Heartache of the unknown Gibb sister who sang with the Bee Gees
Lesley Evans, who turned down stardom, has buried three of her brothers who died premature deaths
She's the Bee Gee people have never heard of. The sister who sang with the band in their early days but turned down stardom.
Lesley Evans, 67, has always stayed in the background, away from the limelight loved by her legendary brothers.
Only the most die-hard Bee Gee fans know she exists.
But today she opens her heart to the Sunday Mirror for the first time about her anguish at the death of her younger brother Robin after losing his twin Maurice and youngest brother Andy too.
And she talks about her amazing memories of growing up in the Gibb family – and how she once saved Robin’s life. Holding a treasured photo of herself and the superstar, Lesley tells how her only surviving brother Barry Gibb, 65, called her to tell her Robin was dying of cancer.
“Just before he died, Barry rang and said to me, ‘You know he’s not gonna come through this, Les’,” she says.
“And I said, ‘Yes, I know’. And then he said, ‘It’s just us now, luv’. I can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem to make sense.’
Speaking at her home in Australia’s remote blue mountains, grieving dog breeder Lesley pours out her memories.
She tells how she once stood in for Robin, replacing him on stage in London for a sell-out performance in 1969 after he had a “brotherly spat” with the band. A new mum of twins, she had to step in and rehearse in his place a month before they were due to perform at the Talk of the Town.
Lesley says: “I secretly became the fourth Bee Gee. It was amazing. I loved it on the night. I know Robin watched it and he said he felt very choked up about it.
“I couldn’t sound like Robin, of course, but our harmonies as Gibb family members sounded very much the same.
“He said he loved my performance, but I told him if he felt like that, why don’t you just come back then? Which, of course, he eventually did.”
But Lesley was not interested in showbiz. Instead she was to become became a top breeder of Staffordshire bull terriers, married to an Australian salesman, Keith Evans, and having seven children.
But her mind keeps coming back to her childhood with Robin, and she recalls how she saved his life after he fell into a river when the family lived in the Isle of Man.
She says: “Robin and Maurice were about 18 months old and were toddling along. Robin fell in. I remember him floating along with his eyes staring up.
“I went in up to my waist and grabbed him under the arms until people came to help us both out of the water.”
She adds: “We grew up surrounded by love and music in a very happy household. We had a brilliant childhood.
“We all used to say, ‘Oh, Robin’s a stuffed shirt’, because he was always very pompous. He never called me Lesley. It was always sister. I would not see him for 10 years and I could walk into a room and he would say, ‘Oh, hello sister. How are you?’
“He was a thinker. He was very deep, really.”
She last saw Robin in Sydney in October 2010, shortly after he had emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage.
“He was bouncing off the walls. He couldn’t wait to tell me how fantastic he felt,” she says.
“But I thought he looked painfully thin. And a month or so later mum rang to tell me he had cancer.”
Lesley said Robin’s death last Sunday has left their mother Barbara, 93, devastated after losing Maurice to complications from a twisted intestine at 53 and Andy to heart inflammation at 30.
“She asked me, ‘What have I done wrong to lose three sons so young?’ She is still fighting fit,” says Lesley.
“I know Robin said they were being punished to pay for the fame and fortune.
“But a lot of it was fixable. Maurice had a twisted bowel and if it had been diagnosed properly, he would have been OK. And Andy never told us he had a heart condition.”
Lesley pays tribute to Robin’s wife Dwina, who cared for him throughout his cancer battle.
“She’s very sweet. You just feel her calmness, even when you talk on the phone.”
Lesley will not be at flying to England for Robin’s funeral because she is caring for husband Keith, 70, who is recovering from a stroke.
“Barry and mum understand. It would be all too much for me,” she says. “But he will live on in my heart forever.”