Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Strange how the death of someone you didn't really know affects you...

Graham Walker, the "wild" man of the Grumbleweeds tragically succumbed to cancer this week. Graham, together with drummer Robin Colvill (who I am delighted to add is very much alive!) were a wickedly funny and entertaining duo - not that the rest of the group were slouches when it came to entertaining people!

I grew up in a house that adored the Grumbleweeds - good old fashioned entertainment, a little bit of innuendo and plenty of laughs - never for one moment suspecting that I'd ever "sort of" get to know them a little.

I first "crossed swords" with Graham (in a very amusing and charity way I might add - and apologies the exact circumstances are now a little hazy) as a result of a fund-raising gig for the RNLI the late Bernard Manning had 'sponsored' at his Embassy snooker club on the Rochdale Road in Manchester ['Embassy', yet Bernard never smoked!].

What happened was that Bernard 'handed over' his club for nothing for the evening, printed proper invitation tickets in advance for you, helped distribute them and then on the evening, provided entertainment in the form of himself and his buddies - all in exchange for punters  buying his food and drink on the evening. A brilliant arrangement and between the few times he did it for me, we raised an absolute fortune (Bernard could be very persuasive when it came to the raffle, for which he always obtained some terrific prizes from his suppliers - a long weekend in Paris was a very big deal before Eurotunnel or budget airlines).

Anyway, amongst the people who appeared with Bernard for the entertainment included (can't remember them all, but Bernard put on such a brilliant show) Charlie Williams, Duggie Brown (was amazed when he revealed he was the brother of Ivy from Coronation Street!), Colin Crompton, Mick Miller (I think), Jim Bowen (lovely, smashing), Stan Boardman, George Roper, Stu Francis and..............................Graham and Robin.

For those of you who never managed to get to the Embassy. Well, it was a barn of a place (size wise), but nevertheless very intimate. So you had the chance to "mingle" with the stars (Bernard in particular used to take it personally if you didn't go up to him and introduce yourself). And as the charity orgainser on the evening, I used to get the honour of meeting and chatting with VIPs during and after the event.

And as you would expect, as the 'orgainser' I used to get great stick taken out of me from the  stage by all of Bernard's special guests. And needless to say, Graham took it out on me because we shared the same challenge - fellow recidivists of the head-hair type!

Another time I met Graham was up in fellow Grumbleweed Maurice's (I think) house in the delightful town of Guiseley (the home of Harry Ramsden's) on the outskirts of Leeds. I was meeting with Maurice's immediate neighbour, the former National and Olympic coach, the late Wilf Paish (his protegees included Tessa Sanderson, Mick Hill and Peter Elliott).

It was a glorious day, and Maurice invited us in for afternoon tea on the lawn. There were a gaggle of Grumbleweeds there, and to cut a long story short (allowing you some imagination here), Graham Walker + a bowl of whipped cream + a Grumbleweed or two = mayhem and chaos of the extreme side-splittingly funny kind.

Yes, he was a 100% entertainer, and a genuinely funny man who will be missed by one and all, more so of course by his family and his wonderful and closest colleague from the Grumbleweeds, Robin Colvill.

It may still be there when you read this - a special fund-raising page for cancer was set up in Graham's memory - if you get the chance and would like to make a donation, the page is here at http://www.justgiving.com/graham-grumbleweed. Many thanks.

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