Tag Archives: Ernie Wise

Morecambe and Wise: The Garage Tapes

PREVIOUSLY lost recordings featuring celebrated comedy duo Morcambe and Wise are to be aired for the first time in over 50 years.

Morcambe and Wise: The Garage Tapes documents the rediscovery of 45 hours’ worth of material – including episodes of their first radio show – found last year during a clear-out.

The BBC Radio 4 programme, presented by impressionist Jon Culshaw has been made by Whistledown. The independent radio company was contacted by Doreen Wise, widow of Ernie, after she came across two boxes of reel-to-reel tapes and a leather suitcase packed with 78rpm acetates.

These were passed on to Whistledown radio producer David Prest, who says that “three-quarters” of the old recordings were missing from the archives.

He said: “There were 45 hours of tape and we worked out that three-quarters of this stuff was thought lost. The BBC hadn’t kept much of it, but Ernie had.

RESTORED: Producer David Prest cleaning one of the 78rmp acetates.

“After six months of restoration, we had a little piece of history – the missing link between their stage and TV careers.”

The most important find is a near-complete run of Morcambe and Wise’s first radio show, You’re Only Young Once, made for the BBC BBC Northern Home Service between November 1953 and June 1954.

Also found were the fledgling duo’s appearances on BBC radio programmes Variety Bandbox and Variety Fanfare going back to 1949, sound copies of their Sixties’ Great Yarmouth and Blackpool stage-shows, song demos and audio doodles, and the speeches from a 1974 Variety Club lunch held in their honour.

You’re Only Young Once featured skits, songs and cameos from fellow comics such as Bob Monkhouse and Harry Secombe, and, according to William Cook, author of Morecambe & Wise Untold, are important for illustrating the evolution of their comedy.

He said: “They were never Northern comics in the vein of George Formby. They looked across the Pond to that Abbott & Costello style of quick-fire repartee.

Jon Culshaw, a Morcambe and Wise fan, narrates The Garage Tapes.

“It’s recognisably Morecambe & Wise. But it’s like The Beatles’ Hamburg tapes. They’re almost playing cover versions, haven’t yet discovered the thing that makes them special.”

The garage tapes are believed to be ‘run off’ copies recorded at 33/4 ips by studio engineers immediately after the recordings, and acetate copies for which Doreen Wise paid the studio engineer a few shillings.

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Garage Find Brings Us Sunshine

Morecambe and Wise

Bring Me Sunshine: Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

LOST recordings from the early career of legendary comedy due Morecambe and Wise have been unearthed in a garage.

Around 45 hours’ worth of material was discovered by Ernie’s widow Doreen while preparing to move home six months ago. The double act had paid the sound engineer a few shillings at a time to make copies of their recordings.

The material – on acetate discs and reel-to-reel tapes – dates from the Fifties. The treasure trove of lost comedy includes the pairs’ long-lost first radio show You’re Only Young Once, aired on the BBC Northern Home Service between November 1953 and June 1954 and featuring guests including Bob Monkhouse and Harry Secombe.

Audio from the pilot for their early 1960s ATV series was also found as well as master copies of songs, after-dinner speeches and tapes of end-of-the pier shows.

Following Doreen’s discovery, Morecambe and Wise’s former agents contacted independent radio firm Whistledown to investigate what could be done with the material.

BBC experts were able to restore some, but not all, of the old recordings, and highlights will be aired later this year on Radio 4.

Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said: ‘’The lost tapes are both a bit of comedy history and BBC history as well as entertaining in themselves. It is good stuff that’s never been heard before and raw stuff from the early Fifties.

‘Some of the sketches were remade for the Seventies. There was a famous Dick Turpin sketch with double entendres which started out in ’53 or ’54 and ended up on TV in around 1975.”

The hour-long collection of highlights – Morecambe and Wise: The Garage Tapes – will air 9am, May 4, presented by Jon Culshaw. It is also reported that BBC Radio 4 or 7 is in negotiations to broadcast all the unheard material – around 25 shows’ worth.

Morecambe and Wise began their partnership in 1941. They reached the peak of the career with their 1977 Christmas Show, which attracted 28 million viewers. Morecambe died in 1984, and Wise in 1999.

The story of the garage tapes has been reported widely.  You can read more on Chortle and the Daily Mail.

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