About Sandy Powell, MBE
<The Times, June 28, 1982>
<MR SANDY POWELL>
<Prominent music hall comedian>
Mr Sandy Powell, MBE, an old-time music hall comedian, who made a name for himself from the 1920s onwards as a radio star, died on June 26. He was 82.
Born on January 20, 1900, in Rotherham, Yorkshire, his first stage appearance was in his mother's variety act, at the age of seven years. He then toured the North country and Scotland as 'boy soprano and principal comedian.' His popularity grew with the years and after the 1914-18 war, he became prominent on the halls and a great favourite in pantomime.
'Sandy's Hour' in 1928, was the first ever regular BBC Variety Show on the air, and it continued under various names for many years. During one of the broadcasts his catch-phrase 'Can you hear me Mother?' was born - it is still remembered all over the world.
Sandy Powell was one of the very few Northern comedians of the 1930s who succeeded South of the Midlands. His over 100 gramophone records sold seven millions. 'The Sandy Powell Road Show' and the eight full length films in which he starred, broke all box-office records. His popularity with seaside audieces at Blackpool and the Isle of Man was repeated at the more sublime South coast resort, Eastbourne. There he played twenty one consecutive summer seasons, which earned him the title of 'Mr Eastbourne', and where he lived happily ever after.
This extraordinary run ended when the theatre, his costumes, props and music, scripts and scenery was destroyed by fire, just before the season was scheduled to start. As he and his wife, Kay, watched their theatrical possessions and work go up in smoke and flames, it seemed as if at the age of 70, the final curtain had fallen on his career.
'But,' as he said later, 'with the help of God, and his friends in the profession [and they were countless] disaster turned into pure gold.' Successful appearance [his third] in The Royal Performance - Summer season at the Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne, was followed by a lengthy and enormously successful tour of South Africa and New Zealand, which was repeated the following year.
At a time when most men would have long retired, Powell found it impossible to refuse the numerous requests to work in theatre, radio and television, including a season in Canada at the age of seventy-six, with a return engagement there and in America a year later. Powell, a quiet man, greatly loved by audiences and fellow professionals [particularly his Brother Water Rats] lightly dismissed mention of his succesful career by saying 'I was lucky' - which proved him a man of great modesty.
Steeped in the tradition of British music hall, he was on the stage when most children were learning the alphabet, and from that day he never cracked a dirty gag on stage, screen, radio or gramophone record. Brought up alongside the giants of the halls, he never departed from his golden rule. He continued in variety until the end; his last Royal Variety Performance, at the Palladium, was in 1980.
Powell is survived by Kay, his third wife, whom he married in 1951.