Since launching this website over a year ago, I have had the pleasure to meet and chat with some of the most remarkable figures within the Arts. As an avid fan of the history of British entertainment, nothing gets my heart racing like when I meet an icon of the art. So you can imagine my utter excitement when I found myself at a distinguished golf club preparing to interview the great Jimmy Tarbuck. For over half a century, Jimmy Tarbuck has been a vital part of the showbiz establishment and has been a constant face on our television screens and even today he is still pulling in theatre audiences with his Liverpudlian lilt and cheeky chappie sense of humour. Stay tuned for the most ‘name drops’ Beyond The Title has ever heard!
Press play, below, to listen to the full interview
Making his debut on Sunday Night at the London Palladium on the 27th of October 1963, Jimmy went on to have a career defining association with the legendary theatre which still survives to this day. Just two years later, he was honoured to take the reigns from host Norman Vaughan as the Palladium’s main man. As host of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Jimmy welcomed the likes of Rudolph Nureyev, Judy Garland and Dame Antoinette Sibley onto what was now one of the biggest shows on British television making him one of the most famous men in Britain. As he states, “becoming famous when you’re young gives you the time, energy and opportunity to enjoy your successes” and Jimmy Tarbuck has enjoyed more successes than most. Rising to fame in the midst of the Merseybeat phenomenon of the mid sixties, Jimmy found himself surrounded by many of his childhood friends who had all been transformed into overnight superstars all at once thanks in part to the infamous music mogul Brian Epstein. Unfortunately music wasn’t Jimmy’s fortè and while he could hold a tune, his real talent lie in the ability to make an audience laugh.
After Sunday Night at the Palladium, Jimmy was among a select few entertainers to be given their own game show format. Winner Takes All was broadcasted by ITV from 1975 to 1984 and remains one of his favourite programmes he ever worked on. He was later lured back to the art of the game show in 1996 with the golfing centred game Full Swing yet the over complex rules of the game lead to its premature demise. Ever modest, Jimmy remains quick to highlight that he could never reach the standards of his game show heroes Bob Monkhouse and Bruce Forsyth but his laid back and amiable approach to the games forced people to have a vested interest in the contestants which would have only been possible thanks to the Tarbuck charm.
Returning to Variety in the mid eighties for Live From Her Majesty’s reunited Jimmy with the art which possibly suits him best; compering a live entertainment show. Yet this was tinged with an element of sadness in that this was the setting of Tommy Cooper’s last resting place following his death live on stage in front of a live audience and millions watching at home. As the old saying goes “the show must go on” and while medical staff treated his longtime friend and hero, Jimmy was forced to do the unthinkable and continue the show hiding the devastating trauma of what had just happened. This not only illustrates his emotional strength as a man but also his utter professionalism as a performer.
In 1994 Jimmy Tarbuck was honoured when ITV asked him to star in his own Audience With… A packed studio of Sportsmen, musicians and entertainers came together to see a one man show from a performer who was now part of entertainment royalty. From his comedy mentor Harry Secombe to long time friends Bruce Forsyth and Cilla Black, the audience read like a who’s who of British television and they were all there for one man. To end the show, Jimmy made his own super group consisting of The Shadows’ Hank Marvin on guitar, The Moody Blues’ John Lodge and Justin Hayward on guitar and bass covering the Chuck Berry classic Johnny Be Good. For both cast and crew this was a very special moment and for the musical director Mike Dixon it was a dream to be arranging the music for such a supergroup.
In 2016 the Variety Club honoured Jimmy with a lifetime achievement award presented by his longtime friend Sir Michael Parkinson. Friends and family gathered at the Hilton hotel in Central London to pay tribute to the man who’s done just about everything and at the age of 77 there seems to be no sign of the man slowing down. Through his love of golf, he continues to arrange charity fundraisers raising much needed funds for disadvantaged children both here and in the most deprived areas of the world. This is something that he remains extremely proud of and as he’s been so lucky in his life, Jimmy feels that it’s important to give something back.
It was an absolute pleasure to spend the afternoon with the comedy legend Jimmy Tarbuck and long may he reign over Britain’s entertainment landscape.
(p.s Merry Christmas, see you in 2018!)
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