I wonder how many of you may remember the days of the radio show. I grew up in a house without a TV, simply unimaginable for the young of today but it was the norm at one time. Radio was king and an evening of entertainment may have been to attend as a member of the live audience for the broadcast of a favourite show.
Today it may be Britain’s Got Talent, in the 1950’s one of the favourites was Educating Archie.
I met Archie recently. He is 70 years old now, but he is in fine fettle and about to embark on a second career of touring the UK. For those of you who do not know, Archie is a ventriloquist puppet. He was the star of his own show in the 1950’s. Archie the puppet was created in 1942. He found his voice and character of a naughty public school boy through ventrilloquist Peter Brough, and they set off touring the UK.
By the time the duo started on the radio they were already quite a sensation, and the show itself regularly attracted 15 million listeners! Imagine – for a radio show! The show was the launch pad for the early careers of stars such as Julie Andrews (who was 14 when she first appeared), Tony Hancock and Max Bygraves. Others appearing included Hatti Jacques, Dick Emery, Bruce Forsythe and Harry Secombe. Archie and Peter Brough also performed for VIP audiences including privately for the Royal family. I am told the Queen and Princess Margaret were fascinated by him and were great fans.
So what is the local relevance? I mentioned that Archie is starting to tour again. He will be in Eastbourne in late October. Archie needs a double, just in case anything goes wrong with the old puppet on tour. The double will have to be as authentic as possible so he was in Shepperton visiting the Shepperton Wig Company where he is having a head of hair created. “Old” Archie has a wonderful head of hair, with dark blonde waves – apparently from the head of a nun taking orders. Convents were a rich source of hair for wig makers in those days apparently! “Old” Archie still has his original clothes too and it is testament to the old textile makers because they are in very good repair (his jacket rather reminds me of my old school blazer in fact!).
At the height of his fame, Archie Andrews had a fan club of some 250,000 members. Were you a member? Do get in touch with any memories if you were;
Meanwhile look out for news of Archie making his comeback.