Charlie Williams – one of the funniest men to grace a stage
Jimmy Cricket fondly remembered multi-talented trailblazer Charlie Williams in his latest newspaper column.
Writing in the Blackpool Gazette on Tuesday 24 May, Jimmy said Charlie had broken down racial barriers and had successful careers as both a comedian and a professional footballer.
Charlie was born in Yorkshire of Jamaican descent and was the first black comedian to make the big time on British TV.
He found fame on hit 1970s TV show The Comedians and developed the comedy catchphrase “me old flower”.
Others he appeared with on Granada’s The Comedians included Frank Carson, Tom O’Connor and Jim Bowen.
He went on to host the Golden Shot game show.
Previously, he had played professional football for Doncaster Rovers.
Charlie was awarded an MBE in 1966 for his charity work.
He died in 2006 at the age of 78, having been ill for some time with Parkinson’s and dementia.
Jimmy introduced his latest newspaper column on social media by describing his friend Charlie as “one of the funniest men that ever graced a stage”.
His column began: “I’ve been working on an autobiography dear reader, but who hasn’t during the lockdowns, when we’ve had so much time on our hands?
“I think the trick is to revisit it now that things are back to normal.
Ronald Reagan’s 80 chapters
“To keep fired up, Mrs Cricket bought me a few autobiographies I expressed an interest in.
“The first one was Michael McIntyre and when I got to the end I said to her: ‘Look, Michael’s finished his life story at 23 chapters, I’m up to 29 chapters and I’ve still got a way to go.’
“She said: ‘I know, but he’s in his forties, you’re 76!’
“I then opened Ronald Reagan’s autobiography: ‘Look!’ I said. “It took Ronnie 80 chapters to finish his.’
“‘Yes’, she said. ‘But he had two jobs. First, he was an actor, and then he became President of the United States!’
Won the nation’s hearts
“You know that got me thinking.
“It’s taking me all my time to make a living out of being a full-time comedian, so I’m in awe of anyone who can climb the ladder in one job and then go into a totally different occupation and become a resounding success in that one as well.
“Older readers will remember a black comedian, Charlie Williams, who won the nation’s hearts when he came on the television programme The Comedians.
“Charlie’s wonderful Yorkshire accent endeared him to millions of fans.
“In fact, he was breaking down racial barriers way before the woke people came on the scene.
“However, I wonder how many people actually knew that Charlie had an illustrious career as a professional footballer, playing centre-half for Doncaster Rovers.
“As soon as Charlie reached retirement, a career in showbiz beckoned and he moved seamlessly from kicking a ball to holding a mic.
“Sadly, he developed Parkinson’s Disease, but trouper that he was with the help of his friend Neil Crossland, he carried on touring.
“Neil helped him to dress, led him onstage and Charlie did his act sitting on a chair.
“I have a happy memory of them both coming over to my house in Rochdale, and we all swapped showbiz stories over lunch.”