Roy Green was an ex-miner who dreamed of showbusiness and made a decent living from it until the enthusiasm for Westerns waned in the late 1950s. He went to America and worked in rodeos, then magic shows, and died in Glendale near Los Angeles in 2005.
Vera's next appearance was at the West Bromwich Plaza in March - still with Larrabee. They went on to the Liverpool Pavilion in April where 'Scott's Educated Sealions' also appeared, then to the Huddersfield Palace. The same show moved to Blackpool Queen's Theatre, owned by James Brennan, who I had not heard of - another inhabitant of my hometown Lytham St. Annes. The Queen's Theatre was demolished to make way for an ugly shopping centre. Next the show progressed to the Hulme Hippodrome and Wigan Hippodrome in May, and then the Glasgow Empire - though apparently without Larrabee.
From 5 July, Vera was appearing at the Empire Theatre, Cleethorpes supporting comedians Jack Watson and Leslie Randall - both of whom would go on to become actors.
Later in July Vera appeared at the Birmingham Hippodrome as a supporting act to Billy Cotton and his Band with 'The Birmingham Daily Post' saying Vera Cody has a nice-looking horse that dances to various rhythms and some assorted dogs that appear to enjoy showing off their tricks.
Next it was on to the Coventry Hippodrome at the beginning of August as a supporting act to highly popular, and good looking, singer Guy Mitchell, who I just learned was the son of Croatian immigrants to America. Mitchell's most famous song, "Singing the Blues", wasn't recorded until two years later.
Vera moved on with Mitchell to appear at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool later in the month, then to the Cardiff New Theatre and the Stockton Globe in September. She was then back performing in Billy Cotton's show at the Dudley Hippodrome. On this occasion the comedian Arthur Haynes was on the bill. Haynes had Nicholas Parsons (1923-2020) as his 'straight man' for about 10 years in the 1950s and 60s. Parsons went on to compere the popular radio show 'Just a Minute' from 1967 until 2018 by which time he was 94. He kept his sharp wit until the end of his life.
In early October Vera was back with Guy Mitchell performing in a show called 'My Truly Fair' at the Empire, Leeds; the show was named after his latest song. The George Mitchell Singers were also on the bill. In 1957 George would go on to found the long-lasting, but ultimately politically unacceptable, 'blackface' Black and White Minstrel Show. The show moved on to the Empire, Nottingham (without George Mitchell).
Vera's next appearance was as a supporting act to American wisecracking comedian Bob Hope at the Empire Liverpool from 25-28 October 1954.
Further shows with Guy Mitchell took place in early November at the Derby Hippodrome, the Manchester Hippodrome and the Bristol Hippodrome. What must have been a very successful year was rounded off by an appearance in the pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk', with singer Frankie Vaughan at the Globe Theatre, Stockton.
Appearances in 1955 started with the pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' at the Edinburgh Empire, though without any 'headline' names that I recognise. Vera was back with Billy Cotton and his band at the beginning of February with a show at the Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, then on to the Peterborough Embassy.
March found Vera at the Hackney Empire with a show featuring the singer Joan Regan; other recognisable names on the bill on this occasion are Jimmy Wheeler, Harry Worth and Norman Vaughan. Later in March she was in a variety show at the Bristol Hippodrome starring Ruby Murray and featuring Morecambe and Wise, Jimmy Wheeler, magician David Berglas (who was still alive and aged 94 when I was writing this) and Norman Vaughan.
The next show was at the Blackpool Palace Theatre in early April and starred Irish tenor Joseph McLaughlin. It is said that impresario Jack Hylton gave him his stage name of Josef Locke as his full name would not fit on advertisements, but I don't find that very convincing. Also in the show was Terry Scott - an actor/comedian who started in showbusiness at Butlin's Skegness with Bill Maynard, and went on to perform in several 'Carry On' films and his own TV series. Next came a show at the East Ham Granada called 'The Hal Monty Show' which starred Hal Monty, another comedian unknown to me but who had made a few films.
Later in April Vera appeared at the bottom of the bill for a show at the Leicester Palace Theatre that starred singer Joan Regan and comedian Jimmy Logan.
This was followed by an appearance at the Sunderland Empire, with singer Ronnie Hilton, then a return to the Finsbury Park Empire with singer Alma Cogan, who lived in Kensington and entertained, amongst others, Princess Margaret, Noël Coward, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Caine, Frankie Vaughan, Bruce Forsyth and Roger Moore. Cogan is even rumoured to have had an affair with John Lennon in the 1960s.
May saw a show at the Granada Tooting with Don Peters - a singer managed by Lew and Leslie Grade but unknown to me. He had appeared a number of times on Ted Ray's radio programmes. Towards the end of May Vera appeared in a show at the Newcastle Empire starring Ruby Murray with Stan Stennett and Chic Murray.
A backing act at several of these shows was an acrobatic group calling themselves 'The Skylons'.
The Skylons took their name from the cigar-shaped structure that had featured in the 1951 Festival of Britain, clearly visible in the photo below, and designed to appear to be suspended in the air - as were the performers. The Festival was held on the South Bank of the Thames in London and I remember being taken there one evening as a 4 year-old. Our legacy from the 1951 Festival includes the concert halls on the South Bank; there are a number of short films about the Festival of Britain on YouTube.
Vera travelled with Ruby Murray's show to the Liverpool Empire in June and, later in the month, she was appearing with a different group of entertainers at the Swansea Empire - 'Dr. Crock and His Crackpots'. Harry Hines had formed the act back in 1947 as a British version of the American act 'Spike Jones and his City Slickers'. I don't recall seeing Dr. Crock, but there are some (sound only) clips of the act on YouTube and they were similar to 'Sid Millward and his Nitwits' already mentioned.
The fare at the Birmingham Hippodrome at the beginning of July was quite different. The Vancouver Boys Band, or to give them their proper name, The Kitsilano Boys Band, was top of the bill. The band had been founded in Vancouver in 1928 by Arthur W. Delamont and he was with them on their tour of the UK. They had made several visits to the UK in the 1930s and had played at the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in 1937. A visit in 1939 had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of WW2 but they toured the UK in 1950 and 1953 and kept going until 1978. From the photos online they seem to have been a brass band and they played 'The William Tell Overture' but also swing tunes. Like all variety shows of the time there were comedians and acrobats in addition to Vera and her animals.
Mid-July brought a show at the Sheffield Empire, with Terry-Thomas topping the bill and the usual acts. Next was the Morecambe Winter Gardens with Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, Max Geldray playing harmonica, and singer and impersonator Janet Brown. Janet appeared in a number of films and TV series and was married to actor Peter Butterworth who appeared in many 'Carry On' films. She became famous in the 1970s and 1980s for her impersonations of Margaret Thatcher.
In late July Vera was appearing with Billy Cotton again in his 'Wakey! Wakey!' show at the New Theatre Oxford and, at the end of the month, in a show at the Chiswick Empire, where the only other names I can recognise are Dennis Lotis - a South African born British singer (who, as I write this, is 95 years old and living in Norfolk), and Ken Morris and Joan Savage - a singing double act. Ken died relatively young but Joan, who was from Blackpool, featured in several episodes of The Arthur Haynes Show on TV in 1957 and 1962, an episode of Dad's Army called 'Soldier's Farewell' in which she plays the part of Greta Garbo, and in Coronation Street in 2000 when she played the part of Celeste Parker in a storyline about a ballroom dancer.
September brought a booking at the Brixton Empress, with Terry-Thomas topping the bill and a selection of the usual range of variety acts. A review in 'The Stage' of 22 September 1955 gives a favourable account of Vera but is maybe less enthusiastic about some of the other acts.
In late November Vera appeared at the Nottingham Empire, with singer Dickie Valentine topping the bill. Later in the month 'The Stage' carried an advertisement for a Christmas show - 'The Frieda Hall Show' - opening on December 26th. Frieda was another performer I had never heard of but she was an accomplished player of the theatre organ, who had been born in Sheffield in 1913 to a musical family and made a number of recordings in addition to her stage appearances.
The next page continues the story of Vera's later life.