Freddie Davies will be making a return visit to Blackpool this Saturday to appear in A Night With the Stars at the Blackpool Opera House at 7.30. If you haven't seen him live it's a great chance to catch him in his natural habitat - the stage - in a place full of memories for him. Full details about the show can be found on the Winter Gardens Blackpool website here.
Freddie was entertainment manager at the Butlins Metropole Hotel in Blackpool in the early sixties, a time he remembers fondly. "Blackpool was a great place to go if you wanted to have a look at most of the premier acts of the age," he says. "On a good day, there was nowhere nicer: a walk along the prom then a star-studded show in the evening. Blackpool always enjoyed a longer season than most with the famous Illuminations extending it. And the stars shone bright in 1962 with Doddy at the Opera House, Tommy Cooper and Nina and Frederik at the Queens; all the piers had big stars at the top of the bill. It was quite a season for us as well, as they launched Smirnoff vodka from the Metropole!"
In 1963 Freddie made the big decision to leave the security of Butlins in order try his luck as a full time comic. Blackpool was the obvious choice for a base: "In the sixties there were still about ten major summer shows in Blackpool plus big nightclubs and pubs, all needing acts."
Samuel Tweet spluttered his first in a Manchester club, but the homburg hat which started it all was bought in a nearly new shop in South Shore for two and sixpence (12½p). "It was for an impersonation of Arthur Lowe, who was in Coronation Street at the time, but when someone shouted out for a joke about a budgie I put it on and the voice somehow just came out. A few months later I got the call from Opportunity Knocks and that was it - the next twenty years just flew by."
Freddie appeared in many summer shows in Blackpool over the years, and there is still footage of his 1966 appearance at the ABC Theatre, introduced by Tony Hancock: "I was playing on the same stage I was working on every night," recalls Freddie, "so it was easy - a home crowd, you might say. I remember going onstage around that time, and the audience was really going 'Wow!' Such wonderful memories."
Freddie lived in Blackpool until the early seventies and returned to produce pantos there in the early eighties. Later the film Funny Bones was shot there in 1994, featuring Freddie and George Carl as double act the Parker Brothers, along with Jerry Lewis and Lee Evans. "It really captured the spirit of Blackpool as it used to be and is now seen as a cult classic," Freddie says.
Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies with Anthony Teague is available from amazon or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing.
Buy tickets for A Night With the Stars via the Winter Gardens Blackpool website here.