The Shuttleworths (BBC Radio 4, 1993-2010)
A while ago, I looked back at 500 Bus Stops, the BBC2 series that gave some TV exposure to the comedy character John Shuttleworth. He had various series on the radio as well, which have been repeated in more recent years on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra. Shuttleworth was of course the self-styled versatile singer-songwriter from Sheffield, who was created and played by Graham Fellows.
Now he already knew a little about having some musical success, being behind the Jilted John character, who really did have a hit single. Shuttleworth by comparison was someone who was rather dull, but in an amusing way. He often toured the country with his trusty old keyboard, and he delighted crowds with such self-composed bangers as “My Wife Died In 1970”. Who needs Britpop, when you can enjoy lovely music like this.
Throughout the several series of The Shuttleworths, we gained further insight into his life at home, as we got the chance to meet some family and friends, including the wife Mary, and his agent Ken (both of these were voiced by Fellows too). With this quirky mixture of comedy and music, listeners really were rather keen to find out what he had been up to, and hear his latest songs.
There was also the feature “Make Mary Merry”, where famous comedians would be invited round to John’s house to perform some of their routine to his wife, in the hope that this might cause her some amusement. However, being a rather dour character, this was more difficult to do than was it seemed, and many a comic (even Milton Jones) had to deal with an unexpectedly awkward moment. As John might say himself, “oof!”.
Shuttleworth has featured in several other radio series. These include Shuttleworth’s Showtime (BBC Radio 1, 1994), Radio Shuttleworth (BBC Radio 4, 1998-2000), and John Shuttleworth’s Open Mind (BBC Radio 4, 2006), where he met various guests who tried to explain to him some of the mysteries of the world, and try to remove his scepticism. Are there really aliens and vampires out there?
And in John Shuttleworth’s Lounge Music (BBC Radio 4, 2014-2016), he would be joined by a musical guest (most of them found fame in the 80s), such as Heaven 17 (they’re still going??) or Nick Heyward, where they would be invited to join in with his songs, or even perform one of their own if there’s time. Most of these series only had 15 minute episodes, but they definitely packed in a lot of amusing moments.