Little Bobby - the North East favourite who packed them in

Bobby Thompson with fans at the Sunderland Empire old ref number 38350 Photographer Jack Carroll 22 October 1981. Pensioners were treated to non stop entertainment from Bobby Thompson show with the little waster topping the bill at Sunderland Empire yesterday.  The annual rally of over 60s Clubs organised by Age Concern. Friday October 23 1981'Wednesday Retro 1981
Bobby Thompson with fans at the Sunderland Empire old ref number 38350 Photographer Jack Carroll 22 October 1981. Pensioners were treated to non stop entertainment from Bobby Thompson show with the little waster topping the bill at Sunderland Empire yesterday. The annual rally of over 60s Clubs organised by Age Concern. Friday October 23 1981'Wednesday Retro 1981
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He had audiences crying with laughter and the North East loved him.

But it’s hard to believe that this year marks 92 years since The Little Waster Bobby Thompson began his showbiz career.

Bobby with one of his  adoring fans.

Bobby with one of his adoring fans.

He’s the man whose famous punch lines included:

l Aks ‘er mother for a kiss under the mistletoe, a wouldn’ kiss ‘er under chloroform!

l The Queen came up tiv us with a plate of cakes. “Bobby, would you like a scone or a meringue?”. Ah says, “Nah ya quite right, ah’ll have a scone.

l Ah cannit sleep for debt. Ah’m up to there. I wish ah was a bit taller!

Bobby Thompson.

Bobby Thompson.

l She shouts from upstairs, “Bobby can yer fix the string on wa carrier bag” ... why am nae engineer.

l 1939 – I was secretary for the street ... I went for treasurer but a was too well known!

But did you know that Bobby’s golden anniversary year on the stage – in 1976 – was marked with a glittering show at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland?

Today, we take a look at that wonderful year and some of the other attractions which were on at the same time.

Our Bobby was born in 1911 and hailed from Penshaw.

In his early years, he worked in the collieries but tried to supplement his income by playing the harmonica in the clubs.

By the time he’d reached the height of his fame, he was known as The Little Waster because of his smaller stature.

But with his cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth and his famous jumper, he was a giant of the stage.

From Monday, February 16, 1976, and for the rest of the week, the Bobby Thompson’s Music Hall Show packed them in at the Empire with shows at 8pm and a second show at 5pm on the Saturday.

Malcolm Vaughan – the singing sensation whose hits included More Than Ever – was on the same bill.

So was the television star Ward Allen, The Debutantes, Clive Conway, and the Geordie Girls.

Tickets were £1.25 for the Circle, £1.75 for the Stalls and a bargain 40 pence for the Upper Circle.

The Sunderland Echo was filled with tributes to the great man from workingmen’s clubs, nightclubs and more besides.

But what other attractions were there for lovers of live entertainment.

A day before Bobby’s show started at the Empire, Marc Bolan and T Rex were appearing at the same venue.

And once The Little Waster’s golden show had finished, the Empire was hosting a ‘scientific show’ by the Mermaid Theatre Molecule Club. It was called Moles Apart and it was aimed at children interested in science who were aged seven to 12.

Jimmy James and the Vagabonds were on at the Black Cat Club and The Real Thing (hailed as a ‘sensational soul show’) were the big attraction in the Mayfair Suite at the Mecca.

Top show group Charisma had performances booked at both Downhill Workmen’s Club and Grindon Broadway Social Club, and Gonzales were on the way at Annabel.

Another big name on the Sunderland scene was Nuts And Bolts and they were on at both La Strada in Fawcett Street and Ford and Hylton Lane Social Club.

Or perhaps you fancied having a go on the stage yourself? There was a Grand Talent Contest at Ryhope Poplars Social Club and you could win up to £8, as long as you put your name in to the concert secretary by 8pm.

If it was something more intimate you fancied, how about a three course candlelit dinner at Quicks in Park Lane for £1.35 including a bottle of wine.

Over at The Mayfair/Genevieves, there was a St Valentine’s Ball with dancing from 8pm to 2am, and a Cupid’s Arrow contest, as well as Valentine’s cards being delivered on the night. Plus, as a bonus, you could enjoy the music of the resident DJs.

There were lots of cinema attractions to choose from and Bobby was up against some real big hitters in 1976.

Jaws was on at the ABC, while at the Odeon, you had a choice of Towering Inferno or Return of the Pink Panther.

And over at Seaham, Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway were starring in 3 Days of the Condor at the Fairworld Seaham.

What do you remember of Bobby, and did you go to his 1976 Music Hall Show? Share your memories by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk