|"Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)"|
|Single by Benny Hill|
|from the album Words and Music|
|Recorded||Abbey Road Studios, London|
|Walter J. Ridley|
|Benny Hill singles chronology|
"Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" is an innuendo-laden comedy or novelty song, written and performed by the English comedian Benny Hill. The song was first performed on television in 1970, and released as a successful recording, topping the UK Singles Chart in 1971, reaching the Christmas number one spot.
The lyric's story line is inspired by Hill's early experience as a milkman for Hann's Dairies in Eastleigh, Hampshire. Market Street, mentioned in the lyrics, is a real-life street in Eastleigh. The song tells the fictional exploits of Ernie Price, a 52-year-old (68, in the original television version) milkman who drives a horse-drawn milk cart. It relates his feud with the bread delivery man ("Two-Ton Ted" from Teddington) and their efforts to win the heart of Sue, a widow who lives alone at No. 22, Linley Lane.
When Ted sees Ernie's cart outside Sue's house all afternoon, he becomes enraged and violently kicks Price's horse, Trigger. The two men resort to a duel, using the wares they carry on their respective carts for weapons, and Ernie is killed by a rock cake underneath his heart, followed by a stale pork pie in his eye; in the original television version it was a fresh meat pie.
Sue and Ted then marry, but Ernie's ghost returns to haunt them on their wedding night.
"Ernie" was originally written in 1955 as the introduction to an unfilmed screenplay about Hill's milkman experiences.
In 1966, Frank Gallop had a US hit with "The Ballad of Irving", which had a similar metre. "The Ballad of Irving" was itself inspired by Lorne Green's song "Ringo" from 1964, which had the same style and structure.
Hill performed the song on The Benny Hill Show in 1970. The original clip is seldom repeated as it was made in black and white owing to a technicians' strike, but the episode has been released on DVD, in both the United Kingdom and United States.
In the original television broadcast version, as part of the song's comedy plot, Benny incorrectly sings the name "Ernie" several times as: "Hernie", to which the backing singers would correct him, by strongly replying the name as: "Ernie!". To this, Benny would then pull an embarrassed/annoyed face. This comedy plot was concluded at the end of the song when Benny, pulling a mischievous face, sang a final: "Hernie!". On the record release, only the final: "Hernie!" is heard.
The following year, it was included with minor lyrical revisions on Hill's album Words and Music. When it was released as a single on EMI's Columbia label, it became a surprise number-one hit, topping the UK Singles Chart for four weeks at Christmas 1971. A promotional film was shot starring Hill as Ernie, Henry McGee as Ted, and Jan Butlin as Sue.
Hill re-recorded the song shortly before his death in 1992 for the album Benny Hill... The Best Of.
Ernie was referenced in the Superhero segment of one episode of BBC TV's Basil's Swap Shop, with an Ernie lookalike appearing at the superhero's flat, only to be told that speedy delivery of milk was not a super-power.