Legendary Derbyshire comedian Bernie Clifton says he had ‘the time of his life’ auditioning for hit BBC singing show The Voice.
The veteran entertainer, who lives in Barlow, received a standing ovation for his rousing performance of The Impossible Dream in the first episode of the new series on Saturday night.
Famed for riding Oswald the Ostrich, Bernie certainly charmed the four judges – Ricky Wilson, Boy George, will.i.am and Paloma Faith – but sadly he is out of the contest as none of them chose to take him through to the next round.
The 79-year-old, who wanted to show off his vocal talent and prove to viewers he’s not just a funnyman on an ostrich, said: “I’ve had the time of my life and I’d do it all over again – it’s been a magical trip.
“Whether you’re 19, 89 or 99, if you’ve got something you think you ought to work on, you should go out and have a go because if I can do it, anybody can.”
Bernie’s performance moved judge Ricky to tears.
The Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman said: “He shaped my childhood. He was a big, big star. He has a great voice.”
He even hopped up on stage to get a lesson in riding Oswald the Ostrich. Bernie joked he and the Ricky could team up – then quipped he’d make him do all of the work.
And the jokes kept coming from the comedian, who found fame in the 1970s and 1980s for appearing in popular shows like Crackerjack, Seaside Special and The Good Old Days.
When asked by Boy George if he was keeping busy these days, Bernie replied: “Well there’s not much work for elderly ostrich jockeys.”
Whether you’re 19, 89 or 99, if you’ve got something you think you ought to work on, you should go out and have a go because if I can do it, anybody canBernie Clifton
The packed studio erupted with laughter.
Scores of social media users took to Twitter and Facebook to describe him as “an absoulte legend”.
Bernie began singing as a teenager but “buried” his voice as he developed his variety act.
He started working with a vocal coach three years ago.
“The more the voice came out, the more I realised that I really ought to try and find a vehicle for it because I wanted people to know there’s more to me than the ostrich,” he said.
“How could I get a job singing on TV? There’s just no chance. But then I thought of The Voice. I went through the process like anybody off the street.
“I auditioned anonymously under my real name, Bernard Quinn. I just queued up with everybody else, but without my family or manager in case they tried to talk me out of it.
“As I got audition after audition, the producers asked me to sit down and tell them about myself and then the truth came out.”
Bernie told how he is rebuilding his life following the death of his beloved wife Marjorie, who passed away aged 68 in 2000.
He revealed he used to soothe her with song during her 12-year battle against dementia.
He told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “Dementia is a relentless, spiral dive. They become another person, a shadow. The image is the same but all the faculties just go out of the window.”
As he approaches 80, the entertainer is looking to the future.
“I’m 79 but pipe and slippers aren’t for me – I’ve always had a desire to sing,” he said.
“I’ve got a regular show on BBC Radio Sheffield, it goes out at weekends. Apart from that, I’m doing any gigs that come around.
“I’m also looking forward to putting out an album soon. I’d love to get into some form of musical theatre. I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment.”