It was one of those phone calls where you find it difficult to speak!
Maybe the phone would ring for long enough for me to replace the hand set – but no……
A friendly voice said “Hello”, and I had to reply.
“Is that Mr Derbyshire from Cannon and Ball?”
“Yes. What can I do for you?”
“We are holding a charity night, and we wondered if you would be able to come along.”
He said “Yes” and The Hilarious Cannon and Ball Charity night at Romeo and Juliet`s Oldham was underway.
It was the early 1980s, and Cannon and Ball were hugely popular, not only on television, but also with their live shows, guest appearances and pantomimes. I had been given Tommy Derbyshire`s number by the Oldham Chronicle.
We had sold out long before the ink on the tickets was dry – and could have sold out again and again.
On the night of the show Bobby Ball`s car – an enormous colourful and chromed vehicle, attracted almost as much attention as its owner; almost, but not quite.
Bobby`s red braces were even more attention seeking, as almost every female in the building stood half behind him, stretching them and mimicking his catch phrase – “Thank You – I Thank You”.
Tommy and Bobby may have been a huge property in the entertainment world, but they had not forgotten their Oldham roots, as they continually shook hands and greeted swarms of proud well wishers.
Then it was time for their show, and I was the man working the spotlight – which was more complicated than you would think. They were huge stars, and used to professional lighting operators – and even the spotlight operator had a running order – no filter – red filter – full beam – small face only – etc. If you got it wrong you could spoil the whole show.
It didn`t help when Bobby tried to hide from the spotlight. It wasn`t in the script. Neither was the thing jamming, then zooming into the ceiling.
Bobby began jumping into air shouting “I`m not a bloody moth” – then he was going “ave” me, as he punched towards me from the stage – with Tommy Cannon holding him back.
The audience roared with laughter, as I fought the infernal contraption to where I thought we ought to be on the running order. But when I thought I was just about up to speed Bobby decided to “hide” again because “I wasn`t going to get round him just like that” – and so he continued with pure and hilarious comedy. Tommy Cannon made the whole show even funnier by his perfectly timed “help” for Bobby – all of which made his partner even funnier.
It truly was a wonderful night – one that showed the respect Cannon and Ball had for the people of Oldham – and how those people adored two local guys who were now loved throughout the UK.
And they did wonders for the sale of red braces!