14 August 2014

From Dunoon to Didsbury - the big break for Freddie "Parrotface" Davies

From the Summer 2014 Edition of STAGEDOOR Magazine, published by the Scottish Music Hall & Variety Theatre Society.

Readers will be delighted to know that comedian Freddie Davies is finally publishing his autobiography at the grand old age of 77. Entitled Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy it is, as Ken Dodd says in his foreword, "the full story, from soup to nuts", going far beyond Freddie's television fame to reveal a man in love with theatre and comedy from an early age.

Freddie's grandad, variety and revue comic Jack Herbert, let young Freddie watch his act from the wings at theatres like the Salford Hippodrome, igniting the passion which would take Freddie all the way to the top, starting with an appearance on Opportunity Knocks on 1st August 1964.

But you may not know that the week which led to Freddie's TV debut actually began in Scotland - Dunoon, to be exact.

Ex-Redcoat Freddie was doing an audience participation show for entrepreneur Archie McCulloch.  "The show was in an open air theatre on the seafront in a small park by the harbour where the ferries docked," Freddie recalls. "It was called Fun with Freddie, and it was free to get in – if anybody did come in, or rather sit out. It rained a lot and the seats were always soaking wet.

"If a few lost souls – kids, dripping wet dogs and some well known local drunks – did happen along to see what all the noise was about, they would be confronted at the end of the show by council operatives from the bin department taking up a collection in tins."

After two weeks he returned to England for a radio show and could not face going back to Dunoon for a further six weeks. There were no other dates in the book but his agent got Freddie a booking at the Candlelight Club in Oldham which was seen by Peter Dulay (son of magician Benson Dulay) and Freddie was offered a spot on the new talent show Opportunity Knocks, recorded in Didsbury, Manchester ... and the rest is comedy history.

Freddie did return to Scotland in happier circumstances in the 1990s, when he embarked on an acting career: he and wife Vanessa lived in Aberfeldy for almost ten years before moving to Yorkshire, where they now live. But don't worry: the spluttering Samuel Tweet is alive and well. Freddie recently topped  the bill in a variety tour and he is planning a one man show, so watch out for that ... though I don't think Dunoon is pencilled in as yet.

Buy Freddie Davies's autobiography Funny Bones from amazon (paperback) or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing (paperback or limited edition hardback); read an extract here.