Wednesday 15 November 2017

Carry On Blogging Interview: Kathy Jones

I'm delighted to blog an interview with the wonderful actress, singer, classic car enthusiast and cake maker extraordinaire, Kathy Jones. Kathy played Tricia Hopkins in Coronation Street, first appearing back in September 1973 and staying in the role until June 1976. Following her success in Corrie, Kathy went on to star in several popular television series for Granada as well as appearing in countless theatre productions. She even recorded an album at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

I first got to know Kathy through my work on the brilliant Coronation Street Blog and above all her other achievements, she's just one of the nicest ladies you could wish to meet. She's also fond of a bit of a good old Carry On...

- First of all, I'd love to know how you got started in the business?

My first stage appearance was at the age of four. I was a shy girl, in the middle of a family of six children, my sister Carol was ten years older than me, then David and Robert, me, followed by Peter and Stewart. I was the only one to go on stage, I didn't sing at home, I never sang at family gatherings either. My father was a concert secretary at Coppenhall Working Men's Club in Crewe, the artist he had booked failed to appear, so the entertainment that night was a free and easy, anyone who wanted to sing could go on stage and the pianist would accompany them, out of the blue I went onto the stage in my party frock and a purple cardigan some one had knitted for me, and sang My Old Man Said Follow The Van. I'd heard someone sing it before. My mum and dad were a little stunned I think, but saw potential, and it carried on from there, I was semi professional from the age of eight touring WMC's most weekends in Stoke-on-Trent mainly.

- I'd love to hear what it was like to work at Granada back in the late 60s and 70s. It was such a legendary place at the time.

Producer Johnny Hamp at Granada had a new talent show starting, my mother found out about it and I auditioned for it. It was called First timers, I won best female vocalist and I was thirteen. I was a frequent visiting performer in various guises at Granada from then on.
It was a wonderful place to work there in the late sixties and seventies.

In those days you could sneak into a studio via the sound proof doors and watch whatever was being recorded. Or a favourite place was the canteen, everyone came in there eventually, it was in the tea queue that  I first saw Jack and Annie Walker from the Rovers, Doris Speed and Arthur Leslie, but at the time it was Jack and Annie to me. In the seventies Laurence Olivier held the door open for me in the corridor. He was on his way to recording in studio 12 with Natalie Wood, I'd just finished recording an episode of Songbook in studio 6. I think I closed my mouth after my jaw dropped. 

When I was eighteen Muriel Young another fabulous producer at Granada wanted me to pilot two children's programmes, one was a disaster after a hamster bit me, it was a how to look after your pet show, the other was a singing show called A Handful of Songs. That show ran for years.


- When you joined Coronation Street many of the iconic characters and actors were still very active in the show. Of all the people you worked with during your time there who were you closest to on and/off screen?

When I was in the Street I became great friends with Peter Adamson. He had opened a club near Stockport called Sobers, Peter asked if I would sing at the opening night and I went with my parents, in fact my father was a little miffed as he hadn't realised that there wasn't any alcoholic drink in that club, at all! He fancied a pint, but had a pint of non-alcoholic beer instead. Peter and I worked together quite a lot, we did a summer season of Sunday nights in Morecambe, with Stephen Hancock on piano, Peter organised all of the shows, sang and told a few jokes, and introduced guest artists, one was a comedy sketch with Graham Haberfield dressed as a tramp. 

Peter was a kind man, he was a very attentive husband to his wife who was quite poorly when I was there. Some days I'd travel in by train, on one occasion there was an incident that needed the police to be involved, Peter was the first person to come to my aid. When he found out I was leaving he arranged a meal out for four of us, Robert me himself and Bryan Mosley who kept us entertained all night with amazing jokes and tales. He was another very kind man.

- Your Coronation Street family was made up of Richard Davies, Kathy Staff and Jessie Evans. What are your memories of working with these actors?

My family in the Street consisted of Jessie Evans as my grandmother Richard Davies as my father and Kathy Staff as my mother. We were first introduced at a lunch at Granada, thank goodness we all got along, I couldn't have wished for a better family. I learned so much from all three. Kathy treated me like one of her daughters, her real daughters were close to my agree anyway. Jessie had lots of time for us, Richard was a gentle soul who Jessie really did boss around a bit like a real son, but he took it all in good heart. He had some great stories too, we once travelled on a Pullman train from Manchester to London. On the same train we met up with Windsor Davies, the Welsh banter (and a small amount of gin) flowed but I had to get off at Crewe. Richard said this Pullman doesn't stop at Crewe. Windsor said it does now, even if we have to slow down and dangle you out of the window, you're not going to miss your stop! Thankfully he had a word in someone's ear and he got the train to stop for me. His voice booming out of the window 'Cymru am byth Jonesie!'


- From your three years at Corrie, do you have a favourite storyline or a favourite moment off screen?

I don't have a particular favourite moment, but a few memorable scenes. Riding a tandem sticks in my mind for one. Helen and I are not very tall and neither of us had ridden a tandem before, and it was a large tandem, how we managed to ride it up hill without falling off I'll never know. Health and safety! Ha!

- I write a lot about British comedians and comedy actors from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Do you have a favourite(s) from that era and if so, who and why?

Ken Dodd is still king of comedy. He spans all the decades. I've worked with him in the past, at the age of twelve in Blackpool to Stoke-on-Trent at Jollies when I was twenty eight. When you work with Ken you don't have to work on stage for long, he takes over the whole night, it's not a short act. I also had a week long run with Arthur Askey in Thameside. He had that audience in fits of laughter every night, and with no bad language or filthy jokes at all. Unlike some of today's comedians.


- I love the kind of character comedy actresses you used to get in the 50s, 60s and 70s. What was it about them, in your opinion, that made them so special and do you have any particular favourites?

Thora Hird - her timing was faultless in comedy roles and in her serious acting roles. I remember watching one of her interviews on TV. in which she said her father taught her so much. There was a scene where she was required to be distressed and upset, he told her to get to the verge of tears but be seen to hold them back, this allows the audience to cry. Timing you see, it's everything in every role, in her black and white films you can see her comic timing even there. She was still fabulous in Last of the Summer Wine. 

- Why do you think old films like the Carry Ons are still so popular in the 21st Century?

I think the Carry Ons are still popular today because there is just no political correctness gone mad in them. Just lighthearted harmless fun with plenty of risqué innuendo. They weren't made to portray real life, just a life full of fun. No one was murdered, and a happy ending was guaranteed. They are there to make us laugh and we certainly need a laugh these days.

- Away from Coronation Street, you made many other series at Granada in the 1970s. What was your favourite show to be a part of and why?

My favourite programme I was involved with will always be A Handful of Songs. Each week children from all over the country would send in their paintings and drawings and request a song about them. They were fantastic, on one or two of them we had to decide which way up they should be, but most had a story on the back along with their name and requested favourite nursery rhyme. We showed every painting that was sent in. I left Handful in the capable hands of Keith Fields and Maria Morgan, while I joined the Street.  It's a shame there isn't anything like this program today, not with me at the helm though, I fear some of the old nursery rhymes may disappear.

- You went on to record an album at Abbey Road in 1974. What are your memories of that time?

I recorded an Album at Abbey Road Studios in 1974 called A Handful of Songs, Bob Barratt was the producer, I was just twenty and Bobs daughter used to watch the TV show. One day at a lunch out with him and his young daughter, (he said the canteen only served egg chips and beans, little knowing that would have suited me!) but with me only being five foot, she thought her father had brought a playmate along with him. Again my parents and younger brothers came along with me to London, so while I was working in the studio, they were sight seeing London. One day my brother Peter stayed with me for the day, he was into music in a big way, and to be taken to the Mecca of recording studios was fantastic. He was shown around and we were taken to all the studios, in fact I recorded most of the album in the actual Beatles studio. The Lady Birds famous for backing vocals did the backing tracks for my album, how cool was that! In the corridors there were Beatles photos everywhere, fantastic. I met Andre Previn there he was recording in another studio. I returned in 1976 to Abbey Road, this time for a Single called Down our Street. Bob Barratt produced it again, we (Bob Robert and me) went for a curry between sessions, he swears I sang better after that curry.


- I've got to ask, what's your favourite Carry On film and why?

Carry On Up The Khyber is my favourite Carry On. Sid James and Joan Sims as Sir and Lady Ruff-Diamond at their best I think. Sid's dirty laugh flows through every Carry On, and Joan's perfect portrayal of every different role she plays in all of her performances in the films. Up the Khyber though is just full on fun and innuendos. Roy Castle's straight character Captain Keene and Charles Hawtrey as Private Widdle of the Third Foot and Mouth Regiment, priceless! Bernard Bresslaw as Bungdit Din, it's all there. The Khasi, it just goes on.

In addition to a previous question, (not only Thora Hird) but Joan Sims is my favourite actress from all of the Carry On films. With each character she plays, and there have been many, she is thoroughly convincing, be it the junior nurse, the PE teacher or a Madam.
I also thought she was wonderful as Madge Hardcastle in As Time Goes By, Mrs Wembley in On the Up, 'just the one Mrs Wembley' is still quoted in my house along with 'oh dear I seem to be a little plastered' from Up the Khyber.

- Finally I've got to ask about your love of classic cars. How did all that come about?

I've always loved cars. Especially sporty ones. When I first met Robert he invited me to Oulton Park circuit, he had raced and won championships there many times. Cars were in his blood. His grandfather had thirteen Model T Ford taxis on Crewe Station. His drivers would take the troops from the First World War from Crewe station to their barracks in Preese Heath. So I sort of married into a car family. We love all sorts of Classic Vintage and Veteran motoring. Of the veteran cars some of them take a lot of gentle handling, almost all have no or little weather protection, so if it rains, you get wet. Oh the joy when it hails, but it's great to know that they are not just sitting in a museum. 


I'd like to thank Kathy for giving this fabulous interview, it's been a joy. You can follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyJones_

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

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