Jon Culshaw uncovers an extraordinary audio archive of early Morecambe and Wise material, including a number of long lost tapes.
This is a genuine archive find of real importance. A few years ago, Doreen Wise, widow of Ernie, cleared the old family garage of piles of tapes and 78 recordings.
At the end of last year, Independent radio company Whistledown were contacted by Eric and Ernie's agents, and producer David Prest offered to look at the material.
"It was an extraordinary sight - a couple of old fruit boxes full of reel to reel tapes and a musty old red suitcase brimming with 78 records," says producer David Prest.
The most important finds are a number of long-lost episodes of Eric and Ernie's first radio show, "You're Only Young Once" which was made for the BBC between November 1953 and June 1954.
These feature songs, sketches, their trade mark banter and guest cameo appearances from other well-known perfomers including Bob Monkhouse.
The tapes in Ernie's garage are believed to be "run off" copies recorded at 33/4 ips by studio engineers immediately after the recordings, and probably never played since, as well as acetate copies which Doreen paid the studio engineer a few shillings for.
"Much of the value of the material is in what it shows about their comedy development. The early radio series are very naturalistic, and feature historical sketches and songs which precede the 1970s BBC TV shows by almost 15 years", says David.
Other treats include: Andre Previn's speech to Eric and Ernie at a Variety Club lunch in 1974, rare recordings of their Great Yarmouth and Blackpool shows from the mid-late sixties.
Also included are many original master tapes of songs, written for the duo, which show their skill in the recording studio.
The producers are David Prest and Stewart Henderson, and this is a Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.