A Short History of Benny Hill (1924 –1992) on ZANI

Written by Cameron K
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Alfred Hawthorne Hill was born in Southampton, Hampshire. During World War II, he was evacuated to various towns along the West Coast of England.
When he left school he did various casual jobs including a milkman, before becoming an assistant stage manager. He worked as a comic from age 16 but always in the provinces and never London. His early comic style was based on American comedians like Danny Thomas and Danny Kaye. Alfred particular loved Jack Benny, so he took the stage name ‘Benny’ Hill.

He progressed to becoming a straight man for Reg Varney, and then tried radio. Benny was never happy with live work and found TV the medium that suited him best. His first appearance was on Hi There (BBC) in 1951. On television he excelled in vaudeville styled gags with heavy slapstick, innuendo, and parody. He had a long career on television and appeared in several movies. His film debut was Who Done It? (1956 film).

Later he confined his film works to short cameos: such as in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968); and The Italian Job (1969).

Benny Hill was a modern master of double entendre. During Victorian Times because concerns were expressed at the open lewdness of public performers in music halls, censorship was introduced. In an attempt to clean up reference to bodily functions and sex were all banned but clever comedians derived double engenders (double meaning) avoided breaking the law whilst at the same time was plain to all, what was being referred to.

Benny loved comic songs and parodies, and combined these with double engenders. Most of his recordings which were done in the 60s, lampooned the popular pop music of the time with several of his comic records ironically reaching the UK singles charts.

‘Gather in the Mushrooms,’ (1961) was produced by Tony Hatch and reached Number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. In the same year this was followed by ‘Pepys Diary, another song written and performed by Benny Hill. This was one if his personal favourites, and featured a restoration-style arrangement with harpsichord and woodwind.

Later the same year Benny Hill recorded ‘Transistor Radio’, written by himself and produced by Mark Anthony (a pseudonym of producer Tony Hatch). The song told the story of a man whose attempts at intimacy with his girlfriend are constantly thwarted by music played from the girl's transistor radio. The song reached the UK Top-20.

Another chart success came with "Harvest of Love" (1963) co-written by Benny Hill and Tony Hatch (aka M. Anthony). The backup singers were called the Kestrels (Roger Greenaway, Tony Burrows, Jeff Williams, and Roger Gullane) but instead of singing they provide a vocal back-up of farmyard impressions.

The B-side was Bamba 3688 which was parody of La Bamba.

Throughout the 60s Benny released a series of humorous singles most of which originally appeared on the Benny Hill television shows. By far the most successful of Benny Hill’s recording was "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)," written again by the comedian. It rose to top the Christmas charts in 1971 and remained there for four weeks. The lyrics were purportedly inspired by his early experience as a milkman and the song was composed in 1955.

Article Kippen C. 2016 Cameron K's blog Retrieved from

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Cameron K

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