He was born David Goldstein in Cheshire in 1947, and spent the first years of his life in Northwich, before moving to the US. Songwriter Rupert Holmes talks to Cheshire Life about why he loves the fact his 1979 song has been taken to the hearts of the people of his hometown

The Northwich Piña Colada Festival is going into its third year – do you have a message for the people of Northwich who have really taken it to their hearts?

The fact that a song I wrote and sang – one apparently known all around the world – has inspired a festival that celebrates the beautiful town where I was blessed to be born means all the world to me. My time in Northwich as a child and then later on visiting family there, shaped so much of my career. I saw my first panto in Northwich when I was three, wherein the principal boy urged the children in the audience to sing 'I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat' and warn if the villain was coming; my first Broadway musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which won me Tony awards for Book, Score and Musical, took place at a music hall at Christmas, wherein Edwin Drood is played by a woman, and the audience is urged to sing along and point out the villain.

Much of my new US best-selling mystery novel, Murder Your Employer, is set in a town patterned after Northwich, with the character of Isabel Lindley based on my grandmother Isabel Yearsley Pynn, who like the fictional character was a head cook at the ICI employees' canteen in Northwich.

And of course, as a 16-year-old in the summer of 1963, watching the telly at my cousin Pat Taylor's home in Abbey Way in Hartford, I caught my first life-changing eye-and-earful of a misspelled rock band named The Beatles, months ahead of my American friends; I learned the Fab Foursome wrote their own songs and immediately decided to do so myself for my own rock band once I got home. I also decided not to get a haircut for the next six months.

I first watched Morecambe and Wise on the television at my Aunt Sis's flat in Chapel Street, Castle. Thirty years later Ernie Wise and Lulu would star at the Savoy Theatre in my first musical.

I tell people my stage name – my birth name is David Goldstein – was inspired by my mother's favourite poet, Rupert Brooke, but it likely had just as much to do with the Rupert Bear annuals I'd leaf through in Northwich.

Although you left the town as a small child, tell us your memories of Northwich

I have vivid recollections both as a three-year-old living with my mother and grandmother (my dad was back in the States trying to find work and a home for us), in what I thought was a wonderfully snug two-up-two-down residence on Hemming Street (combination WC and coal shed in the back, gas meter for the little fireplace where we made toast in the morning), and then, in my teens and twenties visiting my open-hearted family who lived in Greenbank, Castle, Winnington, and Hartford.

Northwich seemed out of a storybook with its half-timbered Tudor-revival facades, maze of little shops with mullioned windows, an open-air fish market redolent of the sea, the air an exotic mix of wood and coal-burning home fires, the sooty output of the ICI factory's towering smokestacks, the co-mingled aroma of pipe tobacco and frying chips.

I remember the colours and explosions of a Guy Fawkes bonfire; one firecracker singed my grandmother's only set of nylons.

My father (an American GI stationed in Cheshire after the Second World War, leading his own infantry division band) met my mother in the late 1940s at The Blue Cap, a beautiful pub on Chester Road in Sandiway; it's still there today.

I did frequent the Green Bank Pub in my twenties; it's where many of my family members would spend a pleasant evening. Marge and Len Lyon lived nearby in Clough Lane and their son Chris taught me cricket and football in my summers there in my early teens. 'Our Cath' and her husband Jim Gordon lived only a block or two away. I looked forward to beans on toast for supper, a very exotic dish for an American boy.

You have had an amazingly successful career – how do you assess the impact of Escape (The Piña Colada Song)?

Although I've written eight Broadway shows, adapted Agatha Christie and John Grisham for the stage, received an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music, had my first novel made into a motion picture starring Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon, and recently had a cover review from The London Times book section... to my dying day, I suppose I will always be best known as being 'that piña colada guy' and I've come to embrace that gratefully.

Whenever I sing the song or watch people hear it, they invariably smile. Not perhaps so much at the song but recalling some moment of their life they associate with the tune. I am privileged to have created something that now serves as a bookmark in the lives of millions of people whom I've never met. What greater honour could a songwriter ever be granted?

Do you actually like piña coladas?

I do like a fresh piña colada now and again . I'd especially relish having a few in Northwich. But there was a period of my life where, every single day, some thoughtful stranger would think they were the first person to buy me one, and I would feel obliged to sip it. A piña colada should be a treat, not a trial!

In my twenties in England, I was most fond of Younger's Tartan Bitter, and there's a brewery near where I live in New York that makes a great IPA that invokes some of the best English ales I've had. Like a lot of people, I'm always pleased to have a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a vintage Saint-Émilion . And to quote my song 'I am into champagne' – Bollinger if I have a choice. In my teens in Northwich, I loved drinking a now-extinct Schweppes mixer called Bitter Orange. And I'd love a mug of hot Horlicks in the evening. We had neither beverage in the States.

Are you hoping to attend the Piña Colada Festival in Northwich?

Covid not only kept me away but shut down a wonderful UK tour of my mystery musical, Curtains, which starred Manchester's own Jason Manford. I was going to visit the show when it stopped in Blackpool, then travel to Northwich for a sentimental journey. All shot down by the pandemic.

I have hopes of clearing my schedule to visit the festival for the first time in person this year, pending my wife's recovery from serious surgery a few weeks ago. She visited Northwich on our honeymoon in England.

READ MORE: A look ahead to the Northwich Piña Colada Festival