31 August 1932|
Scholes, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Died||2 September 1994
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Known for||Record Breakers|
|Spouse(s)||Fiona Dickson (m. 1963–94) (his death)|
|Children||Daniel (b. 1965)
Julia (b. 1967)
Antonia (b. 1969)
Benjamin (b. 1973)
Roy Castle, OBE (31 August 1932 – 2 September 1994) was an English dancer, singer, comedian, actor, television presenter and musician. In addition to being an accomplished jazz trumpet player, he could play many other instruments. Following a versatile career as a performer on stage, television and film, he became best known to British television viewers as the long-running presenter of the children's series Record Breakers.
Castle was born in Scholes, near Holmfirth, West Riding of Yorkshire. The son of a railwayman, he was a tap dancer from an early age and trained at Nora Bray's school of dance with Audrey Spencer who later turned out to have a big dance school, and after leaving Holme Valley Grammar School (now Honley High School) he started his career as an entertainer in an amateur concert party. As a young performer in the 1950s, he lived in Cleveleys near Blackpool and appeared there at the local Queen's Theatre, turning professional in 1953 as a stooge for Jimmy Clitheroe and Jimmy James. By 1958 he was appearing at the Royal Variety Show. As a singer, he released one charting single in 1960, the Christmas song "Little White Berry".
Television and film career
In 1965, Castle starred with Peter Cushing in the film Dr. Who and the Daleks, the first of two cinematic spin-offs from the popular BBC television series. He played the role of Dr. Who's first male assistant, Ian Chesterton, and was cast to perform the role more comedically than it had been played by William Russell in the original series. He also appeared in Dr. Terror's House of Horrors as a jazz musician suffering a curse after copying voodoo tunes. He also appeared in Carry On Up the Khyber in 1968, and in the TV musical Pickwick for the BBC in 1969. In 1973, Castle teamed up with the actor and comedian Ronnie Barker in the original one-off called "Another Fine Mess" (an episode from a series called Seven of One). Barker was one of Castle's best friends, and paid tribute to their work together shortly after Castle's death.
Between 1967 and 1968 Castle co-starred with Jimmy Edwards in the London West End run of the comedy farce show Big Bad Mouse when Eric Sykes had to withdraw because of illness. The show was resident at the Shaftesbury Theatre and, being loosely scripted, it offered both Edwards and Castle the chance to freely ad-lib and generally break the fourth wall with the audience, Castle breaking into trumpet performances while Edwards walked into a front stall seat to read a newspaper, tap dancing and firing ping-pong balls into the stalls. He also once stood in for Bruce Forsyth hosting The Generation Game in 1975 while Forsyth was ill. He made many appearances on BBC TV's long running variety show The Good Old Days, making huge use of his multi instrumental and performing skills.
In 1972, he first presented Record Breakers, a children's show, and he remained host for over 20 years. He recorded the theme song for the show himself. While presenting the show he broke nine world records himself, including
- Fastest tap-dance 1,440 taps per minute – 24 taps per second, set on 14 January 1973, a record that has never been bettered.
- Longest wing walk – 3 hours, 23 minutes.
- Playing the same tune on 43 different instruments in four minutes.
He was a host of the show up until a few months before his death in 1994, alongside Norris and Ross McWhirter, Fiona Kennedy and Cheryl Baker. From then on, hosting was taken over by Baker and former athlete Kriss Akabusi. It continued for 29 years until 2001, one of Britain's longest-running shows.
Between 1958 and 1969, Castle recorded three LPs. One of these, Songs For A Rainy Day was recorded in 1966 for Columbia and was reissued in the UK on CD by EMI Gold, re-titled Isn't This A Lovely Day. The record features twelve songs with rain as the theme. British jazz players of the day Gordon Beck (piano), Jeff Clyne (bass), Leon Calvert (flugelhorn), Ike Isaacs (guitar), Ray Swinfield (flute) and Al Newman (saxophone) played on the record and it features jazz arrangements by Victor Graham covering a variety of styles such as big band, ("Pennies From Heaven", "Stormy Weather"), ballads ("February Brings The Rain", "Here's That Rainy Day", "Soon It's Gonna Rain") and bossa novas ("Everytime It Rains", "The Gentle Rain").
Castle married dancer Fiona Dickson in 1963. They had been introduced to each other by Eric Morecambe. Both Castle and his wife were committed Christians and they regularly attended the Baptist church near their home. They had four children. Their youngest son, Ben Castle (born 1973), is a jazz saxophonist who has played with a wide range of artists, including Jamie Cullum, Carleen Anderson, Beth Rowley, Marillion and Radiohead, and performed on film soundtracks.
Castle was a football fan and supported Liverpool. Less than six months before his death, he attended the Liverpool-Everton derby match at Anfield on 14 March 1994 and stood on the Spion Kop terrace. He had also been in the crowd at Liverpool's FA Cup final victory over Sunderland in May 1992, shortly after he was first found to have cancer. At that time Ronnie Barker paid tribute to him, referring to their portrayal of characters that bore a strong resemblance to Laurel and Hardy in Another Fine Mess.
Illness and death
Castle was found to have lung cancer in January 1992. He was predicted to live only another 6 months. He underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and went into remission later that year. A non-smoker, he blamed his illness on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs. On 26 November 1993, Castle announced that his illness had returned, and once again underwent treatment in the hope of overcoming it. Several months later, he carried out the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, which is the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer. By this stage, however, his condition was deteriorating and recovery was looking highly unlikely.
During and shortly after Castle's illness, many smoke-free restaurants and cafes were awarded the Roy Castle Clean Air Award to denote their adherence to a (then voluntary) smoke-free regime.
His final contribution to Record Breakers was aired at the end of the series ending in December 1993, although the programme continued until 2001.
He died in Buckinghamshire on 2 September 1994, two days after his 62nd birthday.
His widow Fiona worked with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in 2006 and 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.
- Sink the Bismarck! (1960) - Seaman on 'Prince of Wales' (uncredited)
- Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) - Biff Bailey (segment "Voodoo")
- Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) - 'Ian' / Ian
- The Plank (1967) - Delivery Man with boxes (Wilfred Bavistock)
- Carry On Up the Khyber (1968) - Capt. Keene
- Pickwick (1969) - Sam Weller
- Legend of the Werewolf (1975) - Photographer
- GRO Register of Births: DEC 1932 9a 303 HUDDERSFIELD – Roy Castle, mmn = Swallow
- GRO Register of Deaths: "SEP 1994 B13A 237 CHILTERN & SOUTH BUCKS – Roy Castle, DoB = 31 Aug 1932" aged 62
- Appeal launched for memories of Nora Bray's dance school
- "ROY CASTLE | Artist | Official Charts". UK Chart Archive. Official Charts Company. 22 December 1960. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
- Big Bad Mouse programme cover
- "h2g2 – Roy Castle – Entertainer – A810073". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- "All About Tap Dance". TheatreDance.com. 14 January 1973. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1963 6a 1063 ETON – Roy Castle = Joan F. Dickson
- Love Southend Profiles
- "Cancer centre fulfils Roy Castle's dream". BBC News Online. BBC. 12 May 1998. Retrieved 28 October 2010.