Born in Hammersmith in May 1914, Arthur Haynes was the only son of a baker. Although remembered today only by Nissan Micra drivers, Haynes was an immensely popular television comedian throughout the middle of the last century, winning awards and acclaim from all quarters. His eponymous show, The Arthur Haynes Show regularly topped the ratings and featured such stalwart figures as Nicholas Parsons and Patricia Hayes. Arthur’s early dreams of becoming an architect were dashed when his poor family worked out just how much it would cost to send him to Art School. Instead, he became a bus conductor. A stint as a furniture store clerk followed before he entered the noble profession. "I was everybody’s mate. Plumber’s mate, painter’s mate, carpenter’s mate and so on." And who knows how Arthur’s career might have progressed had it not been for the outbreak of war in 1939? Failing his army medical, he managed to pick up a job as a props man with the impressario George Black and never looked back. Teaming up with the excruciatingly unfunny Charlie Chester, Arthur’s career as a top-class radio comedian was never in doubt but his big break in television came when he was reunited with his old mucker George Black in 1956. Strike A New Note saw him teamed up with scriptwriter Johnny Speight for the first time, a partnership that was to last until Arthur’s untimely death from a heart attack in 1965. Together they built a series of memorable characters culminating in Arthur appearing in a Royal Variety Show performance in 1961 and being voted Independent TV Personality of the Year in 1962.
Britain’s answer to Frank Sinatra. Okay, Matt was no Ol’ Blue Eyes but he carved out a successful career as a romantic ballad singer both in Britain and America in an age dominated by raucous pop singers. His rise to fame against the Elvis Presley tide was a singular achievement for a small man with no stage background. He represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, coming second in Copenhagen in 1964 with I Love The Little Things. He had 15 hits in the UK though he never topped the charts. His songs included Portrait of My Love, Born Free and From Russia With Love. His career was as romantic as his songs. He was born in Shoreditch, London as Terry Parsons and brought up in a council flat. His father wore cor’ blimey trousers but died when Matt was three and his mother, left with four sons and a daughter became a Mrs Mopp to keep the family together. For a while Matt, the youngest son, was in an orphanage and began work in a tobacco factory later working as a plaster’s labourer and a plumber’s mate before becoming a London bus driver, working the No.27 route from Highgate to Teddington via Kentish Town. On leaving the Army he found the competition of show businesss tough but he gained his first break in 1956 when he became the resident singer with the BBC Show Band. The pianist, Winifred Attwell, had helped him make a record and the rest was almost history. Matt Monro died from cancer in February 1985 aged 54.
Ronnie Laine, bassist and founder member of The Small Faces, was born in Plaistow, East London, on April 1, 1946, son of a lorry driver. At 16 he left school and began working as a plumber’s mate then, aged 17, he bought his first guitar and began playing in a band called The Outcasts with drummer Kenney Jones. Laine invited Steve Marriott, the shop assistant who sold him his guitar, to an early Outcasts gig. Marriott turned up at the pub, promptly wrecked the piano and got the band barred. He joined as singer and guitarist soon after. Rechristened The Small Faces by Marriott”s girlfriend – all four members struggled to hit 5ft 5ins – they had a series of Top Ten singles including their only Number One single, All Or Nothing in 1966. Following Marriott’s departure in 1969 the others welcomed singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood to their fold and struck out as The Faces, the purveyors of rhythm ‘n’ booze who became revered for their shambolic concerts and geezer-down the local pub image. In fact, so raucous were the band that they were banned from the entire Holiday Inn hotel chain. The Faces called it a day in 1975 due to Stewart’s burgeoning solo career and Wood’s absorption into The Rolling Stones; Laine went solo and charted with a couple of singles and the LP Anymore for Anymore. Ronnie died at the age of 51 of multiple sclerosis at his home in Trinidad, Colorado. He had been debilitated by the nerve destroying disease since the late-1970s.
Short, bad baldie who rose to fame in The Long Good Friday, Hoskins was born in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk in 1942 where his mother had been sent to escape the Blitz. They couldn’t have enjoyed it too much because Hoskins was sent back to London with his mother when he was only two weeks old. He stayed at school until he was 15 and in the next 10 years took on a string of undistinguished jobs including Covent Garden porter, member of the Norwegian Merchant Marines, steeplejack, banana picker, circus fire-eater, trainee accountant, and even spent time working on a kibbutz in Israel. Amidst all that mediocrity there was a little light when he spent some time as a plumber’s assistant. Hoskins began acting at the age of 25, learning his trade in theatre before going into films. His breakthrough was in the aforementioned LGF before going on to such hits as Mona Lisa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mermaids and Nixon. Despite his ability and success, Hoskins couldn’t escape being typecast as short, bald guys. However this and his previous real-life experience came to his aid when he played what is undoubtedly his greatest role – as the world’s greatest plumber. Bob played Mario in the wonderful Super Mario Bros, surely the best film about plumbers never to have won the Best Picture Oscar. Unless of course you count Brazil, but then that also starred Bob Hoskins as a plumber. Hoskins was once asked if he had ever considered doing a couple of homers just to keep his hand in. "I wouldn’t advise it," he said. "I was an apprentice plumber once, burnt the boot of the bloke I was with. I was on a ladder and he was fixing a pipe up in the ceiling. I got a blowlamp, and set fire to his boot! That was the end of the trade for me".
He was the pianist who brought joy with his tinkling fingers and his twinkling smile. This attractive combination brought Russ Conway huge success in live concert and on record, and made him one of Britain’s biggest-selling artists of the 1950s and 1960s. From his first chart success in 1957 with a medley of other artists’ Party Pops through to his 1962 hit Always You and Me, Conway spent 168 weeks in the music charts. After leaving school at 14, his father found the young Russ a job in a solicitors’ office, but this ended when he was sent to borstal for three years after stealing some money he found in a packet. He had always wanted to go to sea and, following his release from borstal, his father agreed to send him to a Merchant Navy Training School. He served in the Royal Navy during the war, taking part in minesweeping operations in the Aegean, before returning to the Merchant Navy. He was discharged in 1948 with a stomach complaint and worked as a salesman, machinist, plumber’s mate and barman before another spell back at sea. He became one of Britain’s biggest-selling music artists before The Beatles, chalking up sales of 30 million records, but his career came to a premature halt when he suffered a stroke in 1965. He died in November 2000.
The first manager of a Liverpool combo known as The Beatles. This plumber and owner of the Jacaranda club was the man who took them to Hamburg in 1960 and set them on the road to a relatively successful career. He first met the Fab Four when they came into the Jacaranda and was the man who fixed him up with their first, and best, drummer, Pete Best. However after one packed gig in the German city, the Beatles didn’t bother to give Williams his £14 cut. He immediately sacked them, vowing that they would never work again. Williams’ parting shot was to tell anyone interested in taking over The Beatles that he "wouldn’t touch them with a f*****g bargepole. Brian Epstein didn’t take Williams’ advice. Nor did he take him up on his offer to have his piping reworked and a new-fangled shower fitted. In hindsight, possibly the correct decision.
One of rock and roll’s enduring performers, Cocker has survived the sixties, a low period in the seventies, made a comeback in the eighties, and continues to be a solid and consistent performer in the nineties and on into the 21st century. Known for his gutsy, gravelly, vocal style, Joe started out in Sheffield in the mid sixties, working as a gas plumber by day and performing in the clubs of the area by night. The perfect life. Cocker writes very little of his own material, plays no instruments, and finds himself completely at the mercy of whatever producer and backing musicians he lands with. The lot of plumbers everywhere. His major hits were With a Little Help From My Friends, Up Where We Belong and Unchain My Heart. Joe’s mum Marjorie, God bless her, once said, "When Joe left school at 16, I thought he was going to take up plumbing as a career. I even got him a lot of books on the subject, and he was interested in plumbing for a time, but there was always the music. That was what he wanted to do."
Born in 1948 in Aston, Birmingham as John Michael Osbourne, the fourth of six children. The Osbourne family lived in poverty and a crowded house. Ozzy was beaten regularly by his father, mainly for behavior such as trying to kill his siblings. Constant fighting and arguing between Ozzy’s parents about their financial situation finally prompted him to try and do something about it. At the age of fifteen, Ozzy took his first job as a plumber’s assistant. Ozzy also tried some jobs in crime; this later landed him in Birmingham’s Winson Green prison for a short time for burglary. Once he was released, he never wanted to go back, so he decided to try and make a career in music. Ozzy joined and left many bands which never went anywhere before forming Rare Breed which became Earth which became Black Sabbath, named after a Boris Karloff movie. After a successful solo career he only became really famous when he let a documentary crew film his dysfunctional family and he became an MTV superstar.
The son of actors Lon Chaney and Cleva Creighton, the man destined to star in classic horror movies was born Creighton Tull Chaney. Old man Chaney raised his son in an atmosphere of Spartan strictness and absolutely forbade young Creighton to enter show business, wanting his son to prepare for a more "practical" profession. This may have deprived the movies of the world’s greatest Wolfman but it gave Chreighton the chance to join the world’s greatest profession. He trained to be plumber. It was only after Chaney Sr. died in 1930 that Creighton entered movies with an RKO contract, but nothing much happened until Creighton was (by his own recollection) "starved" into changing his name to Lon Chaney Jnr. The roles quickly followed including Man Made Monster, the Wolf Man, The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Son of Dracula and The Mummy. These horror films apart, his greatest roles were in High Noon, Of Mice and Men and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Lon Chaney Snr. was known as The Man with a Thousand Faces but his son achieved greater fame. Lon Jnr. always put his success down to the time he spent as a plumber.
While not the first producer of Hollywood comedies, Canadian-born Mack Sennett was one of the best organized and most successful and the man who made them into real box office. He was known throughout Hollywood as the King of Comedy. His lesser-known, but nonetheless apposite, soubriquet was the King of Plumbers. Growing up in Canada, Sennett had dreams of becoming an opera singer, but economic considerations forced him into such blue collar jobs as iron worker, boilermaker and assistant plumber when his Irish immigrant family moved to the US. He wandered into the Biograph Company in 1908 where DW Griffith hired him as an actor and part-time director. Soon he was directing all of Griffith’s comedies and then set up his own Keystone Studios where he hired one Charlie Chaplin. Sennett lost a fortune in the stock market crash of 1929 but still enjoyed a long retirement. He always had the plumbing to fall back on. He died in California in 1960.