How comedy bill topper Frank Carson out-talked the others chalking up season after season in Blackpool

Still in letter C of the A to Z series of Blackpool stage headliners of the 20th century, we're with comedy bill-toppers in summer season shows – writes Barry Band.

By Claire Lark
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 4:55 am

Frank Carson (1926-2012) brought his family from Belfast in 1970 and set up home in the North Shore area.

The exhuberent Frank out-talked the others by seasoning his patter with catch phrases like "It's a cracker" and "It's the way I tell 'em" and "Frank Carson, News at Ten, sober." He starred in 10 Blackpool summer seasons.

It began at the North Pier in 1972 as one of the comics in the stage spin-off of ITV's The Comedians - having previously won ITV's Opportunity Knocks.

Frank Carson (right) with Bob Monkhouse

I once booked Frank to compere the Blackpool Press Ball and, forever the joker, he said: "Now listen young feller, don't go telling anyone that I've done this for such a small fee."

In 1976 he was in the Mayor's Blackpool Command Performance which marked the centenary of the resort's charter as a Borough.

Frank starred in further Blackpool seasons at the North Pier (2), the Opera House (2), the South Pier (3) the Central Pier and the Grand.

My last chat with Frank was when he stopped at the Air Ambulance stall for a photo with me and my wife, Thelma, at a St John's Square community day in 2010.

Jimmy Clitheroe

We called him the eternal schoolboy and Jimmy Clitheroe (1922-1973) had a busy career due to his unfortunate size.

He appeared in 16 Blackpool season shows and 15 series of radio's The Clitheroe Kid.

Brought up in East Lancashire, Jimmy was one of the many showbiz migrants to the Fylde Coast, starting in a juvenile team called Winstanley's Babes in summer shows at Feldman's Theatre in the 1930s.

In the '40s his mother set up home in Bispham and Jimmy stooged for star comedian Albert Burdon. He was the lost boy in the audience, the live doll in Albert's vent act and the volunteer who ruined Albert's magic cabinet routine.

British radio star Charlie Chester, nicknamed 'Cheerful Charlie', lounging in a chair

Rising on summer bills at the Central Pier and the Queen's Theatre and starring in radio's The Clitheroe Kid, Jimmy repaid his debt to Albert by casting him in the Grand Theatre's 1963 summer season chip shop comedy play, We're Frying Tonight.

Jimmy topped the bill in 1965's Happy Holiday Show at the Winter Gardens Pavilion, when a Gazette review noted: "Jimmy's act is a happy mixture of new gags and familiar get-ups."

His last Blackpool season was at the North Pier in 1971 but his career waned when his radio show was cancelled.

The heartbroken little man died on the day of his mother's funeral in 1973. His death answered the question he had always evaded. He was 51.

As Jimmy was getting known, Charlie Chester (1914-1997) was topping summer shows at the Blackpool Opera House.

A stage version of his Forces' radio show, Stand Easy, came for a week at the old Palace in October, 1947.

In 1948 the Opera House summer show, Sky High, starring the radio team of Charlie, Arthur Haynes, Ken Morris and Frederick Ferrari, broke the theatre's attendance record and was rebooked for the 1949 season under the title Midsummer Madness.

Charlie had later Blackpool seasons at the Winter Gardens Pavilion in 1959 and the Queen's in 1966.