Chirpy gap-toothed Liverpudlian comedian Jimmy Tarbuck had his big TV breakthrough in the early 1960s, when Beatlemania was at its height and he too sported a mop-top haircut. His cheeky, quick-fire wit fitted well with variety TV schedules of the 1960s and 1970s. However, 'Tarby' also became a household favourite by hosting the popular quiz show Winner Takes All (ITV, 1976-1986).
Tarbuck was born in Liverpool on 6th February 1940. His first steps into show business came as a Redcoat for Butlins' Pwlhelli holiday camp in North Wales in the late 1950s. He was spotted by Val Parnell, the influential British television producer and theatrical impresario, and landed a slot on ITV's Comedy Bandbox (1962). Tarbuck went on to make several guest appearances on Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and by 1965 he had become the show's resident compère.
In the 1960s and early 1970s Tarbuck hosted a string of comedy TV series and specials such as It's Tarbuck (ITV, 1964), Tarbuck's Back (ITV, 1968), Tarbuck's Luck (ITV, 1970) and The Jimmy Tarbuck Show (ITV, 1974). In 1975 he branched into gameshows, presenting ITV's popular betting-cum-general knowledge quiz, Winner Takes All (1975-1986). He went on to host the missing word quiz, Tarby's Frame (ITV, 1987-89) and indulged one of his passions via the BBC's virtual golf game, Full Swing (1996).
In the 1980s, Tarbuck signed a five-year deal with London Weekend Television, which saw him host Live From Her Majesty's (1983-1985), Live from the Piccadilly (1986) and return to his old London stamping ground with Live From the Palladium (1987-1988). During this period he also starred in a series of variety specials called Tarby and Friends (1984-1986) and a late night variation called After Ten with Tarbuck (1988).
In the 1990s, LWT's An Audience with Jimmy Tarbuck proved a critical as well as a ratings winner, and earned the comedian another talk show called Tarbuck Late (ITV, 1994-1995). He was much in demand as a guest on programmes as diverse as Room 101 (BBC, tx. 22/9/1995) and The Mrs Merton Show (BBC, tx. 2/4/1998). He also continued to host shows such as the BBC's New Comedy Awards (2002) and For One Night Only (ITV1, 2008).
In 1994 Tarbuck was awarded the OBE for services to show business and charity. His daughter is the actress Liza Tarbuck, whose uncle he played in an episode of Linda Green (BBC, tx. 18/12/2001).