How Charlie Cairoli made his impact in circus and his humility over what he thought was 'just a regular job'

Former Gazette writer Barry Band continues his A-Z of the stars. This week he looks at Charlie Cairoli, Eddie Calvert and Cannon and Ball...

By Claire Lark
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 9:55 am

The A to Z of Blackpool show stars of the 20th Century has reached letter C and it's ‘no contest’ who gets the top spot, writes Barry Band

It's Charlie Cairoli (1910-1980).

In my chats with the Tower Circus's musical clown he was so modest. Just a regular job - apart from the red nose, exaggerated eyebrows, black bowler hat and baggy pants!

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Charlie Cairoli pictured in 1974

It was the 1946 circus in which Charlie made the impact that elevated him in a couple of years to be Blackpool's favourite laughter-raiser.

His main scene that year Charlie's Birthday, introduced the foam pie throwing and water sploshing for which he became famous.

The scene, in various formats, was meticulously rehearsed and all the props were made by Charlie in his own workshop.

Charlie and his partners also starred in pantomimes and Christmas circuses in London and other cities and their Right Charlie children's show was on BBC-TV for ten years.

Cannon and Ball

Charlie retired with health problems in 1979.

Long before Preston-born Eddie Calvert became a trumpet star he was familiar with Blackpool theatres and ballrooms.

As a young cornetist with a Preston youth band he came to the resort to see the star instrumentalists.

"You could say part of my musical education was in Blackpool, watching guys like Nat Gonella and Harry Roy," Eddie said when starring in the Central Pier's summer show in 1966.

Trumpet player Eddie Calvert 1966

After wartime service Eddie (1922-1978) played with the bands of Ted Heath and Geraldo in seasons in the Empress Ballroom of the Winter Gardens.

Going solo, one of his first jobs was a tour of a show called Record Hit Parade which did a week at Blackpool's Palace Theatre in April, 1952.

In 1953 his recording of Oh Mien Papa won Gold Discs on both sides of the Atlantic and confirmed Eddie's position as a concert star, billed as The Man With the Golden Trumpet.

He starred in five Blackpool summer season shows and topped 25 Sunday concert bills at the Opera House before emigrating to South Africa in 1968.

When Oldham welders Tommy Derbyshire and Bobby Harper dreamed up a name for their comedy act they must have hoped it would make an impact.

It did! Cannon and Ball were the explosive act in eight Blackpool summer seasons from 1980 to 2002.

Tommy (1938 -) and Bobby (1944-2020) made their first impact on four Sunday show bills at the ABC Theatre in the late 1970s and in 1980 their names were ‘above the title’ in a record-breaking season at the North Pier Pavilion.

Tommy Cannon was the "hard man" and Bobby Ball was the argumentative buffoon with slack braces and the catch phrase "Rock on, Tommy."

They topped seasons at the Opera House in 1985, 87 and 94, the North Pier in 91, and the Grand in 96, 99 and 2002, plus weekend seasons in '04 and '05.