THE BRADSHAWS SCRAPBOOK
THE STORY SO FAR ...
One night in 1983 Buzz Hawkins, a night-beat musician on Piccadilly Radio Manchester, decided to try something different. He told a story instead of singing a song. And so Alf, Audrey and little Billy Bradshaw began life as radio characters. The Bradshaws are now real people and anyone who thinks otherwise is fictitious. As with all radio, how the characters looked was all in the mind. Every listener probably conjured up slightly different images based on their own family and friends.
When Buzz finally gave in to public demand and agreed to release some of the stories on cassette tape (remember those cute little contraptions that enjoyed wrapping themselves around the insides of your car radio?), artwork was needed, so he sketched up his image of the family. He drew them facing away with their backs to the camera.
But why draw the characters facing away from us? He says it was to allow listeners to continue to put their own faces to Alf, Audrey, and little Billy Bradshaw. Oh yes, and the presenters (Gary Davis, Phil Wood, Timmy Mallet, James Stannage, Mike Day, Andy Crane, or whoever) were asked not to reveal that Buzz Hawkins did all the voices. Ooh, the magic of mystery!
Even in the 1994 Granada Television series "The Bradshaws" the producers weren't allowed to show the faces of mam and dad. However, Billy Bradshaw and pal Michael Morris weren't at all camera shy, much to the relief of the senior camera man.
More about the Television series later.
For the cassette releases Buzz's pal, Mossy (artist and caricaturist Dave Moss), re-drew Buzz's sketch and produced the logo which has been attached to the Bradshaws tapes, CDs, and videos ever since. Over the years, aside from the logo, the Bradshaws family characters have visually altered - probably because quite a few artists have been involved in Bradshaws projects and no two artist styles are the same. Lots of fans have applied their talents to drawing the family too, and we've included some of their art with names of the perpetrators where possible.
STUFF WE FOUND IN A BOX...
(Under Uncle Wally One-ball's bed)
Here, in no particular order (well, maybe a bit of order), are some of the drawings and photos that have been generated in the 30 year (so far) history of the nation's favourite funny family, collected together here for you in "The Bradshaws Scrapbook", along with a bit of a biography...
A drawing sent in by fan Dave Hulson in the early days, or rather nights, as the Bradshaws stories were then broadcast in the wee small hours when the radio station bosses were asleep. Dave later sculpted a plaque which now hangs proudly in Buzz's Lancashire-based Hawkins Studio 215 Production studios.
THE BRADSHAWS TAPE CASSETTES
Buzz asked permission from the radio station bosses to produce a cassette of the Bradshaws stories 'for a few night-time listeners'. By the time the radio station bosses cottoned on, he'd sold thousands of the little beauties. They invited him to produce daytime radio on one condition - "Bring the Bradshaws with you"
In 1986 Buzz became sequence producer producing the morning segment (Mark Radcliffe looked after the afternoons). Of course, having the stories on daytime radio meant the cassette sales soared, as did the demand for more.
And whilst the Bradshaws stories were running on Phil Wood's late morning show, little Billy Bradshaw was making a name for himself on Tim Grundy's Breakfast show with the Billy Bradshaw Brainbuster quiz. What a wacky show that was, with a line-up of presenter Tim Grundy, producer Buzz Hawkins, production assistant Chris Evans (yes), and of course little Billy Bradshaw.
BILLY RELEASES A SINGLE
Poor little Billy was working harder than his uncle Buzz, being in demand for voicing promos and adverts. And when the local police force asked him to front their road safety campaign, well..
Buzz wrote and produced the Easy Peasy Song in a few days in his tiny attic studio, and piano wizard, John Howarth, squeezed himself up through the trapdoor in the ceiling to play the DX7 keyboards on the track. Little Billy and his cousins had no problem standing up in the attic space to sing the vocals, and the single was rush-released.
(Fact: Billy Bradshaw's "Easy Peasy Song" reached number 109 in the UK charts)
DEAD GOOD HADVENTURES
Prior to the Easy Peasy Song 7" single, Buzz produced "The Dead Good Hadventures of Billy Bradshaw". But thinking that his audience was mainly adult and wouldn't be interested in kiddies adventure stories, Buzz only produced a few hundred of these cassettes. They sold out in a day! He promises to re-release the Dead Good Hadventures one day. Maybe with a book?
And so the fan club grew and grew. Fans sent drawings and presents...
Up to then most of the interest had only been local, mainly in the north-west of England. Having said that, there are a quite a few million people living in the north-west so 'only local' doesn't necessarily mean 'only small'. It was more than enough for one man and his imagination.
Eventually, though, the word about the Bradshaws spread far and wide and along came one Mr Robert Maxwell to publish a series of comics "The Bradshaws An' All That".
Buzz teamed up with cartoonist John Geerings to come up with the imagery. The cartoon of Billy was based an old school photo of Buzz, and issues 1 and 2 sold out. Issue 3 had gone to press and was about to land on the newsagents' counters when Mr Maxwell mysteriously (and inconsiderately) disappeared off his yacht - which was nothing to do with the Bradshaws, of course - but that was the end of the comic.
DOING IT LIVE
And then, inevitably, it started to happen: the very thing that Buzz had been secretly dreading - requests to do 'live' shows.Buzz performs the stories 'Jackanory' style
That should have been a doddle because live performance was (and is) a way of life for Buzz Hawkins. But it wasn't him they wanted! It was the Bradshaws! Fortunately he didn't take it personally.
As it happened, Buzz had at that time been doing some writing and voice-acting for a Manchester team who specialised in model animation. Step forward Peter Minister. Peter and Buzz began developing a life-size model of Billy Bradshaw which, it was hoped, would make it possible for him to appear on stage. Cue: big job breaking out!
CREATING LITTLE BILLY BRADSHAWBilly Bradshaw Mk1 (Fan Club calendar)
Billy Bradshaws Mk2 (First theatre appearance)
Billy Mk1 and Mk2 were operated via bicycle cables. For this, his first stage appearance, we sat him on a garden swing and revealed him from behind a curtain.
All this worked fine when there was plenty of time and facilities to 'reveal' Billy (cabled up ready and waiting), but 'live' appearances weren't a possibility unless we could dispense with the cables. So, back to the drawing board abd Buzz and Peter Minister got to work on the first animatronic Billy which could be operated by radio controls remotely. Success! Well almost.
IT'S ALL HAPPENING
1990 was big year. With Mk3 Billy ready to perform, the first big public outing was to provide pre-match entertainment with the late great Frank Sidebottom for an FA Cup semi-final. Manchester United were due to play Oldham Athletic at Maine Road and the stadium was packed with 47,000 fans. Wow! That was a hairy one!
Buzz and Peter stood in the players' tunnel operating remote controls - Buzz had a big cabled microphone gaffer-taped on a Bob Dylan-style harmonica cradle fastened around his neck. Mad Frank Sidebotton pushed little Billy sitting on his wooden bogey out to the centre of the pich and Billy's voiced boomed out around on the stadium sound system. Big cheer! So far so good. But ..
.. when Billy's chin suddenly dropped to his chest and wouldn't lift up, we knew things weren't well. We needed to get Billy off. Waving arms at Frank while he's off in Frank's World could never work, so Billy began shouting "Huncle Frank, I feel sick!" Unlike us, the crowd thought it was funny. Then, after an age of Frank's dangerous driving, when Billy's head was hanging on only by his tonsils, him and Huncle Frank lurched back to the safety of the tunnel.
Fortunately there was no Youtube back then!
ON TELLY WITH THE ITV TELETHON
Soon after that, with technical hitches un-hitched, Buzz began to say yes to more requests for Billy appearances. First of all, ITV's Telethon came knocking to ask Billy to present the north-west region transmission with Richard and Judy.
The celebrity guests were popping in for interviews all day, so Hawkins was stuck up the ladder watching everybody below having their sandwiches and coffees and nipping out for a ciggy or, even more crucially, going for a wee! Things were getting desperate when Bernard Manning trundled in. Bernard was immediately surrounded by eager-beavers offering him tea, coffee, biscuits and treats. He spotted BH up the ladder and, after a short conversation, told one of the production assistants to 'look after this lad. He's a very talented man!' She immediately fixed it to hold the show so he could go and relieve himself. From then on they noticed him. The power of celebrity!Billy Bradshaw looking thrilled
COLLECTING SONY AWARDS
Next, Buzz was off down to London for the first of his Sony Radio Award nomimations for the Bradshaws 'Best Use Of Comedy On Radio', with another to follow in 1991.
BILLY IN PANTO
In that year's panto season, Billy guested in 'Aladdin' at Guide Bridge Theatre, singing "It's Hard To Get To China On Mi Bogey". His remote controls made it easy to get him on and off the stage.
Nowadays he drives himself in a pedal car, despite having a plaster on his knee.
BILLY'S STRANGER DANGER MESSAGE
Greater Manchester Police sponsored the video and the Stranger Danger campaign was launched at Manchester Airport. The media turned out in force, including Granada Television and boss, Eamonn O'Neal, who stood at the rear of room with GMP dignitaries and other important types while his techie crew set up at the front stage to film Billy's presentation speech. A young techie was looking a bit fraught on the stage area, rushing about checking cables and connections, taking his headphones on and off and shaking them, and occasionally blowing into the clip microphone. Eventually he rushed through the crowd to Eamonn to breathlessly report that they were having problems getting a decent sound from Billy. Eamonn quietly advised him that it might be better to detach the microphone from Billy and attach it to Buzz instead.
THE FIRST TV SERIES
When we say 1st, it's because we were promised a 2nd. That didn't materialise - yet! The offer was a big move in the right direction but, as we'd already committed to a three-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe, it meant we would really have to get cracking - models, costumes, props, screenplay, music, lah de dah. Ah well, all in a life's work.
The Edinburgh Fringe was great fun, so straight into rehearsals for the series. Filmed in Granada's upstairs warehouse on one camera, voiced from behind a screen twenty feet away while Hawkins looked at a camera monitor with one eye and his script with the other. Oh yes, and operated Billy with both hands on the remote control. Maybe that helped it look so quirky?
Billy waits to do his night-time scene
Michael Morris relaxes after his big scene
NEXT UP ..
Doing it live, stage shows, books, animation and plans for the new series .. in the original style. All that and much more coming soon. Stay in touch!The Bradshaws stage set
Fans get in the mood with paper planes
Alf, Audrey and Billy live costumes
Filming the stage show
Buzz does a Eurovision wind-up on BBC
Brads Fan, Ian Jones, reads his Bradshaws book
Dom Collins makes a cardboard fort for Billy
WHO'S A BUSY B THEN? ...
Buzz is currently working on the first Bradshaws novel and a new series of Bradshaws videos (in the same style as the original Granada TV series), plus a non-Bradshaws novel and .. phew!
But, as he misses you all so much, he's still comes out to play with Billy and his mam and dad (plus his guitar, of course) in venues not far from you. If you can't get there, you can always invite him to perform in your local hall or club (honest!)
CATCHY CHORUSES & DAFT BITS
Featuring Bradshaws songs and sketches, and Buzz's unique comic songs like Sadie,The R aji Singsong, Country Billy Gerkin, Father Fanakerpan and many more
Go to the CORNER SHOP
30 YEARS OF THE BRADSHAWS
~ BBC RADIO 4 DOCUMENTARY
John Henshaw, Peter Kay, Sally Lindsey, Eamonn O'Neal, Smug Roberts, Bernard Wrigley and CP Lees all celebrate the amazing Bradshaws legacy.
LISTEN HERE TO "30 YEARS OF THE BRADSHAWS" ON THE BBC iPLAYER