After the war I was asked by BBC Radio to
produce and present something for Sunday
nights, and came up with my long-running
Quiet Rhythm programme. It was broadcast
from 11.15 pm to midnight and
I really didn’t expect much of an audience.
However, as it turned out, it appealed
quite well and I found that people actually
stayed up till then in order to hear it. The
press also was supportive.
Indeed, one listener wrote to say that
sometime after the news at .pm, she used to
dismantle her radiogram in the sitting room
and take it bit by bit up to the bedroom
where it was reassembled so that she could
hear the programme at 11.15pm.
It was given a six-week run by the BBC,
but after about three weeks they extended it
to 18 weeks which, over the next 19 years,
was featured more than once a year.
My colleagues and I were never DJs –
disc jockeys – in the modern sense; that is to
say, our programmes were created by us,
with the music we thought audiences would
like. Indeed, all my own programmes had a
beginning, middle and an end.
Today, as I understand it, the famous, like
Terry Wogan, play records they are given,
but say what they like, pretty well. With us,
it all had to be scripted, read by the head of
department, and often blue pencilled too.
Sometimes this became very irritating, so
I used then to write something outrageous
for them to blue pencil. Occasionally, this
was overlooked, but I never said what I had
written especially for cutting.
After he had recorded a couple of my
melodies, Quite Rhythm Blues and My Lucky
Number, George Martin, the eventual
producer of the Beatles records, was known
to come and watch me as I chose the records
for a programme.
I would shuffle them about so as to get a
good running order, making a balanced
show with, as I say, a beginning, middle and
an end. Later, he too received a well-deserved
Knighthood for his work.
In 1946, the BBC offered me the chance
to present the new Housewives Choice
programme in company with three others,
Roy Rich, Franklyn Engleman and Brian
We did a fortnight each, six days a week,
until our turn came round again, although
none of us continued for the whole 20 years
of the programme’s life, I was lucky and
carried on with it for at least two or three
appearances a year until 1965.
During the run of Housewives Choice I
was approached by Pye Records, one of the
many big record companies of that time,
to do a series of records about horoscopes.
One each month was to be released,
the whole series to be called Zodiac. I got
in touch with the well-known clairvoyant
Maurice Woodruff, who agreed to write
the forecasts, and I recorded them all. At the
press launch, Peter Sellers, Maurice and I
were photographed and the press coverage
was excellent. Even Richard Attenborough
featured it in his News of the World column
the following Sunday.
Alas, these records didn’t get the radio
support they needed and were, I fear, not
the success we and everyone had forecast;
something even Maurice Woodruff had not
One of the Masons I personally knew
best was the late W. Bro. Arthur Prince,
past Master of the Lodge of Asaph No. 1319
who was, in his own time, the most famous
ventriloquist in Britain.
It was he who sponsored me for my
education at the Royal Masonic School,
then located at Bushey, Hertfordshire. Later
I toured with him around the music halls.
He did several Royal Command
Performances, too, but they were different
then. If you were ‘commanded’ you went
to Windsor or to Buckingham Palace to
perform, not as today, to a London theatre.
One such date was at Windsor Castle,
where he appeared in front of an audience of
courtiers accompanying Edward VII, who
smoked cigars. Arthur also smoked a cigar
during his act, and when the King started to
light his cigar, the ‘figure’ (Arthur insisted
on that term – never ‘dummy’) looking
around was heard to say, “Someone around
here is smoking a bit of old rope”.
There followed dead silence – all glanced
in the direction of the King, who kept silent.
Suddenly he smiled, so the audience smiled
too, and Arthur was relieved of his fear of
being sent to the Tower!
That was long before my day, but as a
ventriloquist, Arthur was the only one who
could drink a full glass of coloured water
whilst at the same time ‘Jim’, the figure, was
merrily chatting away. A wonderful trick,
but even though I stood right next to him on
the stage I have no idea how it was done.