Thursday, December 23, 2010

SANDY POWELL: Ventriloquist Act

Sandy Powell (30 January 1900 - 26 June 1982) was an English comedian best known for his radio work of the 1930s and for his catchphrase Can You Hear Me, Mother?

Life and career

Born Albert Arthur Powell in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England in 1900, he attended White's school in Mosborough where he helped his mother (Lily le Maine) to put on a marionette show. After he left school he became a music hall entertainer, often wearing a kilt in the guise of a Scottish comedian. During this part of his career he was associated with the singer Gracie Fields, and released several records where he collaborated with her.

He made a total of 85 78rpm records between 1929 and 1942 mostly double-sided sketches with him in various occupations. The first, The Lost Policeman on the cheap Broadcast label, sold almost half a million copies, and his subsequent recordings for Broadcast and Rex were extremely popular. He said in a 1982 interview that he used his stage work to advertise the records, rather than the other way about.

Sandy had a stooge in his act during the 1930s, the boy soprano, Jimmy Fletcher, father of the actor Gerard Fletcher, of Emmerdale, Coronation Street and other TV . From 1930 he took his own revue, Sandy Powell's Road Show, on tour - it ran for ten years and was extremely popular despite having only a handful of performers and two backdrops.

In the 1930s he began to work on the radio, always introducing his show with catchphrase Can You Hear Me, Mother? Powell said that the catchphrase originated on an occasion when he had dropped his script and was killing time at the microphone while rearranging the pages. It is also attributed to his mother's coercion and her Hardness of Hearing, during his early career. He also appeared in a number of films during the 1930s, usually as himself. A popular figure, he worked continuously on radio, television and pantomime through the 1940s and 1950s, and was still performing occasionally up to his death in 1982. Part of his act was a comedy ventriloquism act, where the dummy would fall apart. He was still well-known enough to have a pub named after him in 1970.

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