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Wilson, Keppel and Betty - BBC Radio

ChrisJBrady 20 Nov 11 - 04:13 PM
banjoman 21 Nov 11 - 07:27 AM
GUEST 21 Nov 11 - 11:27 AM
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Subject: Wilson, Keppel and Betty - BBC Radio
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 20 Nov 11 - 04:13 PM

Great programme on iPLayer recently by Babs Windsor on "Wilson, Keppel and Several Bettys"

And its on iPlayer.

This can be downloaded using RadioDownloader, or can be played directly and Audacity can capture the sound using the 'Stereo Mix' setting for input.

Maybe you need to run ExpatShield first to listen from overseas.


Barbara Windsor tells the story of the popular variety act Wilson, Keppel and Betty.

Wilson, Keppel and Betty formed one of the greatest eccentric dance acts of all time. Their names are so familiar and yet amazingly their fascinating story has never been told on radio before. As with many tales of the stars of music hall and variety, it is one which is shrouded in contradictions and myth.

The programme includes new research into their early days as a duo in Australia and America - and reveals how the act was catapulted to stardom when Wilson and Keppel met Betty.

Liverpudlian Jack Wilson and Irishman Joe Keppel were doleful, gangling, moustachioed and skinny-legged. They wore parodies of Eastern dress, usually a fez and a short nightshirt, revealing their scrawny legs. The third member was the glamorous Betty - who over the years was played by several different women.

They performed a side-splitting sand dance based on poses familiar from Egyptian tomb art, with Betty as the central seductress. Their complete seriousness added to the hilarity.

From the early 1930's the trio became an established feature of British variety shows and were chosen for several Royal Variety Performances. Because the act was visual and hence instantly understandable to anyone, they received many offers from Europe.

In 1938 it was reported that whilst performing at the Berlin Wintergarden they upset Goebbels who was disgusted at the display of bare legs, calling them 'bad for the morals of Nazi Youth'. Mussolini, however, is said to have loved the act.

Contributors include Bill Pertwee, Mark Colleano, Jean Kent, Georgy Jamieson and relatives of the trio.

The programme is written by Alan Stafford and produced in Manchester by Stephen Garner.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 11:30AM Thu, 17 Nov 2011
Available until 12:00AM Thu, 1 Jan 2099
Duration 30 minutes


Their 'sand dance' can be seen at

And on YouTube.


Another snippet of info. you guys will not be aware of. One of the Bettys auditioned for the part of 'Betty' was one Betty Bryant. She was a professional actress and clog dancer on the Bryant Showboats that ploughed the Mississippi River. Her father owned the Bryant Showboat. She auditioned for the Wilson, Keppel, and Betty music hall act in the USA. She was about 18 at the time. However her mother would not let her go travelling to Europe at such an early age. She wrote a book about her life as a 'river rat,' and mentioned her clog dancing in that.

Here's some links: - scroll down for Bryant

They have the Betty Bryant collection. This includes her costumes and dancing clogs (wooden-soled shoes). When they get time they're going to take some photos of these for me.

I had the great fortune to meet Betty in Park Ridge when I was passing through Chicago on the way home from Berea one Xmas in the early 1990s. We met at a local restaurant, and spent most of the lunch-time trading clog steps and talking about clog dancing and her life on the Showboat. She had her clogs there - split wooden-soled shoe variety. The waitress kind of put up with us clog dancing on the tiled floor of the restaurant. Sadly no-one followed up on this lead; I was hoping someone local could at least collect some steps or film her. But even when I met her her dancing days were really over.


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Subject: RE: Wilson, Keppel and Betty - BBC Radio
From: banjoman
Date: 21 Nov 11 - 07:27 AM

Probably dating myself, but I remember seeing them on our first television (circa 195?) and my Mum laughing herself silly. I think they did quite a few television apearances

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Subject: RE: Wilson, Keppel and Betty - BBC Radio
Date: 21 Nov 11 - 11:27 AM

Great! Thanks for pointing out Chris

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