Jimmy Tarbuck: Reflections on Frank Sinatra and Elvis before shows at Leeds and Bridlington

On his new tour, the comic and singer is reflecting on his 60-plus years in showbiz and encounters with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Naomi Clarke reports.

Sir Tom Jones, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin – not a bad line-up to have rubbed shoulders with during your career, and these are only a few of the music titans and performers Jimmy Tarbuck has worked with across his 60-plus years in showbiz.

Born in Liverpool in February 1940, James Joseph Tarbuck started mixing with greats at a young age as he was a schoolmate of John Lennon.

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The veteran stand-up comedian and singer became one of the most popular household names when he rose to fame in the 1960s, known for his Liverpudlian accent, gap-toothed grin and quick wit.

Jimmy Tarbuck. Picture: Aaron Chown.Jimmy Tarbuck. Picture: Aaron Chown.
Jimmy Tarbuck. Picture: Aaron Chown.

He secured his first comedy show, It’s Tarbuck, in 1964 and he later hosted hit variety shows such as Sunday Night At The London Palladium and Live From Her Majesty’s.

“I love it, I love every minute of it”, Tarbuck, 84, says as he reflects on his passion for performing.

“People once said to me ‘What’s it like being Jimmy Tarbuck?’. I said ‘Magic’. I just love it.

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“And people have been nice to me, I can honestly say, all over the world.

“And the people I’ve worked with – Tom Jones, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin – all these great performers.”

The entertainer is now set to reflect on his esteemed career in an upcoming series of shows, titled An Evening With Jimmy Tarbuck, including shows in Bridlington, Leeds and Skegness.

He will take the audience down memory lane as he pulls on his vast repertoire of tales and celebrity anecdotes from across his more than six decades in the industry, including meeting the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

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The audience will also have the chance to ask him their own burning questions, and it appears he has no qualms in giving his brutally honest opinion about people within the business.

“The best young comic? Peter Kay, by a mile,” he says.

“The best quizmaster? That would have to be Bob Monkhouse, he was better than all of them put together. He knew everything about the people who were on with him.

“The most talented person I worked with in England? Roy Castle, followed closely by Bruce (Forsyth).”

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Tarbuck will also treat those in attendance to a few musical numbers.

Over the years he has duetted with many greats, such as Dame Shirley Bassey and Sir Tom, and released a number of covers including renditions of Magic Moments and Memories Are Made Of This with producer and musician Kevin Lynch.

Tarbuck, affectionately known as Tarby, reveals he is still a fan of rock and roll and will “get up with anybody and sing if its a good rock song”, a particular favourite of his being Johnny B. Goode.

“I just love all that, but I wouldn’t compete with them,” he says of some of his contemporaries.

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“I mean Tom Jones, we’re the same age, but he’s singing like a 22-year-old.

“The Lord’s been lucky to him and I mean that with respect because his voice is still there wonderfully and there are some singers who are still singing and maybe they shouldn’t be, their voices (have) just wandered a bit.”

Aside from singing alongside many musical stars, his career highlights include performing at the Sydney Opera House, being introduced in America by Bob Hope and, above all, his time at his beloved London Palladium, which he hails as “the biggest star in my life”.

The 100th Royal Variety Performance also stands out in his memory because he got to share the stage with his friends and fellow entertainers Des O’Connor, Bruce Forsyth and Ronnie Corbett, who have all died in the last decade.

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“It’s the one and only time the four of us had all been on that stage together and it was wonderful,” he reminisces.

“We were walking down for the finale and I just said ‘Hey, lads’ and Bruce was like ‘What now?’

"I said ‘Let’s walk down slowly because this is never going to happen again’ and unfortunately it can’t.

“But it was a glorious night when these four pals, four performers, and if I say so in modesty, four favourites with the people, and they gave us an ovation and it was delightful.”

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His upcoming performances will start on April 6 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk before moving to Harpenden, Hertfordshire; Cromer in Norfolk; WimborneMinster, Dorset; and Epsom and Ewell, Surrey.

His Bridlington, Leeds and Skegness dates are in July, August and September.

“I am just thrilled still to be going and that people seem to want to see me and I will be eternally grateful for that – I promise you,” Tarbuck says with a smile.

What has been the secret to powering him through so many decades in the limelight? “When I was so young and drugs were flying around everywhere and people asked me ‘Have you used drugs?’.

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"Only one and it’s called laughter and that is my (drug), it really is,” he reveals.

“The laughter makes me want to do more and more and enjoy it and I’m in love with that, the laughter, seeing people laugh, getting in a good mood.

“And I’m still doing it after 60 years and playing, as they would say in football, in the Premier League. So I’m very proud of that, very proud.”

An Evening With Jimmy Tarbuck comes to Bridlington Spa Theatre on Sunday, August 4, Leeds City Varieties on Thursday, August 22, and Skegness Embassy Theatre on Saturday, September 7. For tickets, more dates and more information, go to: www.jimmytarbuck.com/

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