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Moulton Seas End's John Ward on the night he met Mrs Buddy Holly and being 'hot in Murumansk'

I was listening to the radio the other day in between the presenter being in love with her own voice (seemingly) but one interesting bit was it’s currently the 30th anniversary presently of the stage musical show ‘Buddy’ about the singer, songwriter and musician Buddy Holly.

When it first opened in London I had been invited to appear on the then ‘new kid on the block’ in the telly jungle called SKY or to be precise ‘Jameson Tonight’ starring the late Derek Jameson that went out ‘live’ at 10pm but was recorded hours beforehand then edited etc.

As a guest I had no idea of who the other guests were until getting there - it was recorded in Paramount City in Great Windmill street in London but perhaps more famously known as the old Windmill Theatre so in theory I could say that I ‘had performed at the Windmill’ but never bothered although I have met folk who claim to have done so but have never set foot in the place.

John Ward (16810334)
John Ward (16810334)

As soon as I got there I was aware of the other guests as in actress Shirley Anne-Field, Don King, well known American boxing promoter, Mrs Santiago-Holly both of whom I didn’t know much about but they maybe thought the same about me so level pegging there.

As it was all rushed it would have been nice to have been formally introduced as is normally the case, but Shirley Anne-Field of whom as a mere childlet I had shown some of her films she had starred or appeared in as I had worked as a cinema projectionist and so this was in a sense quite a buzz to me (I knew then maybe that this growing old malarkey would pay dividends if I kept going at it long enough).

I did meet the lady herself during the show and to be honest she was very charming and pleasant as I was of a mind that some people in these supposedly lofty positions can - and are, believe me - be quite loathsome so this was doubly a memorable time.

John Ward met Buddy Holly's wife during an appearance on Sky.
John Ward met Buddy Holly's wife during an appearance on Sky.


If you have any knowledge of Derek Jameson, there is not much else to say as ‘what you saw, you got’ as the saying goes but I found him okay although I gathered he did not suffer fools gladly so how I survived I’m still not too sure about.

At the time SKY was in its infancy but Derek’s show was on every night during the week for an hour although the ‘audience’ was an experience to say the least - they were dragged, sorry, invited in off the street outside to fill seats but some had just downed a few pints or bottles of ‘falling down fluid’ beforehand that was quite evident, more so when they broke out into a sing-song among themselves.

Prior to the recording, Derek and I were waiting to get into make-up (in my case, a buffing down of the head bone in case I reflected in the lights) as I asked Derek, as his show had only been going a few weeks at the time, plus not many in the country had a SKY dish etc, so any ideas as to what was his viewing figures were so far.

Derek paused and his swift but direct response was thus: ‘We are not so clever here (Britain) but we are xxxx hot in Murmansk’ (!) and to say I was quite surprised /amazed/gobsmacked on that one as being in Russia, being Murmansk was Russian speaking so just how did they understand him or the show itself as it was not translated into their language as far as I was able to find out later from the production team.

I couldn’t wait to get home to tell the folks that I too was probably ‘xxxx hot in Murmansk’ although they would not have understood a single word I would have said - inspiring or what? - as what was Russian for Bra Warmer?.. Safety Net for Yo-Yo’s? Being my specialty conversational subject matter

Seven o’clock; we were ‘painted and powdered’ ready with us guests sat in what was originally the Circle in days gone by when it was the old Windmill theatre.

Running order was Don King, Shirley Ann-Field, me with Mrs Santiago-Holly ‘topping’ but as we sat there I could not help but think where had I seen her before? - does she sing? - dance? - juggle? - not a clue so here is where I went for the Gold award for sticking one‘s foot in it.

I said those immortal words: ‘Excuse me but where do I know you from?..’ at which point had the ground opened up beneath me, burped and swallowed me whole, I would not have been surprised as she replied.

‘I don’t think you would know me as I am not really anybody..’ which she must have noted my puzzled look even in those half lights of the Circle area as she continued: ‘But you may have heard of my husband - Buddy Holly’

To say I nearly died there and then would be an understatement but as she explained the stage show ‘Buddy’ had just opened in London and the ‘Sunday People’ newspaper had invited her over to see it plus assess as then the penny dropped.

I had read the ‘People’ over at mum’s, of the people for the people also, as it was a double page centre spread job with her photo in numerous shots with the cast etc, as she gave her opinion of it (thumbs up) plus she was there on Derek’s show among others lined up promoting it.

Amid my collection of ‘bits and bobs’ I still have that centre spread as a sort of souvenir along with my ‘Jameson Tonight’ throwaway promotion pen but the ink has run out now of course before you wonder.

So when I hear any references to Buddy Holly this always comes to mind - and yes I have seen the show and would go again willingly - but there is a sort of sting in the tail in a manner of speaking.

Sadly not being aware of who the other guests were, I may well have taken my old school chum Reg with me as this would have made his day as he was a big Buddy Holly fan with loads of original records, CDs or anything Buddy related as he was perhaps his number one fan (like so many others of course) and would have loved meeting her.

Reg had a brain tumour for some time and was partially wheelchair bound but he battled on together with his amazing and devoted wife Betty who was a nurse but he was incredibly talented as he loved painting and some of them today adorn many walls.

Reg passed away a few years later (he was only in his 40s) and I would have loved to have taken him there had I known the guest list.

Reg had many friends as could be seen as the church was packed, standing room only, and even his consultant was there.

We followed his coffin from the church to the sound of Buddy singing and perhaps not a dry eye among the mourners.

I know its late now but if anybody does pop into Murmansk, can they ask if we went down okay that night?

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