Jimmy Tarbuck rocketed onto the entertainment scene in the early 1960’s, in appearance and style tailor-made to be ‘the’ Merseybeat comic, notwithstanding that we already had a Liverpool comedy king in Ken Dodd. The two could hardly have been more different, Tarbuck the young cheeky chappie in the smart suit, Dodd the anarchic, bedraggled jester. The young newcomer even tried his hand at singing, releasing several records (covering When My Little Girl Is Smiling, and Your Cheatin’ Heart) but whatever the strength of his comic challenge he was never going to out-sing the Knotty Ash Caruso. One thing they both had in common was their very public support for the Conservative Party and Margaret Thatcher in particular.
James Joseph Tarbuck was born on 6th February 1940 at Sefton General Hospital. His father, Joseph, was a bookmaker who at one time had premises at 170A London Road. The family lived in a substantial house, 74 Queen Drive L18, and the young Jimmy attended Dovedale Road primary school, his contemporaries including John Lennon and newsman Peter Sissons. He passed the ’11 plus’ and started at St Francis Xavier college in Woolton, only to be expelled for truancy and a variety of other misbehaviour. He finished his secondary schooling at the Morrison Secondary Modern in Rose Lane.
He might have made a career in football, having a trial with Liverpool and playing at a reasonable standard in the Welsh League. Other thwarted careers included apprenticeships as a hairdresser and a car mechanic. His break into showbusiness came, like many others, at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp. On holiday at Pwhelli with his mates, Liverpool footballers Jimmy Melia, Johnny Morrissey and Bobby Campbell, he won a talent contest and within a short time had his first professional engagement on a rock and roll tour with Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.
It was at this stage of his career that bizarrely Tarbuck was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court of the theft of a £2000 diamond-studded cigarette holder from the actor Terry Thomas. Thomas was performing at a charity event at the Liverpool Odeon and left the holder backstage where it was stolen by Tarbuck. His counsel, Harry Livermore, told the court that his client had stolen it out of pique as Thomas would not let him perform at the show. Tarbuck was put on probation for two years. A fuller account of the story can be found on the Anorak.co.uk website.
Making his first appearance at the London Palladium in 1963, he replace Bruce Forsyth as host of ITV’s hugely popular Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1965 and led the show until it ended in 1967. Ever since he has been a frequent face on TV in a variety of guises. He was awarded the OBE in 1994.
He married Pauline Carfoot from Cockburn Street, Toxteth, in 1959. They have 3 children, one of whom, Liza followed her father into show business.
The Tarbuck family home which was a short distance from his primary school on Dovedale Road
An oft-published photo of a Dovedale Road school trip to the Isle of Man - left to right, Peter Sissons, John Lennon, Jimmy Tarbuck.
© Liverpool Footprints