JUNE 2010
Imperial George
After the excitement of the last meeting with Frank Skinner and the BBC would this meeting be as flat as a pancake? It was different certainly, relaxed, yes, interesting, yes, friendly, yes...and it actually began with the words... “Absolutely brilliant and thank you for that” which was not a reference to the weather, but a comment made by the BBC Radio Lancashire’s Maria, who had dropped in for an interview and impromptu concert before the meeting had begun. Her programme was reviewing life in Lancashire and as George was, and still, is Lancashire’s most famous lad. It was a good place to start. Let’s hope her listeners were tuned in. John Walley and Gerry Mawdsley filled her in with facts about the society, its membership and other interesting titbits. Their conversation covered topics such as whether it was necessary to have an accent when singing. Gerry put her right on that one – ‘it helps to have a Lancashire accent, but is not necessary’ and she plonked a uke, whilst John held her mike; role swapping or what! They ended by singing about a stick of rock. Blackpool Rock So what did happen to those sticks of George Formby rock given out at the last concert? Had they been sucked, licked, chomped and demolished? The members had lots of different replies... Unfortunately Teddy Alexander didn’t get one.... Sean Rutter, wouldn’t open it as “It’s a souvenir and part of the memorabilia.” Joe Hearson was horrified at the thought and was definite about “not eating it”. Alan Chenery revealed that “his wife gave it away to all her friends”. Jane Partington emphatically declared, “Of course not!” And has put it with a tin of Uncle Joe’s mint balls (out of date). Pam Baddeley said, “It’s too precious to eat and will be preserved forever as George Formby memorabilia” One member (nameless) has it in the kitchen next to Glasgow Rangers, which have gone a bit soft-the rock not the famous football team. Peter Pollard admits to sucking it and he’s still got some left “in the cupboard”....and Frankie, well she actually admits to eating it! Other members have merely preserved the label. Classic remarks During the weekend, ‘Windows were cleaned’, Lampposts leant on and sticks of Blackpool rock eaten. As compere John Walley remarked, the society is full of ‘great friends and wonderful characters’ Teddy Alexander told me a really lovely story about a caravan site...and an impromptu concert... and then there were the comic ‘off the cuff’ remarks. It was these comments from members which made the meeting both on and off the stage so memorable. “I don’t really know this song so I need to practise it!” And then there was the classic ... “At one time all I had to tune was my uke, now I have to tune in my hearing aids as well!” “I don’t know where to put my hands so I’m feeling my way!” (from a member with no microphone to hold) . There was Cyril Palmer’s funeral song, sung purely to “keep our spirits up in the afternoon.” Sean Rutter’s dad kept promising to play ‘the bones’ and actually did late on Sunday. He made us wait for it! Now will September bring a repeat performance? Yes!! The band kept playing Through it all, the band kept playing – probably just as well! The audience enjoyed it, and like the audience at the guillotine in France many years ago, they knitted, they talked, they ate, they drank, they played electronic games, they embroidered and at one point Alan Chenery was nipping around on his wife’s chair, minus L plates. Neil Forshaw, Vivien Mawdsley and Andrew Gatherer were amusing themselves by concentrating on their new card game – not a game of patience (although that was required) not bridge and not poker, but sorting out membership cards. It kept them amused. How times haven’t changed! John tells me that the membership fee throughout most of the 1960’s was one guinea (£1-1s) There were some changes though – it wasn’t the same band all the way through. It was a new band on the Sunday afternoon. Dickie Speake said, ‘It was to give them a chance as they are the future and it gives us a rest’. But in the next breath admitted to being bored when he wasn’t doing anything...you just can’t please some people. And did you spot that Tony Thornton wasn’t playing his usual guitar? Had he forgotten it, or should the absent Chris Weightman have brought it? Some questions are still hard to answer How many acts has Alex Barrett watched in the last 30 years and how many people have watched him filming? But did you also realise that Alex ‘doesna play’ and has never been up on stage but is ‘a good watcher’. Some questions have been answered, such as where does Peter Waterhouses’s bones come from. Peter makes his own bones from hard woods such as oak, the harder the wood the better the sound, – probably simpler than grave robbing. In a side room as hot as a Turkish bath, the sales table was busy- laden with ukes, some that had ‘seen the world’ as well as ukes which were made to ‘see the world’- a suitcase special from Ken Smith, to beat the extra baggage costs, so that members would never be without (their ukes) Useful I suppose to enable members to ‘busk’ on holiday! He also had a special one off price for GF members. Ken calls it ‘Air mile Andy the Prince of Ukuleles’. And then there was the butterfly shaped uke – described by Gerry Mawdsley as being like ‘as bosom’ but actually known as a bongo uke! Nice to keep abreast of things! The shop again did extremely well with Peter Pollard’s DVD and convention DVD’s being quickly sold out. Kitty Barrett’s raffle also raised £152.50. Four new members made their appearance on the Saturday’s meeting, but were nowhere to be seen on Sunday. Let’s hope they return in September. Pam Baddeley as compere reminded members about dressing up for March’s meeting and stated that the lesser known song you opt for then the greater likelihood of your appearing. ‘Maybe Francis Terry could do all the songs in costume at once’ was Dickie Speake’s irreverent suggestion. He performed a sterling job on the keyboard again in Chris Weightman’s absence. By September people should finally know what they will perform so that there is plenty of time to sort out costumes. Pam Baddeley plans to watch the film first for ideas as she dreads the sewing and admits she’s hopeless. Gladys Geohegan , (in matching shoes, top, tights and fingernails) revealed that she has already chosen her costume and is now keeping her fingers tightly crossed until September in the hope that she’s chosen to perform her preferred number! I bet she’s not the only one. However, Jane Partington, an accomplished all round performer, isn’t worried as there’s plenty of time yet to sort things out. (Oh to be talented and confident) Trevor Weston and Kevin Bridgewater performed for the second time in twenty five years and admitted to being a ‘bag of nerves’, so will they be game for a repeat performance in September? We wait and see. And how nice to hear Malcolm Rigby perform for the first time. He sang ‘Hill Billie Willie’. George Formby Newsreel DVD It was too good to miss, but miss it many members did and that was the DVD shown by Peter Pollard on Saturday night instead of the usual film. It was a wonderful collection of news clips, out-takes of ‘The South Bank’ show and some of George’s home movies, all knitted together like a patchwork quilt. At times there was no dialogue, but every frame was still valuable because it allowed George to ‘speak for himself’ and come over as a real person rather than a film character or parodied Northern stereotype. His ‘smoking’ today would have been ‘airbrushed out’ to make it politically correct! (As happened to a picture of Winston Churchill with his cigar recently). The George Formby Newsreel DVD is available here. It was a real treat during the showing to spot the young stars – Des O’Connor, Stephen Grapelli (performing ‘Leaning On A Lamppost’), or even spot the youthful GFS members – John Walley as a callow youth, with hair, also Ray Bernard, Bob Flynn and Bill Logan (the first president) with his stirring tribute to George. You could even spot old Blackpool and note that apart from the shape of the cars nothing much seems to have changed! Did you spot George’s ‘mistake’? When performing ‘She’s got two of everything’ he stopped playing! Why? Did a string come off and was he putting it back? This was from George’s appearance in the TV show ‘Top Of The Bill’ which miraculously has survived intact. Did you also notice that ‘Trouble Brewing’ and ‘It’s In The Air’ had the wrong titles? Not Peter’s fault, but the programme makers! Maybe they hadn’t reckoned that it would be watched by so many ‘experts’! Interesting snippets included the shots of the huge crowds ‘gawping’ at George’s funeral cortège; humorous moments, too, when Beryl was seen leading George off by the ear; embarrassing moments also when George appeared embarrassed, like a tongue tied youth at the interview about his engagement to Pat Howson. Then you caught glimpses of him entertaining the troops and it must have crossed everyone’s mind – how many of those men actually came home at the end of the war? He appeared care-free when he was playing leap frog in some home movie footage, How many people would play leap frog today or would they prefer computer games instead of simple pleasures? It was interesting to note the early camera work when on some frames George’s head was too close to the top of the frame- so close that he was almost decapitated! So Saturday evening began with the DVD made by Peter Pollard and ended with his promising to be home by 9 o’clock...He was already late! Finally Alan Chenery and Peter played a ‘slower’ version of ‘Wigan Boat Express’. Nice touches The hotel once again provided some nice touches, our customised sandwich menu, but then it is in their interests to do so as we are a captive audience and there is a distinct lack of outside eateries. They even provided a voucher for money off a three course meal – provided that you could raise a loan to cover it. There’s maybe the title for a new Formby song, “You don’t need a voucher for that” although maybe to afford a three course meal – you do, and judging by some of the comments it was rated as very good to OK. But is Ok good enough? It was lovely once again to see the former Imperial Concierge, complete with medals and memories of George and his family attend the concert. He remembers keeping ukes in his lodge for safekeeping. He left to attend a service on the front but promised to return in September. The Sunday afternoon drew to a close with Dickie Speake and Dennis Mitchell admitting they could end anything – and they did! It was left to Sean Rutter to close Sunday night. He was amazing, so confident and actually kept going when, for once, the band went wrong. Now for some eavesdropping. On Monday morning, John and I were having breakfast in the Imperial and sat next to a couple who never stopped talking. Comments such as “The whole of Blackpool will be transformed”, “The Winter Gardens are in a transition period,” and “We’ve got the George Formby Society here” etc, etc. Who was it? Our ears were burning. John couldn’t resist! At the end of breakfast he introduced himself and was surprised to find it was non other than Alison (and we’ve both forgotten her surname despite looking it up), the manager of the Imperial! She said that she was delighted that the GFS were back and hoped we would stay “forever” and was very enthusiastic about he whole “new scene” at Blackpool. So, another meeting is over and it is back to reality. Don’t forget to put your names down for the special ‘film concerts’. 2011 is a very special year for George and his society. Just how special depends on YOU. The sub-committee is working hard to plan the weekend and we intend that year 2011 will be George’s Year. ‘Formby mania’ must sweep these islands! Gill Walley
JUNE 2010
Imperial George
After the excitement of the last meeting with Frank Skinner and the BBC would this meeting be as flat as a pancake? It was different certainly, relaxed, yes, interesting, yes, friendly, yes...and it actually began with the words... “Absolutely brilliant and thank you for that” which was not a reference to the weather, but a comment made by the BBC Radio Lancashire’s Maria, who had dropped in for an interview and impromptu concert before the meeting had begun. Her programme was reviewing life in Lancashire and as George was, and still, is Lancashire’s most famous lad. It was a good place to start. Let’s hope her listeners were tuned in. John Walley and Gerry Mawdsley filled her in with facts about the society, its membership and other interesting titbits. Their conversation covered topics such as whether it was necessary to have an accent when singing. Gerry put her right on that one – ‘it helps to have a Lancashire accent, but is not necessary’ and she plonked a uke, whilst John held her mike; role swapping or what! They ended by singing about a stick of rock. Blackpool Rock So what did happen to those sticks of George Formby rock given out at the last concert? Had they been sucked, licked, chomped and demolished? The members had lots of different replies... Unfortunately Teddy Alexander didn’t get one.... Sean Rutter, wouldn’t open it as “It’s a souvenir and part of the memorabilia.” Joe Hearson was horrified at the thought and was definite about “not eating it”. Alan Chenery revealed that “his wife gave it away to all her friends”. Jane Partington emphatically declared, “Of course not!” And has put it with a tin of Uncle Joe’s mint balls (out of date). Pam Baddeley said, “It’s too precious to eat and will be preserved forever as George Formby memorabilia” One member (nameless) has it in the kitchen next to Glasgow Rangers, which have gone a bit soft-the rock not the famous football team. Peter Pollard admits to sucking it and he’s still got some left “in the cupboard”....and Frankie, well she actually admits to eating it! Other members have merely preserved the label. Classic remarks During the weekend, ‘Windows were cleaned’, Lampposts leant on and sticks of Blackpool rock eaten. As compere John Walley remarked, the society is full of ‘great friends and wonderful characters’ Teddy Alexander told me a really lovely story about a caravan site...and an impromptu concert... and then there were the comic ‘off the cuff’ remarks. It was these comments from members which made the meeting both on and off the stage so memorable. “I don’t really know this song so I need to practise it!” And then there was the classic ... “At one time all I had to tune was my uke, now I have to tune in my hearing aids as well!” “I don’t know where to put my hands so I’m feeling my way!” (from a member with no microphone to hold) . There was Cyril Palmer’s funeral song, sung purely to “keep our spirits up in the afternoon.” Sean Rutter’s dad kept promising to play ‘the bones’ and actually did late on Sunday. He made us wait for it! Now will September bring a repeat performance? Yes!! The band kept playing Through it all, the band kept playing – probably just as well! The audience enjoyed it, and like the audience at the guillotine in France many years ago, they knitted, they talked, they ate, they drank, they played electronic games, they embroidered and at one point Alan Chenery was nipping around on his wife’s chair, minus L plates. Neil Forshaw, Vivien Mawdsley and Andrew Gatherer were amusing themselves by concentrating on their new card game – not a game of patience (although that was required) not bridge and not poker, but sorting out membership cards. It kept them amused. How times haven’t changed! John tells me that the membership fee throughout most of the 1960’s was one guinea (£1-1s) There were some changes though – it wasn’t the same band all the way through. It was a new band on the Sunday afternoon. Dickie Speake said, ‘It was to give them a chance as they are the future and it gives us a rest’. But in the next breath admitted to being bored when he wasn’t doing anything...you just can’t please some people. And did you spot that Tony Thornton wasn’t playing his usual guitar? Had he forgotten it, or should the absent Chris Weightman have brought it? Some questions are still hard to answer How many acts has Alex Barrett watched in the last 30 years and how many people have watched him filming? But did you also realise that Alex ‘doesna play’ and has never been up on stage but is ‘a good watcher’. Some questions have been answered, such as where does Peter Waterhouses’s bones come from. Peter makes his own bones from hard woods such as oak, the harder the wood the better the sound, – probably simpler than grave robbing. In a side room as hot as a Turkish bath, the sales table was busy- laden with ukes, some that had ‘seen the world’ as well as ukes which were made to ‘see the world’- a suitcase special from Ken Smith, to beat the extra baggage costs, so that members would never be without (their ukes) Useful I suppose to enable members to ‘busk’ on holiday! He also had a special one off price for GF members. Ken calls it ‘Air mile Andy the Prince of Ukuleles’. And then there was the butterfly shaped uke – described by Gerry Mawdsley as being like ‘as bosom’ but actually known as a bongo uke! Nice to keep abreast of things! The shop again did extremely well with Peter Pollard’s DVD and convention DVD’s being quickly sold out. Kitty Barrett’s raffle also raised £152.50. Four new members made their appearance on the Saturday’s meeting, but were nowhere to be seen on Sunday. Let’s hope they return in September. Pam Baddeley as compere reminded members about dressing up for March’s meeting and stated that the lesser known song you opt for then the greater likelihood of your appearing. ‘Maybe Francis Terry could do all the songs in costume at once’ was Dickie Speake’s irreverent suggestion. He performed a sterling job on the keyboard again in Chris Weightman’s absence. By September people should finally know what they will perform so that there is plenty of time to sort out costumes. Pam Baddeley plans to watch the film first for ideas as she dreads the sewing and admits she’s hopeless. Gladys Geohegan , (in matching shoes, top, tights and fingernails) revealed that she has already chosen her costume and is now keeping her fingers tightly crossed until September in the hope that she’s chosen to perform her preferred number! I bet she’s not the only one. However, Jane Partington, an accomplished all round performer, isn’t worried as there’s plenty of time yet to sort things out. (Oh to be talented and confident) Trevor Weston and Kevin Bridgewater performed for the second time in twenty five years and admitted to being a ‘bag of nerves’, so will they be game for a repeat performance in September? We wait and see. And how nice to hear Malcolm Rigby perform for the first time. He sang ‘Hill Billie Willie’. George Formby Newsreel DVD It was too good to miss, but miss it many members did and that was the DVD shown by Peter Pollard on Saturday night instead of the usual film. It was a wonderful collection of news clips, out-takes of ‘The South Bank’ show and some of George’s home movies, all knitted together like a patchwork quilt. At times there was no dialogue, but every frame was still valuable because it allowed George to ‘speak for himself’ and come over as a real person rather than a film character or parodied Northern stereotype. His ‘smoking’ today would have been ‘airbrushed out’ to make it politically correct! (As happened to a picture of Winston Churchill with his cigar recently). The George Formby Newsreel DVD is available here. It was a real treat during the showing to spot the young stars – Des O’Connor, Stephen Grapelli (performing ‘Leaning On A Lamppost’), or even spot the youthful GFS members – John Walley as a callow youth, with hair, also Ray Bernard, Bob Flynn and Bill Logan (the first president) with his stirring tribute to George. You could even spot old Blackpool and note that apart from the shape of the cars nothing much seems to have changed! Did you spot George’s ‘mistake’? When performing ‘She’s got two of everything’ he stopped playing! Why? Did a string come off and was he putting it back? This was from George’s appearance in the TV show ‘Top Of The Bill’ which miraculously has survived intact. Did you also notice that ‘Trouble Brewing’ and ‘It’s In The Air’ had the wrong titles? Not Peter’s fault, but the programme makers! Maybe they hadn’t reckoned that it would be watched by so many ‘experts’! Interesting snippets included the shots of the huge crowds ‘gawping’ at George’s funeral cortège; humorous moments, too, when Beryl was seen leading George off by the ear; embarrassing moments also when George appeared embarrassed, like a tongue tied youth at the interview about his engagement to Pat Howson. Then you caught glimpses of him entertaining the troops and it must have crossed everyone’s mind – how many of those men actually came home at the end of the war? He appeared care-free when he was playing leap frog in some home movie footage, How many people would play leap frog today or would they prefer computer games instead of simple pleasures? It was interesting to note the early camera work when on some frames George’s head was too close to the top of the frame- so close that he was almost decapitated! So Saturday evening began with the DVD made by Peter Pollard and ended with his promising to be home by 9 o’clock...He was already late! Finally Alan Chenery and Peter played a ‘slower’ version of ‘Wigan Boat Express’. Nice touches The hotel once again provided some nice touches, our customised sandwich menu, but then it is in their interests to do so as we are a captive audience and there is a distinct lack of outside eateries. They even provided a voucher for money off a three course meal – provided that you could raise a loan to cover it. There’s maybe the title for a new Formby song, “You don’t need a voucher for that” although maybe to afford a three course meal – you do, and judging by some of the comments it was rated as very good to OK. But is Ok good enough? It was lovely once again to see the former Imperial Concierge, complete with medals and memories of George and his family attend the concert. He remembers keeping ukes in his lodge for safekeeping. He left to attend a service on the front but promised to return in September. The Sunday afternoon drew to a close with Dickie Speake and Dennis Mitchell admitting they could end anything – and they did! It was left to Sean Rutter to close Sunday night. He was amazing, so confident and actually kept going when, for once, the band went wrong. Now for some eavesdropping. On Monday morning, John and I were having breakfast in the Imperial and sat next to a couple who never stopped talking. Comments such as “The whole of Blackpool will be transformed”, “The Winter Gardens are in a transition period,” and “We’ve got the George Formby Society here” etc, etc. Who was it? Our ears were burning. John couldn’t resist! At the end of breakfast he introduced himself and was surprised to find it was non other than Alison (and we’ve both forgotten her surname despite looking it up), the manager of the Imperial! She said that she was delighted that the GFS were back and hoped we would stay “forever” and was very enthusiastic about he whole “new scene” at Blackpool. So, another meeting is over and it is back to reality. Don’t forget to put your names down for the special ‘film concerts’. 2011 is a very special year for George and his society. Just how special depends on YOU. The sub-committee is working hard to plan the weekend and we intend that year 2011 will be George’s Year. ‘Formby mania’ must sweep these islands! Gill Walley