Cannon and Ball
The rise of Cannon and Ball to becoming the most consistently ‘in demand’ double act in the country is one of real success. Success that can be measured in the respect of admiration of their fellow artistes and the loyalty of their ever growing audience. The Cannon and Ball story is one of talent, hard work, and continual striving for perfection.
There cannot be many artistes today who are kept as busy as Cannon and Ball. But their success is no accident, it has been hard won. Indeed, Cannon and Ball have been regarded as one of clubland’s funniest double acts for well over a decade and remain the only entertainers to have won the prestigious Club Mirror ‘Comedy Act of The Year’ award on three separate occasions.
It was in 1961 that Cannon and Ball first worked together for a North West engineering company. It was here that there stage relationship developed. “Tommy used to look after me when I got into trouble. We were always fooling about for the lads at work.” (Bobby Ball)
Encouraged by an enthusiastic response at work, they would often be found in the evenings entertaining a wider audience. This part of homely Lancashire is still the guardian of the music hall tradition. Talent shows and social clubs still play an active part in the community. It was to these that Cannon and Ball turned. Initially they performed as a singing duo. “I used to sing” recalls Bobby Ball, “and Tommy would accompany me on the drums, then we would swap over and Tommy would sing to my accompaniment – all for �3 a night.
However, their talent for comedy soon began to enter the act. Comedy entirely original and unique: comedy loosley based on their working relationship as welders. As the act developed through appearances in the pubs and social clubs of South East Lancashire, they began to look out for opportunites to enter showbusiness.
Working mainly in social clubs in the north of England, Cannon and Ball can look back at overcoming some of the toughest audiences in the country. Sometimes they were “paid off” after only one appearance. One night in Newcastle they went on stage to complete silence. They were sitting afterwards in a state of mild shock when the manager came into their dressing room to congratulate them! “You did well lads” he said, “You kept ’em quiet.”
They not only survived this experience, but learned how to build a following that is now the envy of many top artistes. At this time they were known as ‘The Harper Brothers’. In 1970 they teamed up with their present manager, Stuart Littlewood, who persuaded them that a change of name would be for the better. Over lunch one day the three came up with the name “Cannon and Ball” and from that point they have never looked back.
After two years, Cannon and Ball started to attract attention outside the north of England. In 1965 they began to appear throughout the country and in 1972 undertook tours to Australia and South Africa for cabaret and radio.
However, their early television experiences have been less kind to the pair. Cannon and Ball still look back in anguish to the night opportunity knocked on Hughie Green’s talent programme. “We were terrible”, says Bobby Ball. “We were the proverbial ‘Opportunity flops'”. At the end of their act the clapometer, which registers the audience’s applause “scarcely flickered”, he says.
They were learning. There was another TV chance with ‘The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club’. Then came a projected series of appearances on Bruce Forsyth’s ‘Big Night’. But before they had reached the screen the programme had run into ratings trouble and in the subsequent revamping their contributions had ended up on the cutting room floor.
In 1978 they undertook a nationwide tour with the American singer, Gene Pitney, appearing at the London Palladium and other major theatres.
Another TV mis-fire for Cannon and Ball came in July 1979, when technicians pulled the plugs on ITV after two shows of their first series, and it was October before the series returned. However, this series established Cannon and Ball as firm favourites with millions.
Their record-breaking panto at Bradford ran into March 1981, when they began work on the Saturday night TV series, followed by a highly successful summer season at Great Yarmouth.
It was a year ago that their second TV series took off and between May and September they filled the 1,500 seats of Blackpool’s North Pier twice-nightly and six times a week.
All 7,000 tickets for a week at a Birmingham theatre were sold out eight months in advance. Even such international stars as Jack Jones, The Three Degrees, and Dionne Warwick, had not attracted such interest, said the manager, who added: “With these bookings we could play them 52 weeks in the year.”
But for a couple of proud north countrymen the final accolade came in the autumn when they were invited to switch on the Blackpool illuminations: an honour which compares roughly with having a rose named after you at the Chelsea Flower Show. Their immediate predecessors in this role were Kermit and Red Rum. “They ran out of animals”, jokes Bobby Ball.
Their LP Rock On Tommy gained them a silver disc.
1982 was a sensational year for the boys. Their TV series topped the ratings in May/June and their summer show at Bournemouth broke all previous records, taking over �1m at the box office.
Christmas 82 brought their first ever West End season at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road. This ran for seven weeks and once again broke all records for a non-pantomime West End Christmas Show. The advance demand for tickets was so great that virtually every seat for the run had been sold before the show opened. Just three days after the Christmas Show finished, Cannon and Ball attended the Variety Club Luncheon at the London Hilton Hotel where they were proud to receive the ‘Show Business Personalities of the Year’ Award for their achievements in 1982.
These achievements have been further surpassed in 1983 with a record-breaking 13 week Spring theatre tour, in which the boys played a total of 134 performances in 90 days. In March Cannon and Ball’s first full length feature film ‘The Boys In Blue‘ was premiered in Manchester and went on general release shortly afterwards. The film has proved very popular with family audiences and has just been released on video cassette.
Summer season was spent at Scarborough and in the autumn Cannon and Ball paid their first ever visit to Ireland, covering theatres in both Ulster and the Republic. Following a brief cabaret tour in October, their touring live work concluded with two sell-out concerts at the London Palladium – their first ever headlining appearance at the world’s top theatre. Christmas 83 again saw Cannon and Ball starring in their own show at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester and a further highly successful series for London Weekend Television.
Following the Spring theatre tour, they visited the Middle East, and next Christmas will find them at the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham. At the same time, discussions are continuing about a possible script for their second feature film and a further LP record should be due in 1984 if the boys have an opportunity to fit it in.
A few years ago, the late Eric Morecambe named them as “the next double act”, and later said: “I like them because they emanate a lot of warmth….another five years will establish them in a big way”. Eric Morecambe’s prediction certainly came true!
The bright comedy and impressionist talents of BOBBY DAVRO bring excitement and originality to clubland, theatre and TV.
Born in Middlesex, 24 year old Bobby started seriously “in the business” six years ago during the rounds of talent shows in pubs and Town Halls, learning his trade, and progressed quickly on to the club circuit.
The BBC caought on quickly too, bookings for THE IMPRESSIONISTS, NINCE HILL and ARTHUR ASKEY shows on Radio 2 were the result.
TV appearances soon followed – UP FOR THE CUP (Thames) and STARBURST (LWT) – now further TV commitments are being contracted with new series as well as established family favourites.
Artistes Bobby has worked with include:- Cannon and Ball, Frankie Vaughan, Showaddywaddy, Jimmy Tarbuck, Bob Monkhouse, Hot Gossip and many more. In 1983 he had weeks lined up with Rose Royce, Shakatak and The Stylistics and a summer season in Blackpool with the Bachelors.
“I love doing people” says Bobby – by way of swift explanation, he has over 100 impressions at his fingertips. He is often requested by major advertising agencies to “mimic” the famous – anyone from Robin Day to Bamber Gascoigne, Cleo Lane to David Essex.
Bobby’s relaxation time is, by the very nature of his schedule, limited, but when the opportunity is there his hobbies are fishing, photography and – oh yes his golf handicap is 6.
There is no doubt that the ’80’s will see a new star arise.
The Hot Dogs with Paul and Peta Page
Old English Sheep Dogs that sing, dance and even manage to blow the odd instrument must be part of the original shaggy dog story! But with their friends the daxs, pekes and poodles they are known as The Hot Dogs and have travelled halfway round the world. They have even had their own TV series with the BBC. They are all the creation of Paul and Peta Page, the husband and wife team who dreamed up these highly entertaining quadrupeds and spend their spare time bringing their fantasies to life.
Peta is the one who makes all the puppets and costumes and has been involved with puppets for as long as she can remember. Paul, a graduate of Cambridge and one time member of the famous Footlights, has partnered Peta for an exciting career that has taken them and their ultra-light fantasies into many West End shows, to virtually every major theatre in this country, into summer seasons and pantomimes, into cabaret; to America, Australia, South Africa and most of Europe.
They were in Eastbourne last summer with the Black and White Minstrels and were in pantomime with John Inrman at Birmingham. They played a season at the famous Hansa Theatre in Hamburg recently and have been seen on both BBC and East German TV.
Rovky Sharpe and the Replays
They rock, they’re sharp and they replay some of the greatest oldies you possibly don’t even remember.
They are without doubt the most authentic Rock V Roll vocal group working in Britain today. Performing Doo-Wop as it should be performed, with energy, style, humour and a strong preference for the off-beat. Their records have constantly been chart and radio hits in Britain, many major European countries, and as far afield as South America and Australia.
They have been frequent visitors to the continent for TV, radio and live shows in Germany, Spain Austria, Holland and Italy and just when it seems they’ve been away too long, they come storming back with another great version of Rock ‘n’ Roll Doo-Wop song that keeps the spirit of the fifties alive and well and living in the radios, TVs, jukeboxes and dance halls up and down the British Isles.
Rocky Sharpe and the Replays was formed by Rocky Sharpe and Johnny Stud in early 1978 and with a close friend, Helen Highwater, they recorded their first single Rama Lama Ding Dong for Chiswick Records. It became a Top Twenty hit and sold nearly ‘/4 million copies in the U.K. alone.
With the inclusion of bassman Eric Rondo, and production still by Mike Vernon of ‘Blue Horizon Records’ fame, they followed up their first record success with a string of further chart singles including Imagination, Love Will Make You Fail In School, Martian Hop, Never Be Anyone Else But You, Come On Let’s Go, Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out), Clap Your Hands, If You Wart To Be Happy as well as four hit-packed albums.
On British TV you may have seen them on TOP OF THE POPS, MAGPIE, SATURDAY SWOPSHOP, TISWAS, GET IT TOGETHER, SUMMERTIME SPECIAL, STAYBACK, THE CHAS ‘N’ DAVE SHOW, THE KRANKIES and other local TV shows, and of course THE CANNON & BALL SHOW.
Many of the TV shows were live performances which is another important aspect of the Group’s work. In the Autumn of 1983 the Replays teamed up with the Scottish Rock ‘n’ Roll band Johnny and the Roccos, for tours in Britain and Scandinavia providing an unrivalled evening of authentic Rock and Roll.
Christmas 1983 the Group was asked by Cannon & Ball to be special guests on their Christmas Show at the Apollo Theatre, Manchester. The reaction produced from the packed houses was such that Tommy and Bobby immediately asked them to join them on a 50 date Spring tour of Britain, and also to be guests on their forthcoming Summer season in Torquay.
In the course of all this touring, the line-up of the Replays has changed quite dramatically. The first new arrival was Wendy Saints, who came in to replace Gloria Sunshine. Wendy has worked extensively in theatre, on TV and record, and most recently as a ‘Wilsation’ with Mari Wilson doing TV, recording and live work, including a tour of the USA.
Eric Rondo’s departure at the mid-point of the Cannon & Ball tour after five years with the Group left a considerable vacuum to be filled and as his track record suggests, P.J. Hudson is just the man for the job. Since the early 70’s he has been involved in Rock ‘n’ Roll one way or another; writing, recording and performing with a string of bands including ‘Grease Lightning’, ‘The Hellraisers’ (later to become ‘Matchbox’) and more recently his own doo-wop group The Cruisers.
As with all changes there has been new input of energy and a rejuvenation of ideas within the Group. And as you will be able to judge for yourselves, the spirit and enthusiasm of the Group burns as brightly as ever before, if not more so.