Music of Wigan's George Formby back on royal stage at long last

Wigan-born entertainment superstar George Formby has landed his biggest ever gig - 57 years after he died.

Monday, 2nd April 2018, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 2nd April 2018, 12:00 pm
George Formby

For his fan club is to perform before the Queen, countless other heads of state, a packed Royal Albert Hall and a TV audience of potentially two billion!

Other news: Car ploughs into front of Wigan houseHer Majesty is a lifelong fan, and so the BBC invited the George Formby Society to strum one of his biggest ukulele hits at her 92nd birthday gala concert later this month.

In a line-up which also includes Sir Tom Jones, Shaggy, Craig David, Shawn Mendes, Sting and Kylie Minogue, 40 of them will “thrash” their ukuleles in a rendition of When I’m Cleaning Windows - accompanied by a symphony orchestra!

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The Queen

It is a huge coup for the Wigan-based society who have sought to perpetuate the memory of a man who, in the late 1930s and early 40s, was the world’s highest-paid star.

Of course his music doesn’t have quite the currency it did, but there will be several celebrity fans joining in the 40-strong group, no doubt including society member and top comedian Frank Skinner.

And the Queen herself is a Formby groupie and has been since her childhood.

Only two years ago it was revealed in a radio documentary that Her Majesty numbers the entertainer’s hit I’m Leaning on a Lamp-post among her favourite songs and can be heard singing along with them.

The Queen

And at the height of his fame George, and sometimes wife Beryl, were often invited to Buckingham Palace and other royal retreats to give private performances.

Our current monarch wasn’t the only member of the family who was a Formby fan either.

The Queen’s sister Princess Margaret enjoyed these soirees too and so too, many were surprised to discover, was the supposedly humourless and formidable Queen Mary.

In fact the widow of King George V was most insistent that George didn’t sing sanitised versions of his often innuendo-laden lyrics!

Which is why the BBC came calling at society president Gerry Mawdsley’s house in Westhoughton asking if the fan club would be interested in making a musical contribution to the show, which takes place on Saturday April 21.

Assistant secretary Neil Forshaw said: “Unsurprisingly we bit their hands off!

“What a huge honour and what a huge chance to put the music of George Formby centre stage.

“A band of 40 ukulele strummers will take part, comprising male and female members, young and old, and especially those who have helped the society to thrive over the years.

“We are going down on the Friday and there will be a rehearsal with the orchestra with ‘Windows’ and then on Saturday it’s the show itself. We are told that a number of celebrities will be joining us.

“The show apparently has a potential TV audience of two billion and as well as the Queen there will be quite a few other heads of state, so it promises to be quite an occasion!”

The BBC has already been doing some filming to accompany the society’s spot in the concert including at its recent Blackpool convention.

George Hoy Booth was born in Westminster Street, Wigan, in 1904 and followed his father George Formby Snr onto the stage and eventually superseded him in terms of both fame and fortune while adopting his parent’s name. In his pomp his songs sold in their millions and folk flocked to cinemas to see his films.