Submitted by Ron Stanway, former General Manager, Entertainment.
With information kindly supplied by Stan Edwards, former Redcoat, Clacton '57-'59.
Photographs kindly provided by Henri Rouah, former Redcoat, Pwllheli '53 to '56, Filey '57 and Clacton '58
Photographs not to be used without permission
The way to stardom for so many of today's top entertainers has been regularly documented over the years and it is a well known fact that the likes of Dave Allen, Des O'Connor, Charlie Drake, Ted Rogers, Roy Hudd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Johnny Ball, Mike Newman, Freddie Davis, Michael Barrymore, Jimmy Cricket, Clinton Ford, William G. Stewart, Russ Hamilton and many more, all began their careers as Butlin Redcoats.
In the 50's & 60's there was no entertainment in pubs and clubs in some areas of the country and any aspiring artiste joined Butlin's as a Redcoat to gain experience. When the laws of the land were changed and entertainment was more freely permitted in pubs, talented people were able to obtain local bookings and earn a few pounds strumming a guitar and/or singing a song.
We list two people, who started at Butlin's and became mega stars without ever being a Redcoat. A young lady who entered the `Beaver Showtime' Talent Contest (6 to under 9yrs) whilst on holiday, won the weekly heat and went on to win the Grand Final at 8 years of age. The following year, now in the older age group she won the `Junior Startrail' Talent contest (9 to under 14 yrs). That young lady, star of numerous films and television shows is married to mega star, Michael Douglas and is, of course, Catherine Zeta Jones.
The following story is of the another non-Redcoat who made it, namely Sir Cliff Richard.
Stan Edwards, who was a Redcoat at Clacton (1957 to 1959), tells us it was in July 1958 that a new young group were booked for a short four week engagement at the Clacton-on-Sea camp. It was their first professional engagement and they were contracted as Bar Entertainers but sadly, because of their type of music, not always featured by Butlin's in the most suitable venues. Their repertoire was limited and to cover the usual, three-hour nightly period, it was necessary for them to repeat songs they had done earlier in the evening. This did not go down too well with the holiday makers, especially as nearly all the songs were of the Elvis Presley type. They were also featured in the new, Rock `N Calypso Ballroom.
Known as Cliff Richard and the Drifters, the group consisted of, Cliff, Ian Samwell (lead guitar) and Terry Smart (drums); their mentor/manager, Johnny Foster, made up the group, not musically, but as part of the payroll which was in the princely sum of £25 per week (less agents commission) between them all. Having no stage clothes the Entertainment Manager issued special red flash sports shirts, usually worn by the Redcoats. These shirts were originally designed for Redcoats to wear on outside sporting events to enable them to remove their red jackets and still be recognisable as Redcoats.
Prior to their arrival at Clacton, the group had cut their first demo-disc in a recording booth in Oxford Street, London, thanks to the promotional efforts of Johnny Foster and a loan of £10 from his mother. The song called 'Move It', written by Ian Samwell, was to be the start of something much bigger for Cliff and the boys. Their recording had been heard by the right people, and arrangements were made for them to appear in the original 'Oh Boy' show. This virtually ended their Butlin engagement and it was mutually agreed that their contract should be terminated. Almost immediately 'Move It' was released by Columbia Records and went to number two in the charts.
To dispel any rumours, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch were never at Butlin's. They were hired later by Cliff when, or at about the time the name was changed to Cliff Richard & the Shadows.
The photographs show Cliff in his red-flash shirt (top left) and also Ian, Cliff and Terry outside their chalet.
Below is a photograph showing a very young Roy Hudd at Clacton in 1958.