Crackerjack star Bernie Clifton ditches the ostrich for The Voice


Crackerjack star Bernie Clifton has said he auditioned for The Voice because "there's more to me than the ostrich".

The veteran entertainer became a famous face in the 1970s and 1980s for a variety act which featured him astride a comedy bird named Oswald.

A regular on BBC children's series Crackerjack, Clifton also featured in popular shows of the day including Seaside Special and The Good Old Days.

In 2005 Clifton and Oswald made a memorable appearance in the Comic Relief video for Is This The Way To Amarillo? by Tony Christie featuring Peter Kay.

At the age of 79, he would like to fulfil his potential as a vocalist.

"I started out singing as a teenager with a dance band back home in St Helens, but then the nonsense took over my life - all the props that I started to develop when I was singing," Clifton told the Press Association.

"As the comedy took hold, the voice got buried," he said. "When the ostrich came along, it was just another prop.

"But it meant that the singing took a back seat and got buried until about three years ago when I convinced a vocal coach that I needed to take some serious singing lessons.

"He took me on, amazingly, and started to produce this voice that was buried."

Clifton continued: "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."

The comedian faced a television landscape vastly different from the one he had known in his heyday.

"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," he revealed.

"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. It's been a magical kind of a trip."

The BBC One hit returns tonight with an all-star line-up of coaches: US artist, Boy George of Culture Club fame and Brit award winners Ricky Wilson and Paloma Faith.

The quartet are hunting for a new pop sensation for the very last time on the BBC: the show will be broadcast by rival ITV after this series.

Although yet to produce a winner who has sustained a successful chart career, The Voice is popular with viewers.

Clifton is no exception.

When asked why he had selected the BBC One series over The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, he said it came down to "respect".

"I felt The Voice was a programme that gave the participants a lot of respect. It's a proper pop vehicle for proper voices."

Viewers will find out whether Clifton impresses the coaches in tonight's episode.

As he approaches 80, the entertainer is looking to the future.

"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," he said.

"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."

The Voice is broadcast at 7.30pm on BBC One.