Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Family Secret That Shocked “Parrotface”
In his late sixties veteran comedian Freddie Davies made a startling discovery about the inspirational man he called “Grandad”. It’s something he is still trying to come to terms with, as Anthony Teague, cowriter of Freddie’s newly published autobiography Funny Bones, explains.
Growing up in 1940s Salford, Freddie Davies never knew his father. But he idolised the man he called Grandad, variety comic Jack Herbert. Freddie would watch his act from the wings and by the age of ten he knew that he wanted to be a comedian too.
It was a determination which never wavered, and by the time Opportunity Knocks came along in 1964 Freddie had developed a distinctive comedy persona with his zany, spluttering "Parrotface" character, Samuel Tweet.
By this time his grandad had long retired - or rather the business had given him up. Variety theatres had been closing at a rate of knots in the fifties and Jack couldn't get on with the brasher style required for clubs. Forgotten by all but a few, Jack Herbert died aged seventy three in 1969, at the height of Freddie's fame.
But Jack was to make two dramatic re-entries into Freddie's life in later years.
In 1974 Freddie had given an aspiring actor named Peter Chelsom a job as stage manager; twenty years later Freddie would appear in Chelsom's film Funny Bones, inspired by stories of his grandad.
Then in 2006 Freddie was astonished to learn that a family member had raised the possibility that Jack, his comedy inspiration and the man he knew fondly as “Grandad”, may have been his father.
To complicate matters there was a competing story, a rival for the role of father, and Freddie didn't know what to believe.
One thing became clear, however. Freddie had to know the truth. Not having a father when growing up hadn't seemed that big a deal at the time: lots of his schoolmates had fathers who were away because of the war and no one batted an eyelid. Some of them never returned and Freddie had always believed his father had been killed in the war. But now, approaching seventy, the veteran entertainer realised that yes, he desperately wanted to know the truth, to find out who his father was.
Read the full story in Freddie's autobiography Funny Bones - details below.
Buy Freddie Davies's autobiography Funny Bones from amazon (paperback) or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing (paperback or limited edition hardback)
For any Freddie fans who haven't come across it yet, here is the piece I wrote in June 2011 for my personal blog which led to my wor...
John Fisher, author of Funny Way to Be a Hero, biographies of Tommy Cooper and Tony Hancock and the man behind the exemplary Heroes of Co...
This is a slightly abridged version of the above article in the summer edition of The Call Boy , the magazine of the BMHS (British Music ...
As cowriter of Funny Bones I cannot pretend to be impartial, but for those who couldn't make it here are some notes on Freddie's per...
Freddie was interviewed live today by Bob Fischer of Radio Tees - it will be available on iplayer here at some point but in the meantime yo...
For those who couldn't make it, Freddie was on fine form at the British Music Hall Society's Day By the Sea at the Hippodrome,...
To the Palladium today for the Society for Theatre Research's Theatre Book Prize presentation. T hose in attendance included STR preside...
Michael Billington, writing today for the Guardian's "A book that changed me" feature, chooses Kenneth Tynan's He That ...
A reminder that Freddie will be appearing at the British Music Hall Society's Day By the Sea next Saturday, so if you are within reac...
In Funny Bones I quoted an advertisement which Freddie's grandad Jack Herbert placed in The Stage. But I didn't provide the context....