The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club – 26th May 1974

wheel s01e07

Tonight’s Turns:

Mrs Mills
Dave and Amos
Eve Boswell
The Fivepenny Piece
Peter Wheeler, Schoolmaster
The Leaways
Gene Pitney

Today’s show opens with Mrs Mills in full swing. There are few things finer in life than a good old singalong and Mrs Mills’ jaunty piano playing certainly energises the audience, who whole-heartily join her in familiar old standards such as My Old Man. It’s interesting that her brush with fame only occurred quite late in life (she made her debut television appearance with Billy Cotton, aged 43, in 1961). I now have a faint inclination to track down some of her LPs (most of which had the word “party” in the title) and singles (Mrs Mills’ Minstrel Medley sounds intriguing).

Bernard seems to be enjoying Dave and Amos’ performance, as his hearty chuckles are very audible. Or is he simply amusing himself by disrupting their act? More the latter than the former I think. Dave and Amos might be a double act, but unlike, say, Cannon & Ball they weren’t comprised of a straight man and a comic. Instead, both are somewhat off the wall (for the Wheeltappers environment anyway) and eschew traditional gags for something a little different. It might not quite work, but you have to admire them for taking the risk (although had Bernard kept quiet it might have worked a little better).

Eve Boswell pops up to sing her big hit. Pickin’ a Chicken reached number nine on the hit parade in 1956. No, I’ve never heard of it either but one of the joys of the Wheeltappers series is discovering little nuggets of entertainment history which have previously passed me by. As ever with the show, the audience – especially those in the front row, energetically clapping along – are sometimes as entertaining as the performers on stage.

Lancashire’s finest, The Fivepenny Piece, are up next – although since there are six of them shouldn’t they have been called The Sixpenny Piece? I enjoyed their folksy song I Don’t Know If I Wanna Go Home. They have a rather comprehensive website which lists all of their television appearances. I have to confess that I’d rather like to see some of the series they made in the late seventies – MH and 5p in 1978, where they shared the stage with Mike Harding, or their own four part show the following year. Maybe one day they might surface on DVD – it seems unlikely, but stranger things have been released. Although those who crave some more 5p action should check out the sixth and final series of the Wheeltappers which features them throughout one of the shows.

It’s a laughter-free zone when Peter Wheeler stands up to play a schoolmaster. If you can’t guess some of the punchlines (apologising for the drunkenness in school which turns out to be – wait for it – the teachers not the pupils) then you’ve clearly led a very sheltered life (or not experienced comedy of this type).

The Leaways are a rather good acrobatic act. He’s very tattooed (something which is commonplace now, but would have stood out much more forty years ago) whilst she – as is traditional – wears very little. The accompanying music – Moon River and others – seems a little out of place but it doesn’t detract too much from their feats of balancing – which, given the small stage, was probably a little tricky.

After a brief snatch of 24 Hours from Tulsa (rudely interrupted by Colin Crompton) Gene Pitney launches into a spirited rendition of Princess in Rags. He then closes the show with a song he wrote for Ricky Nelson, Hello Mary Lou. Personally I would have dropped Peter Wheeler so we could have heard all of Tulsa – as always with this era of the show, the turns are very limited for time.

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