John's songs in the key of life
John Shuttleworth, the comedy creation of Sheffield's Graham Fellows, is celebrating 30 years in the business this year. Ahead of two Belfast shows next week, he talks to Brian Campbell
THIS year marks John Shuttleworth's 30th year in the comedy/music business.
The Yamaha keyboard-playing Sheffield crooner, whose most popular tunes include One Foot in the Gravy, The Garden Centre of Eden, Can't Go Back to Savoury Now and Smells Like White Spirit, plays two shows in Belfast next Wednesday.
Shuttleworth is the comedy creation of Graham Fellows and he was the first performer to grace the Black Box stage at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in 2006.
Now he is on his way back to the same venue next Wednesday, when he'll play a lunchtime and evening show.
He will also be playing the slightly larger London Palladium on June 28, when he headlines a charity night in aid of MS. "Chas and Dave, Toyah and Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 are all playing," says Fellows. "So John Shuttleworth is finally playing Sunday Night at the Palladium. "In June 1985 I did my first demo tape as John, so it'll be a nice way to mark the 30 years."
He admits he got to open for quite a big name in the early days. "For the first five years it was mostly me doing tapes and then the odd performance.
I actually supported Robert Plant at The Marquee Club in London. It was such a low-key gig that it wasn't really publicised. That was 1987, I think."
It's just two years since Shuttleworth - a self-confessed fan of Northern Ireland comics Jimmy Cricket, Frank Carson and Roy Walker - last played the Out to Lunch festival and he's looking forward to coming back. "That last time was a lot of fun. The buzz was fantastic. A gig has two components - you and the audience. Sometimes a really good audience can help you through a gig and Belfast crowds are very appreciative. I find that they always really go for it."
Does he find it hard to put on two shows in one day? "No, I can cope. They'll be slightly shorter shows than I'd normally do. And you get looked after so well over there that I'll be feeling fine. It's the morning after that I'll be worried about," he laughs.
New show A Wee Ken To Remember is based around a pun.
Shuttleworth had set out to share fond memories of some of his favourite weekends - but a typo on the poster means he is now obliged to pay homage to his diminutive next-door neighbour and agent Ken Worthington. "We all like a little pun, even though this is an obscure little pun," explains Fellows. "John doesn't want to be talking about Ken. He would like to be talking about his favourite weekends, but Ken has ruined that by leaving the 'd' off. "People seem to be buying into the slightly dramatic theatrical structure. There is a kind of resolution at the end. "It's really about finding little links to the songs, because people want to hear songs like Two Margarines and Can't Go Back To Savoury Now."
He says there'll be a mix of staple tunes including Pigeons in Flight and Dandelion & Burdock, as well as new ones like Relatives In Rotherham. "A couple of the new ones are going down very well. The favourite is Mingling With Mourners, which is about the joys of having a nice funeral tea. "The chorus goes, 'Mingling with mourners, some sat down in corners / Others at the table, eyeing up the quiche.'"
* John Shuttleworth plays The Black Box in Belfast on Wednesday at 1pm and 8pm, as part of the Out to Lunch festival (cqaf.com).
n HAVING A LAUGH: John Shuttleworth