Not just Hump on the bill in the summer of '68

As Engelbert Humperdinck delivered his romantic chart-toppers in the Blackpool ABC Theatre's 1968 summer season show, a singer of the old school was reprising old glories at the Queen's Theatre.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 3:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th July 2018, 3:57 pm
Tommy Cooper starts the 1962 Tour of Britain Cycle Race in Blackpool
Tommy Cooper starts the 1962 Tour of Britain Cycle Race in Blackpool

It was 10 years since Josef Locke had skipped off to Ireland after his season with Ken Dodd at the Central Pier.

The taxman was chasing a £10,000 bill!

Now Joe had agreed a payment plan and was getting back on song.

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Josef Locke

The Gazette’s veteran showbiz scribe, Bill Burgess, who had quaffed many a Guinness with the Irish troubadour, welcomed Joe back.

Appropriately it was to the Queen’s, where Joe had starred in and co-produced Singing In the Reign, in 1953.

The 10 missing years might never have been, it seemed so much like old times, wrote Bill.

“He handled his voice with the old emotional mastery, sang favourites like Hear My Song, Jerusalem and Goodbye, with the old bravura. He remains a great showman and his voice has lost none of its compelling quality.”

Engelbert Humperdinck backstage in his dressing room in 1968

Also in the show were the Kaye Sisters and Blackpool-based comedian Freddie Davies.

If music was a food of love, comedy was the main course in those long Blackpool seasons of the past and Ken Dodd was laying it on at the Opera House.

It was Doddy’s fourth season in the big theatre and Gazette headline writers never had a problem in topping a reporter’s review.

In ‘68 they took one of the comedian’s catch phrases, Tattifilarious, and turned it into Doddyhilarious!

Reviewer Peter Myerscough wrote that the king of comics had the audience with tears rolling down their cheeks and shouting for more. “This was Super Doddy in full cry, whether in his sunshine suit of yellow or his red moggy skin.”

Long-time local favourite Tessie O’Shea was in support with the Bluebell Girls and some great spesh acts.

On a historical note, this was the last of the 21 annual Opera House season shows to be presented by brothers George and Alfred Black.

The same would apply to the Winter Gardens Pavilion, where the 1968 headliner was Tommy Cooper.

Bill Burgess thought the show had a great sense of fun, perfectly exemplified in its genial giant of a star, whose crazy visual comedy appealed to all ages.

The were two fine vocal acts, Vince Hill in his first Blackpool season, and Lyn Kennington, returning to the Blackpool scene after her West End successes.

A flip through the Gazette ads for the 1968 season reveals that Mike and Bernie Winters, Mike Yarwood and Joe Henderson were at the North Pier, while the Central had Solomon King, Don Partridge, Les Dawson and Joan Savage.

There were two comedy plays in town for the season.

The Grand had Jack Douglas, Joan Heal, Barry Sinclair and local girl Alexandra Dane in Don’t Tell the Wife, by Sam Cree.

The South Pier advertised Jimmy Jewel, Glenn Melvyn and Barbara Miller in Melvyn’s own play, Who’s Your Funny Friend.

But for the Fylde Coast ladies, Engelbert was their idol, with Lonnie Donegan and Ted Rogers on the ABC supporting bill.