BUCKETS OF FUN! 40th anniversary of Tiswas; The Birmingham-made kids'TV show went on air for the first time four decades ago. GRAHAM YOUNG reports.
HE made a mint hosting Who Wants To Be Millionaire? - but Chris Tarrant has revealed how he used to get paid just PS25 for fronting the anarchic Saturday morning show Tiswas which made his name.
The show is 40 years old this month and helped to make household names of Sally James, Lenny Henry and Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog, with other performers including Trevor East and John Gorman.
Chris says: "I used to get paid PS25 on top of my news reporter salary at ATV for doing Tiswas.
"Eventually, the bosses made me choose between serious news and buckets.
"So I chose the buckets and the rest is history!" The show was the brainchild of ATV continuity announcer Peter Tomlinson who wanted to try competitions and sketches in between programmes.
It launched on January 5, 1974 and Chris joined two years later.
"We used to have 1,000 people in the studio all crammed in together," he says.
"Health and safety probably wouldn't allow it now.
"Even when we went on Top Of The Pops to sing the Bucket Of Water song we had to throw tinsel instead of water.
"After each Tiswas show finished at lunchtime on Saturdays we'd be drinking in the bar for three hours in the afternoon then I'd be down on the fish market at 5pm for my bait for fishing.
"I must have been inside the old Broad Street studios virtually every day for 10 years and they were the happiest days of my life."
Sally James, now a mother of three sons in their twenties, agrees.
"I think people used to like Tiswas because we didn't talk down to the kids," she says. "The show seems to have inspired everyone from Chris Evans to Ant and Dec.
"When you think what we got away with, it was just ridiculous.
It's so long ago now that it's diffi-cult to remember it all but we had so much good fun.
"Some of my favourite memories are of drenching students at universities when we went on tour with The Bucket of Water Song."
John Asher, from The Black and White Minstrels Show, hosted the first two series from January 5, 1974, long before it began to be networked nationwide by ITV from 1979.
"I'd been on the Black and White Minstrels Show when I was asked 'Do you like kids?'" recalls the father-of-two. "You always says 'Yes' because you never know where it might lead to.
"I was awful at first, but eventually got into my stride. We used to do things on the show that you could not get away with these days."
While John ended up running his own theatre company, he watched former co-host Chris Tarrant go on to national fame thanks to the networked version of Tiswas and the global hit Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? "There's no point getting the hump about it because that's life," says John. "Chris came to my 60th birthday party in 2011 and we had a great time."
Ollie Spencer was the audience warm-up comedian for the show. He used to be better known as Roger Spencer, a drummer with 60s' Brummie band The Idle Race, which helped to make superstars out of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne.
"Sally and Chris became legends," says Ollie. "We used to make sure the kids in the studio weren't properly rehearsed to make it all funnier."
The show's final male host was Gordon Astley, who worked alongside Sally during the eighth and final series from September 1981 to April 1982.
After leaving Tiswas, Gordon worked on various radio stations including BBC WM and developed his work as a magician, too.
"I now know that we had been handed the Tiswas poisoned chalice," he says. "Chris Tarrant and the team had headed off on the OTT route and we were left with an embittered production team who felt left behind. Some of them took it out on us, the newbies.
"In a small way, it means I was part of TV history."
DID YOU KNOW? Each week, there |120 plates for pies on and 23 litres of shaving Because of electrical |tions, each bucket was just 4cm of water (litre each).
Frank Carson lost |when Sham 69 singer Pursey flung a pie too his chops.
Stars who appeared |show included Magpie's Mick Robertson, one hit wonder Joe Dolce (Shaddup Ya Face), wrestler Big Daddy and Jasper Carrott, who introduced the Dying Fly routine.
Bob Carolgees with Spit the Dog, | and, below, Chris Tarrant | Tiswas features included The |Cage and Compost Corner, while the logo was created by the designer of Bully from Bullseye.
Launched in the | Midlands only on January 5, 1974, the final show - No 302 - was broadcast across most ITV regions on Saturday April 4, 1982.
The bosses made me choose between serious news and buckets - So I chose the buckets CHRIS TARRANT
| John Asher, the first presenter of |Tiswas in 1974, Gordon Astley (right) its final host in April, 1982, and, centre, warm-up man Ollie Spencer.
| Sally James and Chris |Tarrant decades after the famous kids' show ended
Chris Tarrant, Sally James, Lenny Henry, Frank Carson and the rest of the team at the height of the show's popularity
The Phantom Flan Flinger in his heyday