Article in the Daily Express’ ‘Saturday’ Magazine, 17th August 2013
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO… CANNON AND BALL
Comic duo Tommy Cannon (left) and Bobby Ball were at the height of their fame in the 1980s with a top-rating ITV show. While Bobby has enjoyed primetime acting roles in recent years, Lancashire-born Tommy, who has three children with his wife Hazel and two children from his first marriage, has kept a lower profile. Here, Tommy, 75, tells the story of Cannon And Ball…
“I wanted to become a professional footballer, but despite playing for Oldham Town Boys, I wasn’t good enough. So I followed my dad down the mines. How he did it, I’ll never know. You couldn’t see a thing and I gave up after two weeks.
‘After various manual jobs, I became a factory welder. The first person to speak to me on my first day was Bobby.
“He sung with a small group and he invited me to join them, so I bought a set of drums. Eventually, we got together to form our own singing double act. We toured clubs and hotels, did cabaret and then a show where Vince Hill was the top of the bill.
‘After eight years’ singing, we introduced comedy to our shows after discovering that comics were getting paid more than singers. In 1972, we reached the pinnacle of our cabaret years by appearing at Batley Variety Club with Frankie Vaughan.
“After telling jokes in-between each song, the manager warned us that Frankie did the songs and we were booked as comics. That was the day we became a comedy duo.
“We weren’t sure what to do with Bobbys character, so we got a baggy suit and put a belt around his trousers. They kept falling down, so we got some braces, but they just slipped off his shoulders and he kept flicking them back with his thumb.
“One day I was singing alone when Bobby walked on. His braces dropped, he put his thumb in them and he said, “Rock on, Tommy!” The audience loved it, so we’ve always kept that in.
‘After doing The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club, a TV variety show, we were booked for seven shows on Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night. Although only one of our performances went on air, we were seen by LWTs director of programmes Michael Grade, who gave us our own television series in 1979, which ran for 12 years.
“The shows had big budgets, stars from all over the world, specials at Christmas and Easter and a prime-time Saturday night audience of 20 million viewers. It was simply the best time of our careers and just to walk down the street became an impossible task for Bobby and me.
“But in 1991, a new TV executive told us that he wasn’t going to renew our contracts.
“Since then, we’ve carried on with pantomime, summer seasons and one-off shows. Bobby’s done lots of TV comedy, although we both did Last Of The Summer Wine and Celebrity Coach Trip together – which were marvellous.
‘After 51 years together, Bobby is, and always has been, my best friend.”
Cannon and Ball appear at the Blackpool Grand Theatre until September 7. For more details, go to www.cannonandball.com.