Tuesday, 17 March 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I may have caught this before 1973 but I don't recall anyone before Don Maclean ; certainly when Little and Large, regulars on the show's previous season, got their own show at the end of the decade, they rang no bells. When it came back on Friday 2nd Februrary 1973 The Sweet were on ( along with Lieutenant Pigeon ) so I would certainly have wanted to watch it.
Crackerjack started out as a fairly sedate children's quiz show with the odd comedy turn thrown in in 1955 hosted by the likes of Eamonn Andrews and Leslie Crowther. In the sixties it got progressively livelier and once Michael Aspel took over in 1968, comedy and music took centre stage on the live show though there was still an entertaining quiz "Double or Drop" where contestants had to hold up the prizes they won, including cabbages for wrong answers, to stay in the game.
When Maclean joined the show in 1973 he teamed up in a double act with the rotund Peter Glaze who'd somehow managed to survive on the show since 1960 despite an extremely limited range, just a one dimensional Oliver Hardy straight man routine. In 1975 they were joined by the versatile comedienne Jan Hunt and the host changed from Aspel to Radio One's Ed Stewart.
What I remember most from the show is the finale where the cast would perform some little playlet and intersperse it with less than reverent renditions of two or three current chart hits , the more inappropriate the better. The show was produced by Robin Nash who also did Top of the Pops and I imagine him selecting his victims with some relish. Andy Partridge once remarked ( presumably before Crash Test Dummies did The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead ) that Peter Glaze was the only person who'd covered an XTC song when they burst into Making Plans For Nigel . My mum loved this bit and would come into the front room to see it, usually blathering on about how talented Jan was ( my mum's dabble in Am Dram in the 50s had somehow given her the impression she was an infallible theatre critic- Scots thespian Iain Cuthbertson always got it in the neck whenever he appeared ).
I think I'd tuned out by 1977 as I don't recall watching them do any punk tunes. It was probably the right time to quit as Maclean left in 1978 for a career mainly in religious broadcasting on radio . I last saw him doing an outside broadcast for Radio Two in St Anne's Square, Manchester in 1997 with a rather motley crew of guests although Deniece Williams did an impressive a cappella gospel tune on the spot. He was replaced by one-trick pony Bernie Clifton. Hunt , Stewart and Glaze all left the following year. She 's had a surprisingly low profile career in theatre with occasional acting parts on TV and had a small role in the film Run For Your Wife in 2012. Stewart popped up occasionally on TV thereafter, on things like Punchlines, but remained a radio stalwart until being "retired" when he turned 65 in 2006 ( though he's presented a Christmas edition of Junior Choice every year since ). He was supposed to have retired to Spain but a recent newspaper article said he was living in Surrey. Peter Glaze didn't do much after leaving the show apart from helping Roy Hudd stage a tribute to The Crazy Gang ( for whom he'd been a long term understudy ) in 1982. He died in 1983, a year before Crackerjack was finally cancelled after a dismal last few years with crap Bolton comic Stu Francis and his beyond-stupid "crush a grape" catchphrase.