|Ralph Reader was born in Crewkerne
in Somerset on May 25, 1903. As a young man, he moved to
America where he became a leading light on Broadway. It
was there that he developed his performing, writing,
directing, dancing and other theatrical skills that
rightly earned him the title 'The Kid Dance Director".
It was during his time in New York that he worked with
the legendary Al Jolson, who had the greatest impact on
his life in the theatre.
In 1928, he returned to Britain and starred in the
musical 'Good News'. Ralph specialised in choreography
and directed the ensemble for many large West End shows,
including musicals presented by Ivor Novello at the
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He also created the dances
for a few film musicals in the 1930's starring the great
During WWII, he was the creator and driving force behind
the famous RAF Gang Shows, from which graduated a string
of stars such as Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery
and many more.
Despite all this fame and fortune, he remained a
loyal member of the Scout Movement. It was in 1932 when
his life changed forever when he produced the first Gang
Show, entitled "The Gang's all Here!" This one-off
fundraising event for the London Scout Council's
campsite (Downe) rapidly grew into a world-wide network
of Gang Shows that we all recognise and love today.
It is often said that, "every night of the year,
somewhere in the world a Gang Show is playing".
Over the years, Ralph wrote hundreds of songs and
numerous sketches that are used by Gang Shows
everywhere. In 1974, Ralph, a man in his 70's, decided
it was time to slow down and wrote and produced the
'Farewell London Gang Show', which was staged at the
Gaumont State Theatre, London, to packed houses and
Many awards and presentations were bestowed on Ralph
throughout his life in recognition of his commitment to
Scouting and to the world of entertainment. Some of
these awards included the MBE and subsequently the CBE.
He was made a Honorary Citizen of the State of Illinois
in 1961, and was awarded the Bronze Wolf from the World
Scout Association in 1975.
Ralph died in 1982, but his everlasting legacy is the
Gang Show. Ralph's unmistakable style of writing and the
talent of Scouts and Guides the world over prove that
the greatest youth entertainment the world has ever
known continues to keep "riding along on the crest of a
wave" wherever, whenever, a Gang Show is performed.
Ralph Reader CBE