In the early 1980s he appeared in a memorable Yellow Pages commercial as a father who tried to dissaude his son from having a racing bike for his birthday, the advert ending with the line "I was right about that saddle though!". It was this which brought him to the attention of Granada Television and an audition as Bill Webster.
Previous to his acting career he worked as an engineering apprentice, from 1960 served in the Merchant Navy and from 1964 onwards worked on digging the London Underground Victoria Line from where he got an interest in acting after talking to the producer of amateur plays in a folk club. He enrolled at the East 15 Drama School in Loughton, Essex and worked steadily after graduating in theatre and on television in series such as Lucky Fellar, The Professionals and The Sweeney. In 1980 after a season at the Royal National Theatre, he went on a 13,000 mile tour of Australia on a motorbike, busking for a living with his guitar.