How forgotten man of comedy show had radio, TV and stage seasons in Blackpool
By Barry Band
A television series is the aim of today’s likely lads of comedy. But imagine how unlikely it would have been when there were only two channels.
In continuing the story of Blackpool comedian Dave Morris we find that Dave actually did it in 1957 with his Club Night show.
Dave is one of the forgotten men of comedy. The broadcasts were not archived but having radio, television and stage seasons of the same show is worth a time-line.
After 20 years of touring the variety theatres, Middlesbrough-born Dave stepped up in 1940 to stardom in Blackpool summer shows. It was the first of seven consecutive seasons at the North Pier.
After a 1947 season at the Opera House, Dave produced his own summer shows at the South Pier from 1948 to 52.
We rejoin him in his third season at the pier, spending his down time by writing a radio series of Club Night, the result of having a drink with the BBC’s Robert Stead, who was looking for new ideas.
It went on the air in November, 1950, the first of several series. Dave cannily retained the stage rights.
In 1950 Dave was 54. He was tubby and very short-sighted, the result of a gas attack while fighting on the Western Front during the First World War. Hardly a likely lad for a TV series.
His trade marks were a straw “boater” hat, a big cigar and a fast, wisecracking style.
Unlike most radio sitcoms, Club Night was ideal for the stage and became Dave’s summer show at the South Pier for both 1951 and 52. It then toured the variety theatres, with several Blackpool visits.
The radio series ended in 1955 and for two years Dave toured in a patter act with his “feed” Joe Gladwin.
Television was on the rise and the BBC suggested a screen version of Club Night in 1957. The TV version was made in Manchester by the young John Ammonds, later to become one of the BBC’s top producers.
It was noticed by George and Alfred Black, the London-based producers of the Blackpool Tower Company’s summer shows at the Opera House, the Winter Gardens Pavilion and the Grand Theatre.
They were looking for a 1958 summer show for Blackpool’s Palace Theatre and Club Night filled the bill - eight years after its radio debut.
It was a late career boost for Dave. A Gazette reviewer noted: “As a topical comedian Dave is unrivalled.”
In 1959 Dave returned to the South Pier under the title Dave’s Back and co-wrote a new TV sitcom with Blackpool writer Frank Roscoe. In The Artful Dodger, Dave’s character was a football fan who would do anything to avoid working.
A Gazette writer thought it was the funniest thing on TV with the exception of Hancock’s Half Hour. A second series was planned but during the winter Dave was disabled by a stroke and died on June 8, 1960, a month before his 64th birthday.
There was a big disappointment in Dave Morris’s merry progress through the 1950s.
In April, 1955, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were on a tour of Lancashire and a special Royal Variety Performance was staged at the Opera House.
Several northern comics were in the cast. But not Dave, who had done more Blackpool shows than any of the others, who lived in the resort and was a respected publicist for the town. The producer of the royal show was bandleader-turned-impresario Jack Hylton, who had failed to get the stage rights to Club Night. Dave hadn’t danced to Hylton’s tune and was offered a mere “walk on” during the opening scene.