Eeh ain't it grand – Ben's the new George Formby

YOU could probably count on one hand the number of teenagers who have even heard of George Formby but 15-year-old Ben Bradley idolises the buck-toothed Thirties music hall star.

Almost 50 years after the entertainer's death, Ben is educating a new generation about Formby's gently risque songs from Little Stick of Blackpool Rock to When I'm Cleaning Windows.

Ben, who is from Castleford, became hooked on the Lancashire-born singer when he watched his 1944 film Bell Bottom George one afternoon during a school holiday last year.

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"I loved it and loved him. I like the way he entertained people during the war with his comedy character.

"I've always listened to old music but I took a liking to George Formby. I was listening to the words and thought they were good stories and I just cottoned on. When I was asked what I wanted for Christmas I got a ukelele and started playing."

Armed with a box set of all his films and after watching Formby footage on YouTube Ben began to strum along and mimic his singing style and mannerisms.

And after only four months of lessons from former Muldoon Bros' guitarist Paul Thompson the Airedale High School pupil began performing his tribute act live.

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He bought a straw trilby and a 10 charity shop suit and took to the streets of Castleford, making 37 from his Formby act while standing outside the market hall.

Now he is a regular act at the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Castleford and has a string of gigs under his belt, including a performance to a packed school assembly which he took in his stride.

"I got nervous at first," he said of the school gig. "But once you're up there, you can't move so I just got on with it. My friends take the mick – in a nice way."

Earlier this month he performed to his biggest crowd to date – 300 pensioners at Rothwell working men's club, which earned him the princely sum of 50 as well as a loud round of applause.

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His set included Little Stick of Blackpool Rock, Our Sergeant Major and Leaning on a Lamppost.

Next stop is the George Formby convention in Blackpool at the end of the month when he plans to perform two or three songs to a large number of discerning Formby fans.

His proud mother Amanda, 41, said: "He idolises him, I thought it was a little strange at first but it was what he wanted. He's a quick learner."

She added: "He does the facial expressions like George Formby when he does the tribute. He's very good and I'm not just saying that because he is my son. He sings like him and has the same mannerisms."

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Despite his assured performances and growing confidence Ben has no plans to be a professional musician. He is focusing on his GCSEs and one day has hopes of becoming a policeman.

Members of the George Formby Society are impressed and delighted that Formby's talents are appreciated by someone so young.

Dave Parker, George Formby Society member and owner of the Shoulder of Mutton where Ben plays, said: "You'd be surprised how many young 'uns are interested in ukelele playing. We had 20 players in the pub last week.

"Ben has been coming in for six or seven months now. He's not stage shy, I think he's pretty good."

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He said Castleford had a long association with George Formby as he had met his wife Beryl in the town in 1923 when they shared a bill at the town's Theatre Royal. She and her sister were a clog-dancing act called The Two Violets.

Formby developed a deep affection for Castleford and once told the Blackpool Gazette: "I've a sort of romantic attachment for Castleford because it's there that I first met a charming lady – my Beryl."

Legend started out in saddle

He may have been a Lancashire lad but Yorkshire played a part in George Formby's rise to become one of the country's most popular entertainers.

Before he found fame on stage and screen young George was an apprentice jockey in Yorkshire.

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Some of his formative years were spent at racing stables here but it was in Castleford that he met the woman who transformed him into one of Britain's most famous film stars.

He married Beryl Ingham in 1924 and she masterminded his showbusiness career.

Barnsley also played its part. It was at the Alhambra Theatre in 1923 that he first played his banjo ukele and received a standing ovation.

He also helped keep spirits high during the war and came back to Castleford in 1940 to support a charity event called Reight Neet Aht which attracted many celebrities of the day.

He died in 1961 aged 56.