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Old Apr 21, 2005, 03:56 AM   #1
Paolo Meccano
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Post Alan Randall: Musician and 'Free as a Bird' Star...

I never knew about this man's link to the Beatles and I suspect many others didn't either...
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April 19, 2005

Alan Randall

June 10, 1934 - April 9, 2005

Musical entertainer whose finest achievements were forever dwarfed by his uncanny impersonation of George Formby

A JAZZ musician and brilliant multi-instrumentalist, Alan Randall became famous for his uncanny impression of the Lancashire music-hall comedian and singer George Formby.

Although he was renowned for his own expertise on the vibraphone, piano, trumpet and trombone, it was his recreation of Formby’s near-the-knuckle stage act that brought Randall appearances in Royal Variety Shows, more than 300 radio and TV broadcasts, cabaret on the QE2 and the starring role in Turned Out Nice Again, the hit stage musical of Formby’s life. He appeared with Perry Como and Liza Minnelli in Las Vegas and played in concerts with Cliff Richard and the Rolling Stones.

Alan Randall was born in 1934 in Bedworth, Warwickshire. He claimed that he had been a fan of George Formby since he was 3, when his parents had bought a radiogram but had only eight records, including two by Formby. As an infant Randall would shout “George” to demand to hear the records, with which he sang along. His uncle bought him a ukulele when he was 4, and he began singing along to Formby records at school concerts.

At 19 he played the vibraphone and piano with the Gerry Allen Trio on ATV’s daily magazine show, Lunch Box, and toured the US. In 1957 he returned to Britain and began a solo career at the Windmill Theatre, London. Spotted by Lew and Leslie Grade, he toured Britain with variety stars and singers such as Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele. But Randall did not sing on stage, he said, “because no matter what I sang I always sounded like George Formby.”

Randall said his biggest mistake was to become identified as the Formby tribute singer at the expense of his “true talent with the vibraphone and piano”. He was described by The New Yorker as “one of the world’s best musical acts”, and his successes included a solo performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall televised by the BBC.

The Formby fame began in the late 1960s when he needed a “front cloth” number while the stage was cleared of his vibraphone and piano, ready for the next act. The performance achieved such a reputation that he was rarely asked to perform his own musical act again.

With his toothy smile and cheeky grin, not to mention the voice and the ukulele-playing, Randall became indistiguishable from Formby himself. Even Pat Howson (Formby’s fiancée after the death of his famously irascible wife Beryl) and Formby’s relations thought it must be recordings of the man himself. After Formby’s death in 1961 Randall did much to keep his name alive with concert appearances and his own recordings of Formby songs such as When I’m Cleaning Windows, With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock and Leaning on a Lamppost.

Although performers such as Lonnie Donegan, Roy Hudd, Clinton Ford and Peter Goodwright all used Formby numbers in their act, it was Randall who tactfully modernised some of the lyrics, and it was largely due to him that a Formby revival began in the 1980s. Pat Howson became a close friend of Randall and gave him many of Formby’s possessions, regalia including his OBE, and a collection of his orginal test-pressing recordings.

In 1974 Randall co-wrote with Ray Seaton an acclaimed biograpy of Formby, and with the TV comedy script writer Vince Powell he wrote the musical Turned Out Nice Again: The George Formby Story which toured the UK. He also featured in the closing scene of the historic Beatles reunion video for their last hit single, Free as a Bird.

He continued to appear in concert in Britain and the US throughout the two past decades and in 1984 appeared on the same bill with Eric Morecambe at the Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, on the night that the comedian died of a heart attack after coming off stage.

Randall is survived by his wife Mary, and a son and a daughter.

Alan Randall, musician, entertainer and impersonator of George Formby, was born on June 10, 1934. He died on April 9, 2005, aged 70.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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Last edited by Paolo Meccano : Apr 21, 2005 at 04:25 AM.
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Old Apr 21, 2005, 09:31 PM   #2
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RIP Randall
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Old May 25, 2007, 11:41 AM   #3
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I thought this might be of some interest to post again. I recall someone recently asking who the guy is that plays the uke in the closing scene of Free As A Bird video.
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Old May 25, 2007, 02:23 PM   #4
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Unhappy

R.I.P., Alan.
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Old May 25, 2007, 05:09 PM   #5
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Ah, yes, I knew well of him, and his work, because my father is such a huge George Formby fan. Definitely a sad loss for the world
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