SHOWBIZ runs in Roger Rowley’s veins.
Over a century ago his great-great grandfather was a music hall star and one of the first Yorkshiremen to appear at a Royal Command Performance.
More recently his father has been involved in special effects work in television and films — Rowley has even been known to claim he is a brother of Dusty Bin, the resident mascot on old ITV gameshow 3,2,1 and one of Rowley senior’s most famous creations.
Like his real life brother, Rowley also worked with his dad Ian on that side of the business while he waited to get into drama school and has helped out in his downtime from acting, but his heart was always set on being a performer.
"I’m not a very practical guy, which is why I’ve ended up not taking the reins of the family business," he explained.
Instead Rowley comes to the north in the guise of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly in the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, though he has been putting the family film and television background to good use.
"I’ve also been making student films to showcase myself because dad that’s an area I’d really like to get into," he added.
"Having worked alongside my dad, I was involved in the productions that he’s worked on.
"That gives you a certain specific eye on how art is constructed. You can’t get away with anything with TV. Because you are creating such specific zoomed in pictures, everything has to be right and your style of acting has to be incredibly subtle, but incredibly controlled. There’s a real sense of delayed gratification in putting that together. You work so hard, but then come out the other end months later and realise what all that hard work was for. But a lot of actors want the thrill and buzz of being on stage. You can’t replicate that, but I would also like to create art which is a one-time only thing when you are the only person to speak those lines and interpret that character."
Which is quite a different proposition from playing Buddy Holly, who has been played several times on film as well as in the hit stage musical, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, which has been seen by over 22 million people worldwide.
"There is a certain weight of expectation in filling the shoes of a character that have been filled by, firstly, Buddy himself and living up to legacy and reputation, but also you have maybe 25 actors before me who have played the part. But I like to think I’ve done a pretty good job of it and stayed as true to Buddy Holly as possible."
This is Rowley’s second tour with the show, which will see him inhabiting the suit and spectacles of the Texas singer until next August.
However, Rowley’s Holly connection goes back even further, having first played the role in an amateur production in his home town of Leeds.
The performance was impressive enough to secure Rowley another chance to play Buddy in a fringe performance above a London pub, and that was where the management of the musical first spotted his potential to lead the touring show.
"So I got to audition for them before the actual audition, so one has been a stepping stone up to the next," he said.
"I still do a lot of reading about Buddy Holly, listening to the records and finding new live material on Youtube, This time I’ve complied a ‘best of Youtube’ primary reference. It’s a nice way to keep yourself going."
From knowing little about Holly, who died aged just 22 in the air crash that also cost the lives of Ritchie Valens and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, playing the part has made Rowley a confirmed fan.
"Appearing in the Buddy Holly story was my introduction to Buddy Holly," he said.
"I knew the name, but I don’t think I knew any of the songs, except I might have been slightly familiar with That’ll Be The Day. The first time I hear Oh Boy! was the show version on the website."
In fact, he also acknowledges seeing a few "Buddyisms" creep into his own music.
When not appearing on stage or helping out his father with special effects, Rowley immerses himself in a different musical persona as singer-songwriter Sergeant Lewis — who he admits is named after Inspector Morse’s sidekick.
Holly’s music is part and parcel of the influences on his own songs, Rowley says. He usually combines the two when he is on tour by trying to set up a sideline Sergeant Lewis gig in each town he visits, though unfortunately he has not been able to do that in Inverness.
If the show introduced Rowley to Holly’s music, then he is not alone.
Original Holly fans still come to see the show, but now they are joined by their grandchildren, children nieces and nephews, which works out well for Rowley and his fellow performers.
"By the end of the night, all the people are up on their feet dancing, but you need a lot of confident younger people to get that started," he said.
So while working in film and television remains a long term goal, Rowley is perfectly happy to be found belting out Buddy hits like Peggy Sue or Rave On to packed theatres,
"‘Buddy’ is the perfect gig," he declared.
"It plays to all of my strengths and none of my weaknesses. I’m doing what very few drama graduates get to do at this stage of their career — lead an eponymous show of their own. Whether I stay with the show or not, I owe such a lot to The Buddy Holly Story."
• Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, from Monday 23rd to Saturday 28th September and at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, from Monday 30th September to Saturday 5th October.