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28 August 2016

Friday 12th

The peaceful tranquility of the shops and houses adjoining the Four Provinces Club in Islington was shattered beyond repair this week. Suddenly the area has become a hive of seething activity, though few people yet seem to know exactly what is going on.

Workmen cart large pieces of scenery into the club and glamorous showgirls periodically invade the quiet little restaurant around the corner in search of coffee; other girls peer out of windows, shoppers are startled by the waves of sound that waft out from the club, and schoolboys run the perimeter of the building frantically clutching autograph books.

The secret of the Four Provinces Club leaked out on a major scale on Tuesday - the second day of rehearsals for producer Jack Good's new "brainchild" series, "Oh Boy!"

Inside the hall, chaotic disorder reigns supreme. Sheet music litters every available chair, and instrument cases are strewn all over the floor; artists and musicians mingle with perspiring workmen as scenery is hurridly set up; the producer tries to make himself heard above the din of 70 or so voices, and a stray dog beats a hurried retreat between the legs of jiving chorus girls as the powerhouse Lord Rockingham's Eleven explode into action.

Slick show

Out of all this confusion will arise a slick, colourful show - the first of a new ABC-TV series that takes the air at 6p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

Chaos will give way to a smooth, precision-timed show that promises to be one of the most exciting ever seen in this country.

In between sips of coffee and a goon-style cross-talk routine with musical director Harry Robinson, Jack Good outlined to me the basic aims of the show. "We intend to make this the most organised show on TV," he began, "and also one of the fastest and most exciting".

"I'm looking for a certain type of audience reaction. It's like as if an audience were sitting in a theatre quietly and then were confronted by a blistering stage show that never let up for one moment. They'd simply have to sit up and take notice, and that's what I'm looking for." Jack explained.

"We aim to startle viewers with quick, lively presentation, and because I'm convinced that comedy, no matter how good, tends to slow down a show of this kind, we won't be featuring any comedians. Team-work is going to count more than anything else, and I'm happy to say that everybody in the show is dead keen." he continued.

"Oh Boy!" will be in direct competition to BBC-TV's "6.5 Special" - formerly produced by Jack. How does he feel about it? "Frankly, I'm thrilled at the prospect, and the essence of competition must obviously encourage us to work doubly hard." he confided.

Finally, what style of music will we hear on "Oh Boy!"? For a start there'll be a preponderance of Big Beat material from the cream of Britain's "rockers." But that doesn't mean that ballads are out of favour.

"Right now, the trend in pop music generally is veering towards a more melodic conception, and we will follow that trend." Jack emphasised.

Now let's meet some of the artists who'll be appearing in tomorrow's show. I found newcomer Cliff Richard propped up against a wall listening to the Dallas Boys rehearsing. Introductions completed, we sought sanctuary in a quiet ante-room, where I managed to render Cliff speechless with the news that his first Columbia recording "Move It" had entered the hit parade.

His jaw dropped, and he groped unsuccessfully for words. He spoke in short, monosyllabic phrases: "Already?.....well.....I mean....what can I say? Everything is happening all at once."

His composure regained, Cheshunt-born Cliff, 17, set about telling me of his sudden attack of nerves. "It's wonderful to be going on TV for the first time, but I feel so nervous that I don't know what to do.

"I mean, I only turned professional five weeks ago, and before that I was working as a clerk and only playing at local dances and things in my spare time. I wore sideburns then, but I shaved them off last night - Jack (Good) thought it would make me look more original. I think he's right." he said.

John Foster, Cliff's burly, 19 year-old manager, broke in to tell me how ten London agents had given the thumbs down sign after hearing a tape recording by Cliff. "Seems like those fellows can be wrong after all." he grinned!

Coffee for two

Though his first year in show business is still not yet complete, Marty Wilde takes the hectic whirl of rehearsals in his stride. After singing his way through "Think It Over" and "Baby, I Don't Care," he greeted me with a smile and a handshake, and guided me to the nearest coffee bar.

Two steaming cups were placed on the table by an inquisitive waitress, and Marty requested extra sugar with a firm "got one heck of a sweet tooth." The sugar arrived together with a grubby piece of paper which Marty dutifully signed for a devoted fan.
To the accompaniment of Peggy Lee's "Fever" from a nearby juke box, we chatted about Marty's role in the show.

"I'm very proud to be associated with the series because I know it's going to be a great show. That's because we have such a fine producer. You know, I predict that one day Jack will be the world's greatest producer." he confided.
"Rehearsals," he echoed, in answer to my question. "They're fun. I enjoy them because I learn so much watching other people work. I like learning because it helps to broaden my scope. You know, pretty soon I want to have a crack at all kinds of songs - ballads, rock, everything."

In panto

About his future, Marty was very frank. Towards Christmas, he'll be temporarily leaving "Oh Boy!" to make his debut in pantomime at Stockton. "It'll be my first and last pantomime," he declared. "I'm not awfully keen on the idea, but I realise that the experience will be good. Anyway, I've always fancied myself as a comedian, so maybe this'll be a good opportunity to try out some gag lines."

Marty is his own severest critic, but I feel he was being hyper-critical when we discussed his latest record, "Misery's Child."

"It's a bad record," he stressed. "And if it gets into the hit parade, it doesn't deserve to." And with that, Marty strode off to the juke box to drop another coin in the slot. The tune? "Fever"!

Back in the Provinces Club, Lord Rockingham's Eleven were blowing up a storm on Harry Robinson's new composition, "Hoots Mon." Girls in sweaters and shorts - the Vernon Girls - were running through dance steps, and Jack Good was frantically waving a piece of music in front of organist Cherry Wainer.

Grouped around a piano were Neville Taylor and The Cutters - the "Oh Boy!" resident vocal quartet and the group who supplied the high-pitched scat lyrics on the Rockingham outfit's Decca recording of "Fried Onions".

A drum roll brought "Hoots Mon" to a close, and The Cutters broke into a pounding version of "Yakety Yak." A couple of choruses later, Jack Good nodded his approval, and the group dispersed to various corners of the room.

"Like it?" Neville asked. "I want to record with the group soon because I think we've got a good sound. Anyway, the audiences seemed to like us when we did those two "Oh Boy!" trial shows a while back."

"You know the boys?' I shook my head, and Neville pointed out Wilf Todd, Basil Short, and Sonny McKenzie. "Funny thing, but they all play bass," he beamed. "All good musicians - couldn't work with a better bunch," he beamed again.

Further conversation with Neville was cut short by the arrival of a harassed-looking Jack Good, requesting Neville's presence on the bandstand. We turned around, and I succeeded in treading on Ronnie Carroll's toe!

Finding a relatively quiet spot to talk, Ronnie proceeded to eulogise about Jack. "Great producer," he said. "Jack knows what he wants and he always gets results. That's why I'm very pleased to be working with him on this series."

TV rehearsals hold no worries for Ronnie, and he was even looking forward to the 45 minutes ahead of him. But I don't think he'll be so keen in a couple of months time, for within the next 12 weeks, he is set to make 20 major TV appearances on shows like the "Jack Jackson", "Cool For Cats"", and "Rainbow Room" programmes.

"I'll be the contrast in "Oh Boy!" because whereas most of the other artists will be singing beat stuff, I'll concentrate mainly on ballads. It'll add a touch of variety to the show," Ronnie told me.

Variety dates have no place in Ronnie's work schedule these days. "In the first place, I don't get the time and apart from that, I never was very keen on variety. But I'm looking forward to doing pantomime for the first time at Sheffield this Christmas," he added, before dashing off to sing the opening bars of "Seven Steps to Love."

In the studio, everything seem to be happening at once.

Bertice Reading and John Barry - two further stars of tomorrow's debut show - weren't scheduled to arrive for at least another two hours, and I suspected that by the time they got there, I wouldn't be able to get a word in edgeways. So I left!

25 August 2016

Introduction

 Musical Director: Harry Robinson
Dance Director: Leslie Cooper
Scripts: Trevor Peacock
Director: Rita Gillespie
Producer: Jack Good
An ABC Network Production
Broadcast by Associated TeleVision
on Channel 9

 

A fabulous unseen-for-over-40-years shot from the balcony of Cliff giving his all and making the girls scream with delight! The 'Oh Boy!' UK Television show first appeared as two pilot show broadcasts in various ATV regions during June 1958.

The following September the show went nationwide and was televised each Saturday evening, live from the Hackney Empire, in direct competition to the BBC's '6.5 Special' show. Within the first 6 weeks, the show became a smash hit and the number of viewers doubled.

Many top British performers who went on to achieve international fame made their early TV appearances on the show. Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey, John Barry, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury are some examples.

The cast listings read like a who's who of UK 'Hit Paraders' of the time and were household names - The Dallas Boys; Ronnie Carroll; The Vernons Girls; Emile Ford; The King Brothers; Lonnie Donegan; Vince Eager; Dickie Valentine and Alma Cogan.

The show was even blessed with appearances by non British acts: The Inkspots; Conway Twitty and Brenda Lee from the USA and the Marino Marini Quartet from Italy all appearing to promote their latest recordings.

[Right: A fabulous unseen-for-over-40-years shot from the balcony of Cliff giving his all and making the girls scream with delight!]

Jimmy Henney and Tony Hall took it in turns each week to compere the show.
 

[TONY HALL (on left) & JIMMY HENNEY (on right)]

In an interview for TV Times in 1958, Jimmy Henney explained how he came to be a compere for the show:

"I'd known Jack Good as a telephone voice for years, but I'd never actually met him. One day he came over to my house and, during our conversation, he asked: 'Why don't you do some TV?' I replied that if someone liked to ask me I'd be only too happy. Jack said he'd try and do something about that, and when this show came up he gave me a camera test." He added "I'd never done a show like this, and was a bit worried. But it was so exciting that I couldn't have felt happier once it started."

'Oh Boy!' was Tony Hall's TV debut. He was a jazz critic and in contrast to serious jazz enthusiasts deploring the vulgarities of rock'n'roll, Tony raved about it. In the same TV Times article, he also explained how he came to be a compere for a rock'n'roll TV show: "I saw the two trial shows and thought they were the most exciting things I've ever seen on television.

The lighting, the camera work was great, and I thought the music was swinging more than most of TV's attempts to present jazz. I applied for an audition and of course, I'm delighted to get this chance on television and extremely happy to be associated with Oh Boy! I only hope I will be able to match the pace."

One factor which made Tony so enthusiastic about the show was that many of the musicians on the programme were, on other occasions, leading exponents of British Jazz!

From TV Times, 5th September 1958 edition. (One week before the nationwide debut of 'Oh Boy!')

[Right: A wonderful early picture of Marty Wilde taken during a live 1958 broadcast of “Oh Boy!” An ebullient Jack Good can be seen in the wings, clapping to the beat of Marty’s song. The atmospheric stage lighting captures the balcony of the Empire Theatre, Hackney, where 200 lively teenagers who made up the audience each week were seated. Note also the TV set and monitoring equipment to the left of the stage, possibly recording the show for future posterity?]

The Pilot Shows:

Sunday 15th June 1958: 10:35 – 11:05 pm
The Dallas Boys, The John Barry Seven, Lord Rockingham's XI, Ronnie Carroll, Bertrice Reading, Marty Wilde, Cherry Wainer, Red Price, Neville Taylor and the Cutters, Dudley Heslop, Kerry Martin, The Vernons Girls

Sunday 29th June 1958: 10:50 – 11:20 pm
The Dallas Boys, The John Barry Seven, Jackie Dennis, Lord Rockingham's XI, Bertice Reading, Marty Wilde, Cherry Wainer, Red Price, Neville Taylor and the Cutters, The Vernons Girls.

 

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The full track listing: 1. Be Mine - Lance Fortune; 2. It's Not Too Late - Johnny Gavotte; 3. The Clanger March - Des Lane; 4. Arrivederci Baby - Little Tony & His Brothers; 5. You Made me Love You - Johnny De Little; 6. Easy Beat - Bert Weedon; 7. Heartbeat - The England Sisters; 8. Youthful Years - Danny William's; 9. I Vibrate - Larry Page & The Saga Satellites; 10. Mood One - The John Barry Orchestra; 11. I want my Bed - Bobby Shafto; 12. Keep A Walkin' - Tony Rocco; 13. Mood Two - The John Barry Orchestra; 14. Action - Lance Fortune; 15. If the Young Ones can be Happy - Billy Cotton; 16. Mood Three - The John Barry Orchestra; 17. Love's a Secret Game - Dennis Lotis; 18. Love Me - Danny Davis; 19. Mood Four - The John Barry Orchestra; 20. The Makings of a Man - Peter Gordeno; 21. Marilyn - Larry Page & The Saga Satellites; 22. Moonbird - Des Lane; 23. Never Ending - Mark Tracey; 24. Nowhere in this World - Derry Hart & The Hartbeats; 25. Opposites - Billy Cotton & Kathie Kay; 26. Smoky Blues - The John Barry Orchestra; 27. Ramona - The Five Dallas Boys; 28. They - Johnny De Little; 29. Trouble Shooter - Bob Miller & The Millermen; 30. You're My Only Girl - Danny Davis; 31. Baby Talk - Bill & Brett Landis; 32. I Got Eyes - Peter Gordeno; 33. The Lolly Theme - The John Barry Orchestra; 34. Santa Claus is coming to Town - Nina & Frederik; 35. Silent Night - Nina & Frederik; 36. White Christmas - Nina & Frederik; Total running time 78' 59"

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