Tommy Cannon (Thomas Derbyshire) and Bobby Ball (Robert Harper) began their showbiz career as singers after meeting at the Oldham works where they were both welders. After playing the clubs and pubs of Manchester throughout the sixties they moved over to comedy, which as they noticed, paid more.
Making their TV debut on Opportunity Knocks in 1969, their big break would have been
assured. They came last. But they picked themselves up, worked even harder and made
an unforgettable appearance on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club in 1974.
They were offered more TV work, but in 1978, nearly ten years on from Opportunity
Knocks, there could have been another big TV breakthrough for the duo as they had
been hired to provide a weekly comedy spot on London Weekend's Bruce's Big Night
which meant travelling down to London each week. But due to scheduling issues the
live show would over-
By the early eighties their persistence and hard work had paid off. They were the biggest act in Blackpool, selling numbers of seats most rock bands could only dream of and were rightly voted the best male entertainers in clubland for three years running. So if they were so big in the north, why would a London based TV channel offer them their only chance of regular TV work? Granada had brought us The Comedians and The Wheeltappers and Shunters, but were not really known as a light entertainment company. Despite Granada's oversight the duo kept true to their roots and never moved south.
Their third series in May 1981 saw guests Anne Murray, Lulu, Alan Price and the return of Ritz, and after a special recorded at Drury Lane they were back at the London Weekend studios in May 1982 with David Essex, Adam & The Ants, Leo Sayer, Iris Williams and Frankie Laine. After an Easter special with Mari Wilson they were back in December 1983 and into 1984 with Status Quo, Cliff Richard, Shakin' Stevens, The Three Degrees, Robin Gibb, Four Tops, while late 1984 they played host to Sister Sledge, Big Country, Paul Young, Shakatak and Chas & Dave. They were definitely attracting top names, which suggested a level of respect for the duo. It was about this time that LWT enlisted Paul Jackson to produce their shows. Having previously worked on shows like The Young Ones and The Two Ronnies he was perfect casting and even persuaded Rik Mayall to make an appearance on the show.
Having taken 1985 off from the telly, apart from a Best Of, they were back in 1986 with a Christmas special. They had invited Little Richard who was going through a renaissance in both music and on screen, and the duo joined him on his new hit Great Gosh A Mighty, probably the finest musical moment of Cannon and Ball's career. They would be back for a final series for LWT in 1988 with guests Aswad, Maxi Priest and Kim Wilde.
Christmas Eve 1988 saw a move to Yorkshire TV for a one-
Then it was over, either TV turned its back, or they were wise enough to know they
were still the biggest stage attraction in the country and that's where they belonged.
They continued to sell outrageous amounts of tickets for their live shows, even their
gospel shows outsell most rock shows, while Bobby also had an impressive side-