One sold sticky back plastic products, the other toothpaste. And both went on to marry girlfriends called Hazel.
But when Les Ward put up £50 in 1969 to help friend and fellow salesman Jasper Carrott to launch Solihull’s fabled Boggery Folk Club, the seeds of a showbusiness legend were sown down.
Forty four years later, Jasper was in LA with his wife Hazel when the shock news arrived by email.
Les, 75, had died after collapsing at East Midlands Airport just before he was due to catch a flight to Corfu.
The pair last saw each other on a much happier occasion on August 31, when 68-year-old Jasper had invited Les to be a guest in his box at Birmingham City for the 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town.
Jasper said: “We first met at the old Aero Club next to the airport when I was 21 and we became very good friends. He was selling Fablon, a type of sticky back plastic, and I was selling toothpaste.
“After I came back from working as a ‘dufflecoat’ at Butlins in ‘68, I had nowhere to live other than going home so I went to live at his place in Olton.
“We started the Boggery Folk Club in February, 1969, at the ‘Old Moseleians’ club on Lugtrout Lane. It was so successful it changed my life.
“The Old Moseleians was in financial trouble at the time and we got a great deal, but the success of the Boggery also meant that the club could continue and pay its way.
“Les was the organiser and financial guy who ran backstage, the front desk and looked after publicity and posters. I ran front of house and booked the acts. We shared everything, 50-50.
“I was there for five years and it was a terrific five years, but because of my success I couldn’t run it any more.
“Malcolm Stent took over from me, and then Les stayed with it.”
Les later became a partner of Jasper’s agent in the 1980s, John Starkey, and together they managed Phil Cool whom Jasper had discovered and recommended.
“I did about 300 shows with Phil called The Carrott & Cool Cocktail – a lovely night with our contrasting styles.
“Les was the tour manager so we spent a lot time on the road together.”
In the 1990s, Les ran a hotel in Pattaya, Thailand with two more associates, but had to return home after developing heart trouble and then suffering problems with his knees and legs.
Jasper said: “Having been in a wheelchair, he seemed to be getting over that and had booked a trip to Corfu to stay with some friends of ours, Peter and Jane Dixon.
“Peter had taken Les to East Midlands Airport on September 30 so that Les could fly to Corfu and spend a week with Peter’s wife Jane at a house they’ve had over there for years.
“Les wanted to be able to see if he’d be able to fly back to Thailand at a later date.”
Peter then went on his way to Manchester.
Jasper added: “After checking in, Les apparently felt faint, was sweating profusely and slumped forwards unconscious.
“The medics were on the scene with a defibrillator very quickly.
“He was taken to hospital in Derby, but although they got his heart started it wouldn’t continue beating.”
When he heard the news via email, Jasper was in LA visiting children Lucy and Jake.
His holiday also included playing golf with Len Goodman and finding himself sitting four rows behind Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne during a recording of Dancing With the Stars which also features the Strictly judge on the panel.
“Les’s death was such a shock and being 6,000 miles away was no help at all,” said Jasper.
“But I’ll always remember Les saying that Blues’ win over Arsenal in the Carling Cup two years ago was the happiest day of his life and we all went to the Punch Bowl in Lapworth afterwards to celebrate.
“We had our own circle of friends, but would meet each other most weeks and occasionally go abroad together. When my Hazel was 50, he came with us to Vienna, and when I was 60, he came out with us to Kenya to celebrate in the bush.”
Jasper added: “Les and I never had a cross word. He always had a smile on his face and ours was a warm friendship with tremendous respect for each other.
“His house was like the ‘Sons of Rest’ because it was always full of people, though I don’t think he ever changed his curtains in 40 years – he was that type of bloke, though I think he did get new carpets six years ago.”
Would Jasper have become a star without that £50 backing?
“That’s a really difficult question,” he said. “Les set me up and started the folk club. Whether or not I would have gone into the business, I don’t know, but he was always somebody I could relate to. And he was an honest critic of my work.”
Father-of-four Jasper married wife Hazel in 1973, two years after the now long-divorced Les got married to his own girlfriend called Hazel.
The couple didn’t have any children, but Les is also survived by Anne, a younger sister.
The funeral will be held at Robin Hood, Solihull, next week.