August 12, 2003 by

Don Estelle


Categories: Actors, Musicians

destelle.jpgDon Estelle, the 4-foot-9-inch actor and singer who was best known for playing Gunner “Lofty” Sugden in the British comedy series “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum,” died on Aug. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 70.
Estelle started his singing career as a boy soprano at the Holy Trinity Church in Darwen, England. After World War II ended, he moved to Manchester and joined the Manchester Kentucky Minstrels charity group. He embarked on a solo career on the North of England Club circuit where he met actor Windsor Davies. They formed a double act and toured the U.K. for four years.
His first television role was in David Croft’s show, “Dad’s Army.” Estelle had a small role in the series, and when Croft began to develop “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum,” Estelle was his first choice for the part of Lofty Sugden. The role of Sgt.-Major “Shut Up” Williams was played by Davies. “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” aired from 1974 to 1981, and became a cult classic in Australia and New Zealand.
In 1975, a cast album was recorded. The Estelle and Davies release, “Whispering Grass,” topped the British charts and sold more than 1 million copies. They also recorded the album, “Sing Lofty,” which became one of EMI’s top 20 best-selling albums.
Estelle appeared in a variety of television programs, from “The Benny Hill Show” to ” Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He released 11 albums in his career, including “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Lonely Wine” and “The Best of Don Estelle Requests.” In 1999, Estelle published his memoirs, “Sing Lofty: Thoughts of a Gemini.”

22 Responses to Don Estelle

  1. craig miller

    I met when i was a child in MICHEAL PARISH DEPARTMENT STORE Newcastle He asked me when i was born, then he told me on the day i was born he and windsor davies were NO1 in the charts may god be with you and all who KNEW YOU R.I.P.CRAIG

  2. Peter Colmore

    I have just found out and must say the world will be a sadder place without you in it.
    you had a beautiful voice.
    “mourn not that he is gone but rejoice that he ever was”

  3. mark

    I can’t believe this guy sung so well! I only ever watched a few episodes of it ain’t half hot mum! having listend to the whispering grass song i could not believe this was the same fellow this would easily have fit in shawshank redemption the film or something of similar stlye amazing! and god rest his soul!

  4. Scouse PNG

    A friend of mine just brought back It ain’t half hot mum on DVD back to PNG to watch, brings back great childhood memories
    Mike Roberts

  5. Pete Cresswell

    Don had a voice in a million, we will be reminded of him on the 9th of December 2006 when we are putting a show on at our club, where the Don and Windsor classic Whispering Grass will be performed. R.I.P Don
    Pete Cresswell

  6. Jerry Lloyd

    I knew you personally from College Bank Flats such a nice friendly and polite man who was always cheerful but sadly deterioated in his final few months.RIP and god bless you

  7. Brendon Chetham

    I am sorry to learn only now of your passing and forgive me for the late entry here but I felt compelled to pay my deepest respects to a wonderful talented singer, and actor.
    You were a gracious gentleman whom would take the time to write back to your fans personally.
    You had a wonderful voice and I know you enjoyed visiting New Zealand especially Christchurh regularly.
    Your songs will continue to brighten my days ahead and I know you will be missed by many in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
    My condolences to your wife, and friends you left behind.
    God bless you Don.
    Arohanui o Aotearoa
    With Love From New Zealand

  8. René Spee from Holland

    thnx a lot for the laughs you gave me and my mum [whom past away on March 9th 1976] with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and we loved the song with Windsor Davies [Whispering Grass].
    R.I.P. Don, me mate!
    And thnx again w’ll miss you!

  9. Sverre Helgesen

    I met Don Estelle in August ’62, at the Garrick Theatre. Bernard Miles used to bus-in presumptive punters to show them the stars (and work for him!!) The Garrick was the best watering-hole in town, where you had to go to be seen (in the mornings, especially at weekends) and the cream of showbiz looked at this tiny man over their cups of tea, and wondered. He looked at the glances, understood, squared-off his shoulders… and showed them all why he was there. The cacophony of chattering stars fell instantly silent. When he finished singing he was given a standing ovation for 5 minutes. When the silence fell he sniffed a bit, and said, “I sings a bit.” Not a few who made a living out of singing wondered if they had a job left, let alone a career. But, like Roger Whittaker (who had shocked the assembled showbiz crowd the same way earlier that year) Don found out the hard way if you don’t have backup you’re history. Too many of those singer-stars had powerful friends and saw too it neither got a foot in. Miles was training to take over from him (scriptwrighting and stage manager) but things went awry and it never happened. If it had ‘happened’ you would have seen and heard more of little Don Estelle, believe me (Roger, too). I asked if I might take Don by the hand, and was so privilaged. A nice man. A BIG man.

  10. Brian Harris

    I know it is a long time after Don’s passing, but did not know this site existed until today. What a great star he is sadly missed to this day. I thought he was a great actor, comedian and Singer. He can still give a lot of the stars these days a run for their money. What a voice. Such a lovely man, and what wonderful songs he chose to sing. I am going to buy his Ultimate Collection CD available from HMV even though it is expensive, he is worth every penny. Rest in peace Don we love you.

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