Home Shows A to Z

Diary 1950s to 1990s Articles Credits & Links

TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

In the mid-sixties Rediffusion's Stars and Garters had presented top talent within a London east end pub setting, while BBC2's International Cabaret presented similar acts, but in the context of a London west end night club. The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club took things to a different level. Many social clubs in the north of England like The Embassy Club in Manchester and Batley Variety Club had the cash and the will to outdo each other in order to entice big names. It wasn't unusual to visit the club on a Friday or Saturday night and see Gene Pitney, Julie Rogers, PJ Proby, Neil Sedaka, Lonnie Donegan or any number of fifties and sixties acts whose chart career was behind them. Many acts saw these clubs as the lowest of the low, Neil Sedaka once referring to them in an interview as "toilets", but they could pay good money when work was sparse.

Granada's Johnny Hamp, who had previously produced The Comedians, had the idea of creating a fictional social club and have real-life club owner and comedian Bernard Manning as the host and fellow comedian Colin Crompton as the club's concert chairman whose role would be to interrupt the proceedings between the acts and Manning's jokes with club announcements and the bingo. The audience were all locals and the drink appeared to be real, while one of the barmaids, Liz Dawn, would later find fame in Coronation Street as Vera Duckworth.

The second week of the show saw TV Times launch its Pub Entertainer of the Year competition with a £10,000 prize, while in June 1976 the show went all Seaside Special and went on the road for a one-off special, The Wheeltappers & Shunters Club Mystery Coach Tour, starring The New Seekers.

Aping Stars and Garters an album of sing-a-long songs by the host and regular cast was released by Granada in 1976.

The show offered an impressive line up with Matt Monro, The Crickets, Johnnie Ray, The Three Degrees, Bill Haley & The Comets, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, alongside club legends Tony Christie, The Dooleys and Tony Monopoly. The acts chosen ranged from singers, groups, exotic dancers, comics and variety acts that were doing the rounds of clubland, taken straight from the pages of The Stage and introduced the whole of the country to acts like Cannon & Ball and The Krankies, both of whom would become big stars and later go on to host their own series.

The show hosted the National Club Act Awards and the Final of Miss Nightclub 1977, but the end was near. The show was dropped by most of the ITV network in the last year and was moved to late night Thursdays. The series appeared to finish with a group of specials starring the acts like The New Vaudeville Band and Mike Harding.



13th April 1974 - 9th June 1977