Lance Percival

John Lancelot Blades Percival (26 July 1933 – 6 January 2015), known as Lance Percival, was an English actor, comedian and singer, best known for his appearances in satirical comedy television shows of the early 1960s and his ability to improvise comic calypsos about current news stories. He later became successful as an after-dinner speaker.[1]

Lance Percival
John Lancelot Blades Percival

(1933-07-26)26 July 1933
Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Died6 January 2015(2015-01-06) (aged 81)
London, England
Years active1961-1990


Percival was born in Sevenoaks, Kent,[2] and was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, where he learnt to play the guitar. He then did national service with the Seaforth Highlanders as a lieutenant and was posted to Egypt. In 1955 he emigrated to Canada where he worked as an advertising copywriter, writing jingles for radio. He also formed a calypso group as "Lord Lance" which toured the US and Canada.[3]

He first became well known in the early 1960s for performing topical calypsos on television shows such as That Was The Week That Was, after having been discovered by Ned Sherrin, performing at the Blue Angel Club in Mayfair.[4] A tall thin man with a distinctive crooked nose and prominent ears, he also appeared in several British comedy films including the Carry On film Carry On Cruising (1962). He had a cameo role in The V.I.P.s (1963) and another in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964). He also appeared in his own BBC TV comedy series Lance at Large (also 1964), with writers Peter Tinniswood and David Nobbs.

Working, like many British comics of the era, with George Martin at Parlophone, Percival had one UK Singles Chart hit, his cover version of a calypso-style song entitled "Shame and Scandal in the Family" which reached number 37 in October 1965,[5] and recorded several other comedy songs, including "The Beetroot Song" ("If You Like Beetroot I'll Be True To You", 1963), written by Mitch Murray, and "The Maharajah of Brum" (1967), written with Martin.[6]

Later he provided the voice of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for the cartoon series The Beatles (1965), leading to his voicing the central character "Old Fred" in the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine. He also appeared as an "upper class tramp" in the Herman's Hermits film Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968).[7] During the 1960s and 1970s, on BBC Radio 4 and on its predecessor the BBC Home Service, he was a regular panelist on Ian Messiter’s Many a Slip.[8]

He starred alongside Julie Andrews, Rock Hudson and Jeremy Kemp in the musical film Darling Lili (1970) and also appeared in There's a Girl in My Soup.

On 14 December 1970, he was involved in a fatal three-car crash in his Jaguar XJ on a dangerous stretch of road near Farningham, Kent. Percival almost lost the sight of one eye and was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. In a legal action that reached the Court of Appeal he paid a total of £35,781 in damages to his two passengers and to the widow and the two children of the driver who was killed (equivalent to £310,000 in 2016).[9][10][11][12][13]

Percival returned to film work in the Frankie Howerd films Up Pompeii (1971), Up the Chastity Belt (1971), and Up the Front (1972), sustaining a film career until 1978. Between 1972 and 1978 the Thames Television game show Whodunnit! was written by Percival and Jeremy Lloyd.

Percival appeared on BBC Radio light entertainment programmes such as Just a Minute throughout the 1980s and is also the author of two books of verse, Well-Versed Cats and Well-Versed Dogs, both illustrated by Lalla Ward. Subsequently he gained a reputation as a writer and later as an after-dinner speaker.[14]

Percival died on 6 January 2015, aged 81, after a long illness.[1] His son Jamie said: "When he spoke about his showbiz life, he spoke fondly of his time on That Was the Week That Was, and he always loved Ned Sherrin, who discovered him performing at the Blue Angel Club". He was cremated at Putney Vale Cemetery on 20 January 2015.[4]





  • 1963 – Riviera Cayf / You're Joking of Course (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5032]
  • 1963 – The Beetroot Song / Dancing in the Streets Tonight (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5071]
  • 1965 – There's Another One Behind / Shame and Scandal in the Family (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5335]
  • 1966 – If I Had Wings / My Girl, My Shirll (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5417]
  • 1966 – End of the Season / Our Jim (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5517]
  • 1967 – I'm Beautiful / I've Been Left Behind (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5657]
  • 1967 – The Maharajah of Brum / Taking the Maharajah Apart (7", Single) [Parlophone – R 5587]


  1. "PERCIVAL". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  2. "Percival, John Lancelot Blades (Lance) (1933–2015), actor and writer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-111886. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  3. Lance Percival Guardian Obituary. Retrieved 9 January 2015
  4. "Comedy and satire star Percival dies". 9 January 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  5. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 423. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. "Discogs". Discogs. 26 July 1933. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  7. "Reviews & Ratings for Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter". Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  8. "Lance Percival - obituary". 9 January 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  9. "Lance Percival to face charge". The Glasgow Herald. 10 February 1971. p. 5. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  10. "Lance Percival for trial". The Glasgow Herald. 24 March 1971. p. 4. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  11. "Operation to save actor's eye". The Guardian. London. 16 December 1970. p. 20.
  12. "Percival to pay £5,200". The Guardian. London. 27 July 1974. p. 12. The court increased from £18,331 to £25,531 damages awarded to Mrs. Jillian Young, aged 31, for the death of her husband [...] Last year Mr. Percival, himself seriously injured in the accident, agreed to pay damages totalling £12,250 to his two passengers.
  13. United Kingdom Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth "consistent series" supplied in Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.K. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  14. "Lance Percival, Book After Dinner Speaker Lance Percival". Retrieved 21 December 2012.
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