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Date: 12/09/06

The Master Blaster

Photo of 'Blaster' Bates

Derek McIntosh ('Blaster') Bates
Demolition expert and raconteur
b. 05/02/23, d. 01/09/06

It's perhaps difficult for the younger generation to understand what effect 'Blaster' Bates had when he first came to a wider audience in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here was a man who had been an engineer at Rolls Royce, a World War II bomber pilot, and an expert in demolition by explosives, who had found himself gaining wider recognition from going around Round Table societies and Rotary Clubs ("I never knew there were so many secret societies in Great Britain", he once said), talking about his work and the things that happened to him.

But 'Blaster' Bates was a born entertainer. Rather than give the bald facts about his job, he spun anecdotes into picaresque tales which would reduce his hearers to near incontinence as he would imitate the tones and accents of the well-bred Cheshire Life ladies, artsy-fartsy TV producers and gormless farmers he would meet along the way. He was as much a professional in that as he was in the demolition trade.

Such was his success that he released no fewer than eight LPs in seventeen years, in which his tales could be heard at length and in their natural environment - in front of an audience. His humour was down-to-earth, bawdy, but never obscene: his was the humour of the English tradesman of his day.

Here are three clips of the man in his element:

First (recorded from a BBC television programme in 1974), he describes how he started in the blasting business:

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Next, perhaps his most famous story, The Shower Of ____ Over Cheshire, taken from his first album Laughter With A Bang (1967):

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And, finally, my own favourite story. Geronimo (from the 1969 LP T.N.T. For Two) tells of what happened when he took a young photographer along to film a chimney stack coming down (this is quite a long story, but it's worth it just for the punchline):

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Apart from being very good at his job, 'Blaster' Bates brought a lot of laughter to a lot of people. I, for one, am most grateful to him for that.