Whenever I tell someone I’m a wrestling fan there’s always one name that’s mentioned in reply, a man whose larger than life in-ring persona transcended wrestling and turned him into a British institution, a man who could count young children, prime ministers and royalty as fans.
He’s also a man who is a polarizing figure in British wrestling circles. Many credit him with taking British wrestling into the mainstream in the 1970’s and drawing television viewing figures in the millions, while the same number credit him with almost destroying the industry years later.
Ryan Danes’ “Who’s The Daddy? The Life and Times of Shirley Crabtree” is the first in-depth biography of the man who would thrill a nation as Big Daddy, and as someone who grew up watching the old World of Sport-era shows on a Saturday afternoon I have to say it’s a hell of a read.
Using quotes from the man himself, the book tells the story of Crabtree’s life from his humble beginnings until his death in 1997. It’s the story of a boy given the name Shirley by his father in the hope it would toughen him up, and of how that father left the family home, leaving his wife to bring up their three sons on her own.
Our protagonist is portrayed as a man of strong values who is extremely loyal to his family, values that were instilled in him from a young age, and as Danes guides us on the journey through his life, interspersing world events with those in Crabtree’s life the story gives us it’s fair share of triumph and tragedy.
Although this book gives us a lot of details about Crabtree’s early life it’s the stories about the British wrestling business the place of the Crabtree family in it that many will buy this book for. It’s a story that could fill a book on it’s own, and Danes captures the mood perfectly as he tells the story of the rise of the Crabtree brothers in that industry, how they took it to the next level, and how it went down a few levels afterwards.
Danes has done a brilliant job telling the story of one of the most polarizing figures in the history of wrestling. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that as Big Daddy Crabtree certainly made the most of his somewhat limited skills, and of how his brothers, the top promoters in the country, did their utmost to keep him at the top of the hill.
In conclusion – “Who’s the Daddy?” is a must-read for those wrestling fans who grew up in British wrestling’s hey day. It’s well written, and even if you’re not a fan of Big Daddy then this is well worth the read, which is why this particular writer is giving this the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the author for supplying a copy of this release. Who’s The Daddy? The Life and Times of Shirley Crabtree can be purchased wherever books are sold.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!