Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 5 June

An enlightening peek into the Northern club circuit

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176One of my common complaints about radio documentaries is that they’re often too short to address the subject adequately. So, I was overjoyed that BBC Radio Sheffield had given Bernie Clifton two hours on Bank Holiday Monday to cover the story of Northern clubs.

Best known for his antics with a cleverly designed ostrich puppet, Clifton billed himself as a comic/singer, because versatile acts paid more. One concert chairman said he hoped he was a comic who sang, not a singer who chucked in the odd joke.

Clifton (one of the nicest people in show business) enlisted old mates such as Cannon and Ball, Bobby Knutt, Robin Colvill of The Grumbleweeds and Granada TV’s beloved light-entertainment boss Johnnie Hamp, and it was a glorious parade of old pros sharing war stories. Knutt recalled having to compete for attention with the arrival of the pies.

Graham Walker of The Grumbleweeds, a man doomed to look like a newborn baby all through his life, once took to the stage between acts in an improvised hula-hula skirt, only to find he was interrupting two minutes’ silence for a member. He scarpered, fearing the worst. Shortly after, a barn door of a man entered carrying five pints on a tray. It was the son of the dead man, declaring his dad ‘would have loved that’.

Meanwhile, Hamp told of showing The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club pilot to his seniors. After Frank Carson had told a wooden-leg joke and Duggie Brown had done one about a stammer, he remembered that Sir Denis Forman had lost a leg in the war and that Cecil Bernstein could barely get a word out. Nonetheless, it became a longrunning show. Thanks to Bernie Clifton and producer Steve White for this absolute treat.

Clifton On Clubland is available on BBC iPlayer.
Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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