Song Of The Week - Benny Hill - Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West
Benny Hill died twenty two years ago today. At one time he was British television’s most popular comedian and one of the UK’s biggest exports, his sketch show being sold all around the world, making him a huge star in America amongst many other countries. He counted Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Carson, and Michael Jackson amongst his devoted fans – Jackson even showed up at the comic’s flat in 1992 to meet his idol. But by the time he died, he was off TV screens, his long-running show cancelled, his humour having been deemed old fashioned and sexist in an increasingly politically correct world.
Alfred Hawthorne Hill changed his name in honour of his hero Jack Benny and began his career during his WWII service. He moved swiftly up through radio and became one of the early stars of the emerging medium of television, working for both the BBC and ITV. He began his twenty year run of The Benny Hill Show for ITV in 1969.
Before that however, he did make a few forays into the film world, most notably in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, as the toy maker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and as a rather peculiar perv in The Italian Job (alongside another long-time fan, Michael Caine.)
Music was always an important part of Benny’s act – indeed Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax became so synonymous with Hill’s end of show under-cracked and under-dressed chase sequences that it is now generally referred to as The Benny Hill theme.
In 1971 Hill delivered his finest musical moment, with his single Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West), which enjoyed a four week stint at the top of the UK pop charts, making it the Christmas number one for that year (it was deposed in the new year by the New Seekers’ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.)
The video – or short film as it would’ve been known at the time – features series regular sidekick Henry McGee, and is a classic mix of innuendo, horse kicking and murder in the street. Brilliant stuff from a man whose genius should never be in doubt.
Why not treat yourself to a bit of Benny this Easter?