Brothers Mike and Bernie Winters (Weinstein) had connections with pop music from
the very first days of their TV career.
Mike had played clarinet and studied at the Royal College of Music where he dared
to start a jazz club, but it was Bernie who harboured comedy aspirations, appearing
at the Regency Club in Soho, London. After World War II they formed a musical duet
with Bernie on drums, they then took to comedy, but despite winning a talent contest
they split, only to reform just in time for Britain's first popular musical revolution.
Appearing with the brothers on their BBC TV debut in 1955 were Cherry Wainer, later
to appear weekly on Oh Boy, and singer Georgia Brown, however on the 2nd March 1957
they began a regular guest spot on the BBC's first attempt at a teenage pop music
show The Six-Five Special. They were so successful that they were invited to appear
in the spin-off movie. They would stay with the show until May 1958. After Bernie
got an offer of a solo role in the movie Idol On Parade the duo split, but disillusionment
with the film business would eventually see Bernie reunited with brother Mike. The
duo would appear in other music-led movies in the early sixties like Jazzboat, It's
Trad Dad, Play It Cool and The Cool Mikado, providing solid comic support between
the soppy ballads and lukewarm jazz.
Big Night Out had been the name given to a series of one-off specials made by ABC
Television in the early sixties, but the title would now be used for a new series
of variety shows and the Winter brothers were offered the chance to host it. Between
summer 1963 and 1965 The Beatles appeared several times on the show and its summer
replacement Blackpool Night Out. The duo enjoyed larking about with The Fabs and
it seemed to be mutual. Although they had a few pop guests like Gerry & The Pacemakers
it was mostly singers from cabaret land that filled the spots, unlike Arthur Haynes
who seemed to had more contemporary, chart aware turns like The Rolling Stones and
The Dave Clark Five. But when Blackpool Night Out began in summer 1964 things took
a noticeable turn with Cilla Black, Peter & Gordon, The Searchers and others all
lining up to appear.
The brothers had become one of the more sought after acts in showbiz, with Bernie's
buck-toothed silliness and Mike's irritated responses, they were well liked and respected,
and pop acts liked playing alongside them. Not only were they playing host to pop
stars they nearly became pop stars themselves, releasing a couple of respectable
singles on CBS, even appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars.
On Sunday 3rd April 1966 they began their own series for ABC, Mike & Bernie’s Show,
featuring an eclectic line up of guests including Judy Collins, Eric Delaney, Janie
Jones and Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, while the second series beginning 18th March
1967, re-titled Mike & Bernie's Music Hall was cast with more traditional musical
guests like Anita Harris and Vince Hill. By the end of 1967 and into 1968 Mike &
Bernie's Show seemed to be back with big names like Cliff Richard & The Shadows and
Sandie Shaw. However with the end of ABC's franchise they could only hope that they
could find a new home at ATV or maybe ABC's replacement, which is what eventually
happened, but it wouldn't appear until 13th November 1968 with a new version of Mike
& Bernie's Show, with guests like Tiny Tim, Joe Brown, Jackie Trent etc, while the
1969 series played host to Clodagh Rodgers, Alan Price and The Orange Bicycle.
More contemporary sounds were on occasionally display in Mike & Bernie's Scene for
Thames which began Monday 27th April 1970 in the Opportunity Knocks' slot with guests
like Dave Dee, The Tremeloes, but otherwise it was mostly back to Blackpool favourites
like Josef Locke and Frank Ifield. The title reverted to Mike & Bernie's Show on
Thames in 1972 with guests like Clodagh Rodgers and Roger Whittaker.
A one-off vaudeville special co-starring Peter Noone appeared in 1973, but time was
running out for not only Mike and Bernie, but for their type of routine. Moving to
ATV in March 1973 didn't make much difference, they found themselves hosting the
same kind of guests they had since the late sixties.
It was evident to those around them that the brothers resented each others presence,
just as The Everly Brothers had experienced several years before. For the sake of
the family relationship, the double act had to go. It was over by 1978, Mike was
off to Miami to run a theatre bar, while Bernie stayed in the UK and filled the gap
left by brother Mike with a St Bernard dog, Schnorbitz.
The Winters' routine of the daft one and the irritated one then became the property
of Cannon and Ball who would become not only the kings of Saturday evening TV, but
the kings of Blackpool.