The Sooty story begins in Blackpool in 1948, when an entertainer and amateur magician named Harry Corbett was on a family holiday with his wife and children, where he bought a yellow bear glove puppet for his young son Peter Corbett (aka Matthew Corbett) Harry decided to incorporate the puppet into his act, at this point naming him simply 'teddy'.
In 1952 Harry was spotted by a TV producer who invited Harry on the BBC's Talent Night. It was decided in order for 'teddy to stand out on black and white TV, that Harry's wife Marjorie sewed on a black nose and mouth, while also blackening his ears with soot. From then on he would be renamed 'Sooty'!
After the appearances were a success, the BBC commissioned Sooty his own TV show, which began to air in 1955. Two years later a playmate for Sooty was introduced, a grey dog that squeaked named Sweep! In 1964 Harry decided he wanted to introduce a girlfriend for Sooty and Soo made he debut appearance! However this move wasn't without controversey, as the BBC famously frowned upon 'sex' being introduced into children's television. However the BBC relented and allowed Soo to appear on the Sooty show. Soo was voiced by Harry's wife, Marjorie Corbett. By 1968, Harry decided to take Sooty over to Thames Televison after the BBC decided to axe The Sooty Show in 1967. From 1968, Sooty in it's many TV show incaranations has been with ITV ever since!
Harry Corbett poses for a picture with Sooty fan Ruth Wilcoxon (and her brother) Ruth says this photo was taken around 1960 at Southsea promenade. Many thanks go to Ruth for sharing her photo and memories with us!
In December 1975, Harry Corbett suffered an heart attack and it was decided that he could no longer host the television show on a full time basis due to his health. In 1976, Harry's son, Peter Corbett (under the stage name of Matthew Corbett) bought all the rights to the Sooty franchise and took over the show from his father. The deal was that Harry would never perform with Sooty on TV again (and only be allowed to perform live shows around the country) As Harry recovered, getting better, he wanted to buy back Sooty. However Matthew stook to his guns and instead Harry made regular guest appearances on the show for the 1977 and 1978 seasons. He had a regular slot each week on the 1977 series, called 'Harry Remembers' which was a short film of one of Sooty's past adventures. He also appeared in film sketches in the 1978 series.
In 1980, Matthew changed the entire format of the show, giving it the family home enviroment in the form of the Sooteries Cottage which most children of the 80's are familiar with! In each episode, the show would focus on an adventure the gang had! This series began with the 1980 Christmas special (the first episode to be based in the Sooteries cottage!) and concluded in the February of 1981. By this point many of the show's regulars including Butch The Bulldog, Ramsbottom the snake, Maggie Mouse and Tiggs the cat would only make guest/cameo appearances on the show. For the first series that was filmed in 1981, it was decided that Marjorie Corbett was getting a bit too old to voice Soo and she retired from the role. Brenda Longman took over the role, a voice which she has provided Soo now for 30 years! Harry Corbett made his final TV appearance on the Sooty Show in the 1984 episode, "Fathers Day" and 5 years later in 1989, Harry Corbett passed away. In 1990 a new regular was introduced to the show, Sooty's Little Cousin Scampi, who became a regular from 1991.
The Sooty Show with Matthew Corbett ran for 17 years and a total of 18 individual series between 1976-1992! In 1992, Thames TV lost it's ITV franchise to Carlton. Most programmes produced by Thames closed production, with only a select few being picked up by ITV for new series. Matthew Corbett took the Sooty franchise over to Granada Televsion, to produce a brand new series starring Sooty, Sweep, Soo and Scampi, which was called 'Sooty & Co'. Sooty & Co ran for 6 years between 1993-1998. In 1996, Matthew sold the rights to the Sooty franchise to Gullane Entertainment and as part of the deal would go on to star in two more series of Sooty & Co. In 1998, on Sooty's 50th Birthday year, Matthew decided to retire through ill health, as he had leukemia. He maintained that he wanted to enjoy his retirement years with his wife and family and not work himself to his grave, like he felt his father had done. It was the end of an era for the Corbett family and all the fans who grew up with Harry and Matthew Corbett on the Sooty Show.
From 1999, Sooty and the gang would star in a brand new series called Sooty Heights, with Sooty's new token human being, Richard Cadell. Richard Cadell was already known to Sooty fans from his appearance as a guest artist on the Sooty Show in 1985's Sooty Christmas special. Matthew had kept in contact with Richard and had an hand in picking him to be his successor. In 2002, Hit Entertainment bought out Gullane Entertainment, taking over ownership of the Sooty brand. Hit Entertainment made many changes over the next year or so, to the Sooty format, which included replacing Brenda Longman who had been the voice of Soo for over 20 years! A new female cat character was also introduced called Miki. The changes perhaps went a tad too far and were a turn off for some viewers. The magic that Harry and Matthew Corbett held for so many generations of kids was slowly fading away. A new series in 2006, 3 years after the previous series was cancelled by ITV, which in turn slashed the value of the overall brand. In 2007 Hit Entertainment put the Sooty franchise up for sale at a lower value than Gullane Entertainment had actually paid for it. Upon Sooty's 60th Birthday in 2008, Richard Cadell announced that he had bought all the rights to Sooty and was working on new entertainment starring the little yellow bear and his friends.
Since buying the rights to Sooty, Richard Cadell has made many public appearances with Sooty, starred in Sooty stage shows and as of 2010, planning for a new TV series had started. In 2011 it was announced that a new series was being filmed and it would tentively air in the autumn of the same year. Brenda Longman was back as the voice of Soo, as well as the old puppeteers and production team from when Matthew hosted the series! Many fans old and new look forward to the return of such an engaging and entertaining character. We all hope Sooty will make a big comeback and entertain a new generation of kids, along with their parents who remember the warmth and humour they experienced growing up with Sooty and the gang!
Disclaimer: TheSootyShow.org is in no way affiliated with the official Sooty Show website or any of the copyright owners of the Sooty franchise. TheSootyShow.org is a fan site dedicated to the original Sooty Show and a tribute to the work Matthew Corbett did on the show. This is a non profit fan resource, which is being run as an hobby. If the current copyright owners wish for anything to be removed from this site, please send us an email by clicking here!