Memoirs Of A Black Country Comedian
Homeowner Peter Bullock from Dove Tree Court in Solihull has lived a ‘double life’ since his teens. A schoolteacher by day and comedian come the weekend.
Now living a quieter life with his wife Brenda, this spring Peter published a memoir of his tales, describing his love of the old Variety Theatres and his experiences performing in pubs and clubs around the Midlands.
Early in his youth, Peter’s talent of impersonating schoolteachers and radio voices was widely recognised and congratulated by friends.
Peter says: “In the late 40’s and early 50’s not many of us had a television at home, so our main source of entertainment was listening to the radio. I’d hear all the comedians on the BBC and then imitate them back at school. I become quite popular!”
Thanks to a friend who worked as a film salesmen, Peter regularly received complimentary tickets to Birmingham Hippodrome to watch Monday shows. It was here he was inspired by the top artists of the 50’s, watching legends including Frank Sinatra live.
“As well as all of the famous acts, I saw a lot of artists who came big stars later.”
At the age of 16, Peter’s first gig (unpaid) was in 1952 for a friend’s wedding. It went down surprisingly well, and from there he started performing at his local Youth Club’s fundraising events. Talent contests came next, winning a couple (for a £1 cash prize!) in Weston-Super- Mare where he would holiday with friends in the summer.
Late in his teens, Peter was called up for National Service in the RAF. During his two-year stint he was regularly prompted by fellow pilots to entertain them with his different impersonations - in particular the voice of their Corporal.
“Towards the end of our six week training, our Corporal took us all to the local pub where there was a stage and piano. It didn’t take long for everyone cheering me on to get up on stage to perform, but only if I’d include my Corporal impression! I did it and shortly after was asked to do my act at their Corporal Mess.
At first, I wondered if it was a wind-up, but it actually went down really well!”
Following the RAF, Peter studied English at Leicester University where he met his wife of 57-years Brenda who was studying French.
Throughout their studies, he would travel home at weekends to perform in Black Country pubs and social clubs, earning up to £5 a weekend – big money in the 50’s! It was never glamorous, but always great fun.
“One booking was for a local shoe factory where the concert took place actually inside the workshop with the audience sat by the machines. It was a great experience.”
After graduation, both Peter and Brenda became teachers, where he continued to perform at weekends.
Brenda, aside from teaching multiple subjects, is also a writer, author and sports enthusiast, writing for the Boxing News where she had her own column entitled Birds Eye View.
“My father was an amateur boxer, so I use to practice with him as a child and knew a lot about the sport.One day I was reading Boxing News and strongly thought they need to have someone write who knows what they are talking about! So, I wrote to the editor and the next thing I know I have my own column. It was entitled ‘Birds Eye View’ as women didn’t have much to do with boxing in those days. I had great fun, attending events at The Royal Albert Hall and meeting all sorts of boxers.”
Once their two children, Georgia and Matt, had grown up Brenda started writing her own books, publishing a number of books including biographies about childhood during the war, university and a women’s view of football in the 1950’s.
It was Brenda who encouraged Peter to share his story after all these years. “Peter didn’t think people would want to read it, but all that variety has gone now – it’s a time in history.”
Peter’s book Am Yow The Comic? Memoirs of a Black Country Comedian and Brenda’s stories are available to purchase online and from WHSmith stores.