The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club – 13th April 1974

wheel s01e01

Tonight’s Turns:

Ukranian Cossack Brotherhood
Lambert and Ross
Barbara Law
La Vivas
Freddie Garrity
Tessie O’Shea

Wheeltappers is a fascinating series for several reasons.  Although the club was a studio mock-up, by all accounts it’s a pretty accurate recreation of a typical club of the era – and therefore it gives a good impression of the sort of environment that the majority of the Wheeltappers acts would regularly perform in.

Many up-and-coming performers honed their skills in clubs like these, appearing on the bill alongside popular acts from the 1960’s (like, for example, Roy Orbison), who found success harder to come by in the 1970’s and were therefore happy to find regular employment in the numerous clubs dotted up and down the country.

I can’t put my hand on my heart and claim that everything in the Wheeltappers is good, but there’s certainly some gold there.  Alas, there’s plenty of god-awful singers and unfunny comedians as well – but for those hardy souls prepared to sift through the series, there’s quite a few nuggets of interest.

And for those who lack the stamina to watch it all, and because Network rather annoyingly don’t list the performers on the DVD sleeves, I’ve decided on this rewatch to put an artist listing on each entry, as well as highlighting those acts who are worth seeing (or are best avoided).

The Ukranian Cossack Brotherhood were quite good fun, although I’m not sure whether they were actually Ukranian or not – seems a long way to come just to appear on the Wheeltappers.  Their performance is particularly impressive considering the small stage they have to perform on – one false move and they’d be sitting in somebody’s lap!

Lambert and Ross were certainly no Morecambe and Wise – or even Little and Large.  Their’ USP seemed to be that one (Ross) was camp and one (Lambert) wasn’t.  Sample gag: “We could appear in a film. What film? Ben Hur, I’ll play Ben. And I’ll play Her”.  Although there’s little evidence of it here, Willie Ross would go on to have a successful career in television, on the stage and in films such as Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Riff Raff and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, before his death in 2000.

Barbara Law belts out her song quite well.  It’s worth watching the man directly behind her at the start – was he a plant or was he genuinely that drunk?  La Vivas indulge in some knife-throwing, roping in a lady from the audience and Bernard for good measure.

Freddie Garrity has plenty of energy – that’s for sure.  The former lead-singer of Freddie and the Dreamers would return to the Wheeltappers in the future and he’d be even more deranged – so this performance, by his standards, is fairly restrained.

Headliner Tessie O’Shea was something of an entertainment legend.  Born in Cardiff in 1913, she was a popular music-hall act during the 1930’s – 1950’s and she’d go on to pick up a Tony award in 1963 for her appearance in Noel Coward’s musical The Girl Who Came to Supper.  Another notable American appearance was on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, where she shared the bill with a young up-and-coming beat combo from England called the Beatles.

On the Wheeltappers she plays a paper bag and invites the audience to join her in a good old fashioned sing-along.  It’s the sort of thing that we’ll see a lot of at the Wheeltappers (the sing-along that is, not playing with a paper bag).

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