Myles Rudge

'Right Said Fred' lyricist


Myles Peter Carpenter Rudge, lyricist and scriptwriter: born Bristol 8 July 1926; died 10 October 2007.

The skill in creating a good comedy record lies in making something that listeners will want to hear more than once. The lyricist Myles Rudge and his musical partner Ted Dicks knew exactly how to do this. They wrote Bernard Cribbins' Top 10 singles from 1962 "The Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred", and long after the jokes were known, listeners could appreciate their ingenuity: a combination of Rudge's clever lyrics and Dicks' cheery melodies, with George Martin's oddball arrangements and Bernard Cribbins' delight at being a working man telling a story.

Myles Rudge was born in Bristol in 1926. His father wrote advertising copy and although he attended Bristol Grammar School, he was not a particularly good student. As a child, he acted in BBC radio productions and then became a juvenile actor at the Liverpool Playhouse. In true comic fashion, a bomb exploded in a field near his digs and blew him off a lavatory seat. In 1944, Rudge joined the Royal Navy. After the war he trained at Rada before returning to repertory. He wrote sketches for Hermione Gingold and Robert Morley.

While playing a tall, gangly blond asking "Anyone for tennis?" in the West End production of Salad Days, Rudge befriended the pianist Ted Dicks and they decided to write together. They wrote for a 1960 revue at the Fortune Theatre, And Another Thing, in which the comedy actor Bernard Cribbins performed their witty "Folk Song". George Martin was the label manager of Parlophone Records but one of his specialities was comedy. He released "Folk Song", which sold 25,000 copies despite restricted airplay because of its innuendo:

When shall you and I be wed

I have bought a double bed

And father is complaining

The single led to "The Hole in the Ground", in which Cribbins plays a council worker who has no idea why he is digging the hole, but a "bloke in a bowler hat" is handing out instructions. While the song was in the charts, Noël Coward appeared on Desert Island Discs and chose it as one of his favourite records.

"It was a bloody good record," says Bernard Cribbins,

I met Annie Ross who was singing with Count Basie and his Orchestra on a UK tour. She told me that a lot of the Basie band had heard it and gone potty about it. They were taking back copies to give to their friends. I can see why. It had a nice jazzy feel about it. It is a comedy song but there are some nice jazz phrases in there.

After some removal men had difficulty in shifting Ted Dicks' piano, the pair wrote "Right Said Fred". The song is about three workers trying to move some unspecified object. The title passed into the vernacular and in the early 1990s became the name of a pop group.

Rudge and Dicks wrote most of the album A Combination of Cribbins (1962), but although they wrote 16 songs for Cribbins, none of the others could match the inventiveness or commercial success of "The Hole in the Ground" or "Right Said Fred". Their comments on fashion ("Winkle Picker Shoes Blues" and "Get Your Hair Cut") were unexceptional, while Cribbins was wasted as a fireman in "Ringing On the Engine Bell".

Their only other comic song of note was "A Windmill in Old Amsterdam" for Ronnie Hilton in 1964. It was a silly song about "a little mouse with clogs on" and Rudge created another familiar phrase, "How lucky we am". "I recorded that with just the rhythm section," Hilton told me, "and Wally Ridley, my producer, told me not to bother about the rest of it. I didn't know that he was going to use the Mike Sammes Singers speeded up to sound like mice."

Rudge and Dicks wrote the theme song for Carry On Screaming (1966), and, rather out of character, Rudge combined his talent with that of Riziero Ortaloni for "Only Your Love", the love theme from the Mafia movie The Valachi Papers (1972).

Rudge often worked with Kenneth Williams, co-writing his radio series Stop Messing About (1969-70) as well as his comedy album Kenneth Williams On Pleasure Bent (1967). In 1969, he wrote a spoof documentary for Radio 3, A Tribute to Greatness, in which Williams played an actor knight. Having established that Williams' greatest talent is to learn his lines, the interviewer remarks, "This is something that all the great ones have in common – Olivier, Gielgud, Guinness." "What?" says Williams. "Guinness." "Yes, that helps of course. I wish Mary would hurry up with the tea."

As well as television scripts for Comedy Playhouse, On the Buses, and the soap Compact, Rudge wrote sketches and patter for Lulu, Harry Secombe and Dora Bryan. In 1982 he created Father Charlie, a sitcom starring Lionel Jeffries and Anna Quayle.

Spencer Leigh

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions