On page three of the Scrap Book is a cut out of the lyrics of the song Mr Custer by Larry Verne but I mostly recall the 1960 version by the English comedian Charlie Drake and I remember it because it was often played on the Saturday morning Light programme radio show Children’s Favourites. I never did myself, because dad thought it was the waste of a stamp, but many children wrote in with requests, though often just to get their names mentioned on the radio and not because they wanted to listen to a special record.
The programme played requests from children of all ages and for most of its run the programme was introduced by a man called Derek Ivor Breashur McCulloch who was known affectionately as Uncle Mac. His opening words “Hello children, everywhere!” were his “catch-phrase” and McCulloch’s grandfatherly tone and plummy voice was nothing less than quintessentially ‘old-school’ BBC. Sadly Uncle Mac seems to have got caught up in the BBC Jimmy Saville sex abuse scandal and I really hope that this turns out not to be true.
The important thing about ‘Children’s Favourites’ at this time was that it only really played children’s songs – that was the whole point of it. Children today would probably request Boy Bands or X Factor winners but in and around 1960 they only asked for a relatively small number of pre-adolescent tunes.
These were some of my favourites:
The Laughing Policeman by Charles Penrose The Day the Lion Ate Albert by Stanley Holloway Hole in the Ground and Right Said Fred by Bernard Cribbins Runaway Train by Vernon Dalhart I Knew an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly and the Ugly Bug Ball by Burl Ives The Yellow Rose of Texas by Stan Freburg Kings New Clothes, Tubby the Tuba and The Ugly Duckling by Danny Kaye There’s a hole in my Bucket by Harry Belafonte Little White Bull by Tommy Steele My Brother by Terry Scott A Windmill in Old Amsterdam by Ronnie Hilton I am a Mole and I live in a Hole by the Southlanders Donald Where’s your Troosers by Andy Stewart Delaware by Perry Como Ragtime Cowboy Joe by the Chipmunks And another Charlie Drake song – My Bo0merang won’t come back.
Uncle Mac made his last broadcast in 1965 and several other presenters were then tried including Leslie Crowther and Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart. Eventually the style became less cosy and less reverent and as tastes changed, new favourites were added, though some of the old favourites remained for years. In 1980 Stewart was replaced as presenter by Tony Blackburn, but by this time the programme had come to be seen as somewhat old-fashioned and after he left Radio 1 Peter Powell took over the “Weekend Breakfast Show”, and the link with the “Uncle Mac” era was finally broken.