Sandy Powell (comedian)
Life and career
Born Albert Arthur Powell in Rotherham, West Riding of Yorkshire, England in 1900, he attended White's school in Masbrough 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. In 1939 he was voted the fifth most popular British star at the local box office.
A popular figure, he worked continually on radio, television and pantomime through the 1940s and 1950s. He performed with his Starlight company in the Eastbourne Pier theatre for over fifteen seasons in the 1950s and 1960s, earning himself the sobriquet 'Mr Eastbourne', and he 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 and was awarded the MBE in 1975.
Selected film credits
- Cup-tie Honeymoon (1948)
- Home from Home (1939)
- I've Got a Horse (1938)
- It's a Grand Old World (1937)
- Can You Hear Me, Mother? (1935)
- Sandy the Fireman (1930)
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- British Music Hall on Record by Brian Rust (1979)
- Kindly Leave The Stage (1985) by Roger Wilmut
- "POPULAR PLAYERS.". The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 24 February 1939. p. 3. Retrieved 24 April 2012.