The wheeltappers and shunters social club was a variety show made by Granada TV that’s aired on ITV between 1974 and 77, comprising of six seasons of 48 episodes.
The idea was to create the atmosphere of a typical Northern Working Mens club on television.
So believable was the show, that some of the general public would write in and book a table at this mythical night spot.
Of the back of the very popular series, ‘The Comedians’, also made by Granada and produced by wheeltappers’s producer Johnny Hamp, came the compare of the club, Bernard Manning, at the time, at the top of his game, sadly years later he fell from grace as his style of humour became unpopular as political correctness crept in.
The club chairman was Colin Crompton, whose catch phrases were ‘’thank you please around the room’’ and ‘’we’ve had a meeting of the committee and we’ve passed a resolution’’.
Club Chairman 'Colin Crompton'
Colin also came hot foot from ‘The Comedians’ with a bit of a reputation, because of his jibes about Morecambe (a North West English seaside resort) jokes such as ‘ Morecambe, it’s a sort of cemetery with lights’ or ‘they don’t bury their dead in Morecambe they just stand them up in bus stops’.
You can enjoy a selection of Colin's Morecambe jokes here on this 'Granada Video' release of 'The Comedians' (spool to 40' 30")
Club Host 'Bernard Manning'
In essence the show was music hall variety, comprising each week of a novelty act, magician or ventriloquist, a comedian, an emerging singer or group and to finish with, a headline act.
It was a high rating programme for the network, enjoyed both by the North and South of the country.
A snap shot of both a Northern club and the cream of television variety of the 1970’s.
So popular was the show, Granada Televsion Records Ltd released an LP in 1976 which you can listen too here.
The TV series has gradually been released over the years by Network DVD, and is now complete, with the release of the final sixth volume.
Series six, now billed in the TV Times under the shorter title as ‘Wheeltappers’ was commissioned for 10 shows. Now only filling a 30 minute slot, all earlier shows where billed for 45 minutes.
Unfortunately this final series was shifted about in the schedules in the spring of 1977, moving from Friday night to Thursday night and some weeks missing weeks altogether, mainly due to sports coverage. Then various regions transmitted the shows on different days, for example the last show 'Mike Harding' was shown in the Anglia Region on June 25th.
All this confusion resulted in the last two shows not being broadcast.
The series didn’t end, it just fizzled out.
Episode 9 was edited ready for transmission, and feautures the Stage Hypnotist 'Martin St.James' and episode 10 was only ever recorded and not edited.
Only showcasing one act, ‘Terry Webster and Dictionary’, a group specialising in impressions, similar to ‘The Baron Knights’.
The recording lasts over an hour and fifteen minutes, Colin Crompton has to keep the audience warmed up throughout the various costume changes, bacically going through his complete joke book, including references to ‘Morecombe’.
Notable adsent was ‘Our Bernard’ who was apparently was working that night at his own ‘Embasssy Club’, his links presumably having been recorded on a previous occasion.
Here is Episode 15 of Series 1, a New Years special, orginally broadcast on 31st December 1974
These are the TV Times listings for the shows in the last series:
April 14th 1977 ( Granada)
Aprl 21st 1977 ( Granada)
April 28th 1977 ( Granada)
May 5th 1977 ( Granada)
May 12th 1977 ( Granada)
May 19th 1977 ( Granada)
June 2nd 1977 ( Granada)
June 9th 1977 ( Granada)
If you can stretch to it, it's worth buying all six volumes, not only is the ‘love hate’ banter between Bernard Manning and Colin Crompton, highly amusing, you will also witness acts such as ‘Mrs Mills and her piano, French jazz violinist 'Stephane Grappelli', 'Lena Zavaroni' and 'George Melly' to mention but a few, as well as enjoying some of the most bizarre novelty and vent acts that will never grace our TV screens again.