Charlie Drake (born Charles Edward Spungall) went from the poverty of London's south East End to becoming one of the United Kingdom's truly loved comedians. The recipient of two Golden Rose of Montreux Comedy awards, the diminutive Cockney-voiced red-haired comic has inspired laughter with his unique style of slapstick for more than four decades. He appeared in 15 Royal Command Variety Shows. The star of the BBC show Charlie Drake from 1959 to 1960, Drake went on to star on the Ronald Marsh-produced Charlie Drake Show from 1960 to 1963 and 1967 to 1968. He hosted a similarly named show for ITV in 1963 and a show, Slapstick and Old Lace, which involved viewers in singalongs and sketches, from 1965 until the early '70s.
Drake was known for singing novelty tunes. His 1958 version of Bobby Darin's song "Splish Splash," produced by George Martin, outsold the original in the United Kingdom. He continued to express his humorist view of the world with such songs as "Starkle Starkle Little Twink," "Mr. Custer," "My Boomerang Won't Come Back," "I Bent My Assagai," "I've Lost the End of My Yodel," "I'm Too Heavy for the Light Brigade," and "The Reluctant Tight Rope Walker." He made a major comeback with his 1972 recording "Puckwudgie."
Children's entertainment provided the initially forum for Drake's humor. He made his radio debut in 1951 as part of a duo, Jigsaw, that he shared with Jack Edwards until 1957, when he shifted his focus to entertaining adult audiences. Drake was seriously injured while filming the pilot for the show Bingo Madness. When a gag misfired, he was knocked unconscious and spent several days in a coma. The show was subsequently canceled.
A demanding perfectionist, Drake acquired a reputation for being "difficult." Following an argument with British Equity, he was banned from working in provincial theaters for 18 months. Drake's autobiography, Drake's Progress, was published by Century Benham, Ltd., in 1986.
~ Craig Harris