Comic Songs and Variety Shows

After writing about The White Heather Club in my last post I started thinking about other similar shows. It left me wondering what happened to variety shows. The early days of TV were full of them. Now I believe the only one we have left here in Britain is the annual Royal Variety Performance. Yet I hadn’t noticed them disappearing. I’m thinking now that they were probably direct descendants of the Music Hall which thrived in the Victorian era and was pushed out by the arrival of cinema.

Back in the 50s and 60s families all watched TV together. There was only one TV in each house and just one channel at first, later two. The variety shows of my childhood had a main host and a selection of guests including magicians, singers, dancers, ventriloquists, comedians, puppeteers etc etc. Here are some of the shows I remember from British TV in the 50s and 60s..

The Black and White Minstrel Show

This was a family must every week and hugely enjoyable. But it definitely wouldn’t be made now as it featured white people ‘blacked up’.

The White Heather Club

I wrote bout this in my last post. It was a New Year’s Eve ‘must watch’.

The Good Old Days

This show was set up as a Victorian music hall and the acts, the host and the audience were all in period costume. My grandmother absolutely loved it.

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

Another regular family watch. the photograph show Bruce Forsyth who hosted the programme for several years.

Some of these shows gave rise to comic the songs we knew back then. For example, Andy Stewart, who presented The White Heather Club, released a single called ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?’

Where did the comic songs go? I’m not talking about the ones aimed at children like ‘The Laughing Policeman’, but the ones which were for everyone and which got loads of radio play. Here are some of them which I remember. I appreciate that my readers in other countries might not know these songs but this post might remind them of some they do remember.

The Gas Man Cometh by Flanders and Swann

Flanders and Swann were a British comedy duo.. Lyricist, actor and singer Michael Flanders (1922–1975) and composer and pianist Donald Swann (1923–1994) collaborated in writing and performing comic songs. The one I remember best is The Gas Man Cometh.

My Old Man’s a Dustman by Lonnie Donegan

British skiffle singer, songwriter and musician Lonnie Donegan was referred to as the King of Skiffle and influenced 1960s British pop and rock musicians. My Old Man’s a Dustman was one of his most popular and a big favourite in our hose.

Donald Where’s Your Troosers? by Andy Stewart

As mentioned earlier in the section on the White Heather Club.

Goodness Gracious Me by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren

As with the Black and White Minstrel Show, this would definitely not be released nowadays as Peter Sellers was impersonating an Indian Doctor – although not in a deprecatory way.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

5 thoughts on “Comic Songs and Variety Shows

  1. Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line and Last Train to San Fernando too.
    Strictly speaking The Good Old Days wasn’t ‘set up’ because it was filmed at the City Varieties in Leeds, a genuine Victorian Music Hall.
    ‘Music Hall’ was very popular in the USSR. I attended a performance in Leningrad in 1989 – singers, acrobats etc.
    The song Goodness Gracious Me was from a film (and of course decades later gave its name to a comedy series on Radio 4, later on TV).
    There were variety shows on the wireless long before they were on TV and continued, though with less ‘variety’ because they didn’t do the visuals so well: Billy Cotton Band Show, Henry Hall ….. and some comedy shows had a musical interlude or even two (Beyond our Ken ….)
    But I expect you all know all that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leeds City Varieties is near where I live now and I’ve been there several times. I just meant it was staged as if it was being filmed in Victorian times. Sorry if I appeared to be putting it down! I didn’t mention the Billy Cotton Band Show! We loved it! And thanks too for reminding me about the radio ones. The Navy Lark, Round the Horn – they all come flooding back! Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting.

      Like

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