The Blackpool comic who wrote his own sitcom, starred in it and remembered his lines without a script...
By Barry Band
Two popular radio sitcoms were “made in Blackpool.”
Last week we remembered Harry Korris’s Happidrome show, which the comedian introduced as a summer show sketch in the 1930s.
He developed it into a radio series that ran for seven years from 1941. There was also a film version in 1943.
Unfortunately, a little gremlin was active in last week’s page and transposed the captions. Today, we put Harry back in the story with this “at home” Gazette photo with his wife, Connie.
Harry (1891-1971) lived in the Squires Gate area for nearly 40 years, first in Dunes Avenue and then in Lytham Road.
So, what was the second radio sitcom to originate in Blackpool?
It was Club Night, written by and starring Dave Morris (1896-1960) whose Blackpool appearances spanned 40 years and who lived in Duchess Drive, North Shore, for more than 20 years.
Dave had starred in ten successive Blackpool summer seasons before Club Night was first broadcast in the autumn of 1950.
The story of how the show came about was told in the spring of 1950 in the Gazette’s radio column.
Dave had been having a drink with the BBC’s Robert Stead in the dress circle bar of Blackpool’s Palace Theatre, a favourite haunt of performers, producers and Manchester radio types.
The conversation was passed to the Gazette, probably by Dave.
“There seems to be nothing new under the sun. What we need in broadcasting is new ideas,” said Mr Stead.
“How about doing a working men’s club on radio?” replied Dave.
“Look at the characters you’ve got. There’s the henpecked little chap; the Wacker who’s always cadging drinks; the eternal grouser, and the wise guy, that’s me.”
Dave elaborated: “The main topics of conversation are beer, racing and football until someone gets a brainwave and starts on politics. It would be good, down-to-earth fun.”
”But who is going to write such a script?” asked Mr Stead.
“I am,” said Dave.
And he did, placing himself at the centre of things as the treasurer and loud-mouthed Mr Know All of the club. Like his other characters, it was a clubland stereotype.
There was a steward, played by Billy Smith, quoting the rules, and the Wacker, played by Liverpool comic Fred Ferris, who was forever in and out of the club, asking: “As ‘ee bin in?” which was merely a device to get himself included in a round of drinks.
There was the boring army veteran, Pongo, played at first by the show’s producer Ronnie Taylor, and the disrespectful (to Dave) Snuffy Hargreaves, played by Frank Bass.
Then there was Cedric, the bowler-hatted, meek and mild little man who didn’t touch alcohol, a part that gave Joe Gladwin the character around whom the comedy banter started.
The Gazette article had revealed, to readers who didn’t already know, that Dave was almost blind, and had a unique agreement with the BBC. He did not have to read from a script when broadcasting.“I write my own material and can remember it - usually,” he told the paper’s radio columnist.
“I had to get permission from the BBC’s high-ups. It’s quite a risk from their point of view.” Next week: The radio and stage success of Club Night - and the reason Dave was not in the 1955 Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House.