Gary Barlow was always drawn to stardom

As he skilfully appraises this year's X Factor contestants, it's hard to believe Gary Barlow has ever been anything other than self-assured and successful.

But prior to his polished performances as a judge on the show and before he became a boy band icon and bestselling solo artist, Gary, 40, was just an ordinary lad living on a council estate, crippled by shyness yet dreaming of stardom.

He was raised in a modest red brick bungalow in Frodsham, a small market town in Cheshire.

Money was tight for the Barlow family.

Gary's dad Colin ploughed fields for a local farm and took another job with a fertiliser company to earn extra cash to bring up Gary and his older brother Ian, who's now a builder.

Neither his dad nor his mum Marge, a teacher, was musical.

In fact, Colin's interests were far more quirky - he bred pigeons in the back garden and used to get Gary to perform magic tricks for his friends when he held his pigeon club evenings.

‘My parents never encouraged me to hog the limelight, but I got good enough at the magic for my dad to take me along as the entertainment,' Gary remembers.

‘It didn't matter what I was doing - it was the audience I loved.'

Read the full story about Gary Barlow in Now magazine dated 24 October 2011 - out now!

SEE PICTURES Robbie Williams and Ayda Field - their love story>>

SEE PICTURES Robbie Williams - The highs and lows in photos>>

SEE PICTURES Celebrity wedding days 2010>>

SEE PICTURES Engaged celebrities>>