Radio 4 to air Morecambe and Wise recordings found in garage

An unheard treasure trove of vintage recordings by comedy greats Morecambe and Wise is to be aired for the first time by Radio 4, it was announced today.

Some of the sketches were trial runs for material which later turned up on the duo's hugely popular shows in the 1970s.

The dusty recordings - which also feature Bob Monkhouse - were stored in a garage and were uncovered six months ago by Ernie Wise's widow Doreen when she was moving home.

Some of the 1950s routines have been taken from acetate discs, while other material was found on reel-to-reel tapes.

Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said: "It's good stuff that's never been heard before and raw stuff from the early 50s."

Other performers on the tapes included the late Goon Show performer Harry Secombe.

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were the kings of TV comedy in the 1970s, and their Christmas specials pulled in up to 28 million people, a colossal feat which has rarely been bettered.

With their gags about Wise's "short, fat, hairy legs", gags about Des O'Connor and long-running sketches about Wise's thwarted attempts to write a theatrical play, they were one of television's dominant forces.

Yet their comedy partnership had been forged decades earlier as they trudged the variety circuit and performed on dozens of radio shows.

A letter recently discovered by Morecambe's son Gary showed that his father had at one point contemplated dissolving the act in around 1950 when it had failed to take off.

The newly found haul of recordings has been repaired in part, but Mr Damazer said: "Not all of it was restorable."

Around 45 hours of material was found, including a long-lost 1954 radio series You're Only Young Once, the pair's first BBC show.

Audio from the pilot for their ATV series was also found as well as master copies of songs, after-dinner speeches given by Eric and Ernie and tapes of pier shows.

Mr Damazer said: "Some of the sketches were remade for the 1970s. There was a famous Dick Turpin sketch with double entendres which started out in '53 or '54 and ended up on TV in around 1975.

"They are both a bit of comedy history and entertaining in themselves," he added.

The duo's TV shows continued until the early 1980s but were ended by Morecambe's death in 1984. Wise died in 1999.

Jon Culshaw is to present the programme Morecambe and Wise: The Garage Tapes, which will be broadcast by Radio 4 on May 4.