and Louis looked totally overjoyed at the package of talent in front of him. Especially as he sure could play the guitar!
'I'm addicted to you ...' he sang, and surely half the audience was already starting to think the same thing.
When he finished the audience moved as one to stand up and applaud the talented teen in front of them.
Louis could hardly contain his excitement as he managed: 'Great look, great vocal!'
Gary instantly agreed. 'It's a yes from me.'
'And a massive yes from me,' said Tulisa, who by now had definitely been won over.
George put his hands to his face in shock. He couldn't believe the reaction he had got. He gave the audience one last smile, along with a casual wave, before walking off stage.
All four boys had never felt so excited in all their lives. It takes guts to stand up on stage and sing in front of famous and talented stars, but for them the bold gamble had paid off. They all went back to their respective homes, buzzing with excitement. They told family and friends, and even their local newspapers about their experience. Then they had to wait for Bootcamp to begin.
Triple J member Jamie – known as 'JJ' – excitedly told his local paper, the Newmarket Journal: 'I have always loved singing but never had the bottle. Singing is something I've always wanted to do and I'm grateful that I'm doing something I've always wanted to do.'
It was a sentiment that all four boys shared. Triple J and George Shelley were off to Bootcamp to begin their musical journey. There would be heartache ahead before their rebirth as the band we all love today – Union J.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. So let's go back, before we go forward ...
DID YOU KNOW?
Glamour model Bianca Gascoigne and former Popstars and Pop Idol contestant, Hayley Evetts, auditioned for the judges this season, too. Hayley made it as far as Bootcamp, but Bianca didn't get past the auditions.CHAPTER 2
The Union J Boys – Humble Beginnings
JAMIE 'JJ' HAMBLETT
DATE OF BIRTH: 25/3/88
BORN: Newmarket, Cambridgeshire
PARENTS: Paul and Karin Hamblett
SIBLINGS: Ashley, 26; Otea, 7
GREW UP: Newmarket, Suffolk
SCHOOLS: Scaltback Middle School, Soham Village College
For someone so clearly at home in one of the biggest boybands in Britain, Jamie Hamblett had an unusual start to his singing career. But when you look at the family he comes from, it was hardly surprising that his first line of work would be working as a jockey – riding racehorses. Maybe he should be called 'GG' instead of 'JJ'!
Jamie comes from a place called Newmarket, which is at the very centre of the British horseracing world and many people in the town rely on the sport for work. His father Paul was a jockey, who later moved into training horses – work that requires getting up early every single day to muck out the horses' stables and take them for their exercise.
Not long before he himself started racing professionally, Jamie's brother Ashley had worked at one of the top stables in the family's hometown and had won a series of races. As well as Ashley and JJ's father, Paul, his uncle Martin also trained horses in Germany. And another distant cousin, Liam Heard, was a rider who helped improve horses' fitness. Horses were very much a part of JJ's life from the moment he was born, so it was no surprise when at the age of 14, he followed his father and brother into the horseracing industry.
With his dad's help he was apprenticed to the world-famous racehorse trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. Soon after that, he started competing as a jockey. It wasn't long before he had won his first race, and by early in his second racing season – at the age of only 16 – he had won four races.
It seems that winning is something JJ is very good at. Despite being nearly four years younger than Ashley, by 2006 he was winning just as many races as his brother and had made a big impression on the horseracing world. During his four-year career in the saddle, he took part in 270 races and won 24 of them. Part of his success may have been down to having a dad who was ambitious. It was this ambition that would later propel him to X Factor fame.
Jamie said his dad was strict about the need to work hard when he was young. Whenever Jamie looked like he didn't have anything to do, his dad would say: 'Why haven't you got a ride today? Phone your agent and ask why you don't have a ride.'
Paul would tell his sons to go for a run or something, to get them out of the house. He liked the boys to be busy, and this work ethic was great preparation for the X Factor competition – which is toughgoing!
It wasn't only his dad who used to offer him advice, though. Both Jamie and his brother would receive help and words of encouragement from racing stars like Kieren Fallon and Frankie Dettori.
By the age of 16 Jamie was putting a lot of pressure on himself to do as well as he could. He told the Racing Post in 2006: 'The worst thing is when I don't live up to my expectations.'
Sir Michael Stoute described him as being a very promising young rider. 'He's getting plenty of exposure on the racetrack now and he's developed a nice position in the saddle,' he said. 'He needs to work on his strength, but he's got talent and is certainly on an upward curve. I can see the progress he's making and he's the kind of rider who could end up doing well for himself.'
It sounds just like the kind of thing that Gary or Louis might say on the X Factor panel, so JJ obviously had a lot of experience in being judged and taking both praise and criticism.
While racing for Sir Michael, he was given the chance to ride one of the horses owned by Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen owns several horses and many of them take part in races around the country, ridden by jockeys like JJ. About two or three times a year, Her Majesty would call in at the stables to check on her animals.
Jamie said it was a daunting experience, meeting the ruler of the country. He told the Daily Express: 'Once or twice a year, she would pop into the yard to check on her horses – it was so weird, seeing her.
'She sauntered in, wearing Wellington boots as if it was normal – and she walked into the horses' box that I was in at that time. She said 'hello', fed the horses some grass and left. Apart from The X Factor, it was the most surreal moment of my life.'
As his career progressed, though he found it harder and harder to keep his weight down. If a rider is too heavy it makes it more difficult for the horses to go fast. Although Jamie wasn't overweight, he was heavier than most jockeys, many of whom are tiny compared to most people. The ones who are successful often weigh below 8 stone (51 kilos). In 2006 he weighed 7st 12lb – about two or three stone lighter than most boys in their late teens. Although his mum fed him a special diet designed to keep his weight low but his energy up, it became difficult to prevent him from becoming too heavy to make sure his horses kept on winning races.
In October 2009, he took part in his last competitive horse race. It might have been difficult for the young boy to see a different future after he was no longer able to pursue his career as a jockey, especially as this exciting job had been the sole focus of his life up until that point.
When asked in 2006 what he did in his spare time, Jamie just laughed and shrugged off the question. He didn't have time to relax – it was all about the horses.
He continued to be involved with horses by helping out at a stables run by another trainer called John Gosden. Until the day he entered the X Factor competition, he helped train the horses by taking them out on practice runs every morning. The riding has kept him very fit, as so many girls around the country now appreciate.
With looks that most men would die for, it was inevitable that with a body honed by such hard work and the kind of chiselled features that are made for the camera, he would try modelling and acting. But, according to his family, he has sung at home all his life. They used to hear him sing along to the radio the whole time and often thought he had more than just the ability to carry a tune. After he started carving a career in the entertainment industry, he came across the other two 'J's', Jaymi and Josh, and leapt headlong as fast as one of the horses he used to ride towards the chance to form Triple J.
DATE OF BIRTH: 23/2/90
BORN: Luton, Bedfordshire
PARENTS: Jackie and David Hensley
SIBLINGS: Aaron, 17
GREW UP: Luton
SCHOOLS: Putteridge High School
As a dance teacher and choreographer for her local theatre group, Jaymi's mum Jackie had always hoped her oldest son would take up a career in the performing arts. From an early age Jaymi often joined his mum on stage with the Phoenix Players, Luton's amateur dramatics group.
The first time he took to the stage with adults was in 2001, aged 11, when he took on one of the lead roles in the production of Blitz! – a musical by Lionel Bart, writer of the hit musical Oliver! In the same year he began attending Luton's Putteridge High School, but despite homework and studying, he continued appearing in productions with the Phoenix Players.
At 14, he decided to do something incredibly brave for someone so young. He had been torn by feelings for others around him that many other people of the same age did not share. Taking them to one side one day, he gathered his family and other people close to him around him and summoned up all his courage.
'I'm gay,' he told them. It wasn't as if those who knew him best hadn't guessed, but sometimes people can react badly when so many people still find it hard to understand how anyone can be attracted to someone of the same sex. Jaymi had been worried those close to him wouldn't understand. Fortunately his family took the news really well. This allowed him to move on and concentrate on what really mattered to him – his singing career.
Excerpted from Union J by Tina Campanella. Copyright © 2013 Tina Campanella. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: 'Triple J' and George – Separate Paths,
Chapter Two: The Union J Boys – Humble Beginnings,
Jamie 'JJ' Hamblett,
George Paul Shelley,
Chapter Three: Bootcamp – Fate Lends a Hand,
Chapter Four: Judges' Houses – What Happens in Vegas,
Chapter Five: Union J Go Live!,
Chapter Six: Love Blossoms,
Chapter Seven: Stardom Beckons,
Chapter Eight: The Fan Madness Begins,
Chapter Nine: Rising From the Ashes,
Chapter Ten: The Battle of the Boybands,
Chapter Eleven: Performance in Paris,
Chapter Twelve: Knuckling Down,
Chapter Thirteen: A Nation Divided,
Chapter Fourteen: Back to Reality?,
Chapter Fifteen: New Year, New Start,
Chapter Sixteen: The X Factoron Tour,
Chapter Seventeen: A Spooky Interlude ...,
Chapter Eighteen: Jaymi Becomes an Icon,
Chapter Nineteen: Lifestyle Changes,
Chapter Twenty: The Wait is Over,
Chapter Twenty-One: Boyband War,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Countdown to 'Carry You',
Chapter Twenty-Three: A Million Fans Unite,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Challenge Union J,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Kisses, Tattoos and Playdough,
Chapter Twenty-Six: Gigging and Cooking,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: UK Chart Success,
About the Author,