Life at Blackpool Pleasure Beach really was a joy ride for Jon Butcher
For lifelong performer Jon Butcher there was simply no other business than showbusiness.
The former Pleasure Beach entertainments manager who worked with A list stars from Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck to treble Grand National winner Red Rum touched lives the world over during a dazzling career spanning more than five decades.
His wife of 41 years, Gloria , friends and colleagues have shared their tributes and stories from ‘a golden era’ in the resort following Jon’s death earlier this month at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
He died after complications owing to a lung infection. He was 89.
Former Pleasure Beach show producer Gloria, who lives in Blackpool, described him as the ultimate professional, a great lover of the arts and entertainment, a friend to all and a true champion for the resort.
She said: “He travelled the world extensively, he worked the clubs on prestigious cruises - he was so proud when Geoffrey (Thompson) offered him to work full time at the Pleasure Beach - as the first ever marketing manager. That was in 1975.
“He worked his way up to entertainment manager and it was just such a wonderful time in our lives and so many stories and memories. He did so much it’s hard to know where to start.”
Jon would progress to become a company director at the Pleasure Beach.
The couple, who shared half a century together, first met as performers on the circuit at a holiday camp in Morecambe and set-up a double act together ‘A Man and a Woman’ entertaining audiences for a season at the Horseshoe in 1973. Their love for the town saw them return the following year, Jon performing as a drummer, before their permanent move from London.
Jon, one of nine siblings, was a self-taught drummer, who grew up in the capital before making a name for himself as a professional musician. He also served time with the RAF enjoying a tour in SIngapore during his service.
He dedicated his life to his work, discovering and nurturing hometown talent in Blackpool’s boom years, taking shows on the road around the world whilst helping keep the town in the spotlight through TV projects including ‘ Saturday Seaside Special’ filmed at the Pleasure Beach starring Les Dawson.
Jon was also instrumental in Blackpool’s appearance on series Top Town with Terry Wogan and worked closely with presenters, entertainers on the circuit throughout his career including a special feature with German channel ZDF for a dedicated show on Hot Ice.
In the later part of his career he took charge of events for the launch of several of the amusement parks’ rides from the Revolution in 1979, The Avalanche in 1988 through to the relaunch on the Grand National with champion racehorse Red Rum.
His then colleague Helen O’Neill said: “Jon Butcher was my first marketing boss when I joined as a PR novice in May 1989. He guided me, taught me, and together we built up an enviable collection of national press contacts.
“We relaunched the 1930s Grand National station in 1990, with Red Rum as the star guest, and Jon Culshaw doing the horse racing commentary. Hilarious! What wonderful memories.”
Gloria through this time was show producer at the world renowned park, looking after the Hot Ice Show and productions including ‘Mystique.’ The couple retired together in 1995
She added: “We enjoyed so many experiences and built lifelong friendships but after careers always on the road we loved nothing more than just coming home. Jon had such a love for life and he took great pleasure in his gardening, walking, nature and birds.
“He was a friend to everyone and anyone and people loved him for it.”
Jon shared a son Sam with Gloria and a very close stepfather to Gloria’s two sons Ben and Dominic from her first marriage. He was also a grandfather of six.
The family will be holding a private funeral service on July 30.
A further celebration of Jon’s life is in the planning for what would have been his 90th birthday in June 2022