We Interview Mike Fountain
InterviewMike Fountain became Eric Morecambe's chauffeur in 1969 and remained his driver through the hieght of Morecambe and Wise's career, until the sad death of Eric in 1984. In November 2007 we met up with him and he very kindly gave us the following interview;
You drove Eric from 1969 to 1984, have you always been a chauffeur, and what did you do if not?
I’ve been all sorts of things. A mushroom grower, postman, store owner, all sorts of things. Then I went into a car hire firm in Harpenden near to where Eric lived and eventually had my own business.
It was a car hire business, not hiring cars, but cars and drivers. Eric came along one day after he’d had his heart attack. That was when they were just back with the BBC in 1969. He asked if I would be interested in the contract to drive him backward and forward to the BBC as they were paying. I said yes of course, and that’s how it all started.
Was that on a fixed term contract?
It was just twelve months, just for the first series really. After the twelve months the BBC decided he was better and that they wouldn’t be paying for a driver anymore. Eric asked me at that point if I would like to go and work for him as a full time chauffeur.
It took me along time to decide… about 2 seconds.
Did you drive purely for Eric?
Yes. From then on I was just driving for Eric. There were odd little jobs for other people but I was employed by Eric.
We are all familiar with the Rolls Royce, but how many other cars did you drive for him?
We started off in 1969, at that time we had the Jensen Interceptor. That was my favourite car, it was really nice. It was marketed as a 2 seater+, which meant it had two seats and what can only be described as a bench in the back. There was no room at all for a third person, it was more of a sports car really. That was the only downside, when Eric and Joan went out together and I was driving, someone had to be screwed up in the back. It usually turned out to be Eric.
It was fine with two people, so when Eric was driving the two of them it was ok, but with a third person it was too small. It was also quite low, so it made it difficult to get in and out, especially if you had a long ball gown.
We then went on to the first Rolls, the grey J reg which has just been found down South somewhere. I think it’s its being restored at the moment, but I don’t know who actually has it.
From there we went onto the brown Rolls, the famous EM 100 registration plate in 1974 I think. That car lasted him all the way through until he died in 1984.
We also had a Saab Turbo, A Saab 1500 I think that Joan bought, and of course the old work horse, the Volvo Estate. That car lasted all the way through. It drove the dog around, it drove Gary around, it drove Gail around, it did everything.
There were others, at one point I think someone bought an Allegro! That was an awful car and I wouldn’t like to say who it was, but his name began with G!
Did you have any say in the cars, were you approached for advice before a purchase?
No. The Rolls was a bit of a status symbol I think, but on the other hand it was so worth it. When you are doing long journeys you need a comfortable car, and the Rolls was extremely comfortable. Eric didn’t normally sit in the back, but if he did there was room for a snooze, it was just a nice car.
One time I remember coming back from Brighton. Eric had bought a seafood take away because he loved shellfish. So after the show we picked up this huge box of shellfish, cockles, muscles, crab everything. He sat in the back and all you could see were bits of shells flying out of the windows of this Rolls Royce as it left Brighton!
Were cars merely functional to Eric, rather than just a status symbol then?
Oh yes. He enjoyed driving but when he got to the stage in his career where he didn’t have to, and he had me to drive him, I think he wanted something that was comfortable. For that there is nothing to beat a Rolls, so that’s what he had. He wasn’t really bothered about having a status symbol, it just fitted a purpose which was to get him somewhere in comfort.
© morecambeandwise.com 2007