The Three Degrees
Brandy Di Franck
Bill Haley and the Comets
Martin and Sylvia Konyot
The first turn up on stage tonight are The Three Degrees who perform I Like Being A Woman. The group had formed in 1964, although the 1974 incarnation didn’t include any of the original members (over the years the line-up would see quite a few changes – some fifteen women have been one of the Three Degrees at one time or another).
The 1974 line-up consisted of Fayette Pinkney, Valerie Holiday and Sheila Ferguson. Shortly after this appearance, When Will I See You Again would top the UK charts for two weeks and it would herald a run of successful singles which would continue for a number of years. It’s a pity then that their Wheeltappers appearance wasn’t later in the year, as I Like Being A Woman is nice enough, although fairly forgettable.
There are two points of interest though, first is at 1:35 when they all bump into each other (they won’t be the only act to find performing on that tiny stage to be a bit of a problem!) and the second is the interesting spoken-word section, which must have gladdened the hearts of a certain section of the audience.
You know, women’s liberation is cool.
I mean, it had it’s good points and it’s bad points.
But you know sometimes… I just want to be loved,
And that’s why I become your slave.
I don’t want to be your equal, I just want to be a part of you.
All you gotta do is treat me like you treat yourself.
Next up are The Krankies. They’d spend the 1970’s working clubs like the Wheeltappers before moving onto mainstream television in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. They always seemed to be a staple fixture on Crackerjack (CRACKERJACK!!) at one time, for example.
Even though wee Jimmy Krankies’ cross-dressing antics only has a limited amount of comic potential, you have to admire the career they were able to build out of it. This Wheeltappers appearance is fairly typical of their comic shtick – Ian Krankie is attempting to tell a few jokes and sing a song but he’s prevented from doing so by a small boy in the audience. This is our Jimmy, who clearly has the audience’s sympathy as he tells them his mother doesn’t love him (awwww). The closing part of their act (where Ian treats Jimmy as a ventriloquists doll, swinging him around) is quite impressive and does raise a few laughs.
After somewhat fading from view, the revelation that they used to be swingers put them back into the spotlight a few years ago – and the fact that the likes of The Telegraph reported it is an example of how times have changed (it would be hard to imagine them running showbiz stories like that a few decades earlier).
Following the stripper Brandy Di Franck (yes really!) there’s the main treat of the show – Bill Haley and the Comets. Although Haley’s time at the top was quite short (his main chart success came between 1954 and 1956) his influence was far-reaching and thanks to a handful of classic singles he remains a significant figure in the development of rock and roll.
He gave the audience at the Wheeltappers exactly what they wanted – two of his biggest hits (Shake, Rattle and Roll and Rock Around the Clock). The only mystery about his appearance is why he wasn’t the headliner – c’mon it’s Bill Haley!
Next act on stage are Martin and Sylvia Konyot, who attempt to provide a touch of class with their dancing, although this is somewhat sabotaged by the fact the one of them is usually face-down on the stage. Not a bad spesh act which obviously took a good deal of training in order to execute the moves.
Tonight’s headliner is Ronnie Hilton, who rather cruelly (but accurately) is introduced by Bernard like this. “Ladies and gentleman, if there’s ever a nuclear attack then it’s all round to the next artist’s house. Because he’s never had a hit for years”.
Ronnie Hilton had a successful recording career in the 1950’s as a middle-of-the-road crooner. He built his career on recording cover versions of successful American songs. Hilton wasn’t the only artist to do this as back in the fifties it was the song – not the singer – that was king. His biggest hit, No Other Love (originally recorded by Perry Como) made number one in 1955, but by the early 1960’s the hits had dried up – so like many others before him, he took to touring the club circuit.
On the evidence of this appearance, he had become a decent club singer – although as he never had any particularly identifiable songs it does mean that the show ends with a bit of a whimper. Alas, if only they’d put Bill Haley on last!