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Where Have The Shows Gone?

  •   2 Pilot shows: (both missing);
  • 38 Regular shows: (35 missing);
  • 37 of the 40 shows are officially missing.

All that remains are videos of show #29 (28th March 1959), #30 (4th April 1959) and the Final Show #38 (30th May 1959) but there is a distinct possibility that tele-recordings of some more of the shows have survived!

Len Whitcher, chief archivist at Pearson TV Group began as a 'calling messenger ' in 1959 at ABC Studios and he recalls the in-house labs making up compressed tele-recordings of the Oh Boy! series for the 'overseas market'.

Old 16mm telerecordings consisted of  2 reels, one film and one soundtrack. The technical staff had to 'compress' …..that is, make  single 'workable' prints of the shows, which combined both film and audio in one recording, to be sent overseas.

One of those overseas countries was surprisingly the United States. Considering they had enough of their own home grown rock and roll talent it seemed an unusual decision to import additional material and what, to some in the industry, must have seemed inferior fare featuring inferior British cover versions.
Some episodes of Oh Boy! were broadcast by ABC in the USA  from Thursday 16th July 1959 to Thursday 3rd September 1959 , (details from 'Total Television' - by Alex McNeil, Penguin Books ISBN - 0140249168), amusingly quoting one critic who called it "an appalling piece of trash" . And yes, it was the British episodes rather than a simple recycling of the title!

Compressed tele-recordings may also have been sent to other countries, especially English speaking countries, apart from the USA,  Australia could be a possibility.

Overseas 'licence agreements' stipulated that the loaned film copies were returned to ABC  by a given expiry date or alternatively 'shredded' to prevent any copyright abuse.  However, in practice a lot of the loaned 'working prints' were never returned and little effort was employed by ABC to get them back. Though undoubtedly some 'shredding' did take place abroad it seems likely that much of it was forgotten and left on the shelf. Only imagination  limits the possible outcome after 43 years of the subsequent fate of  the material!
The original 16mm tele-recordings have also mysteriously disappeared and Len recalls that even as late as 1970-1971 he personally had two, now lost, Oh Boy! shows in his office. By this time Thames Television had taken over the copyright following a shotgun marriage between ABC and Rediffusion in 1968. Len by this time was working as archivist with Thames.

"Looking back I wish I had kept them," he said, "but in about 1970 two ex-Vernons girls were working under their new name of The LadyBirds and  were recording downstairs in Studio 4 of Thames Television House in Kingsway. The production manager requested both shows be sent down because the girls wanted to have 'a laugh' during their  lunchbreak and see how they looked back then. The two shows were never returned." said Len. "To this day I often wondered what happened to them."

Very little security prevailed at ABC back then, but there would have been little incentive for any artist or member of staff to steal the shows because they would not have had the technical know-how to play them back. "The equipment to play the old 16mm prints was very expensive back then,"  said Len.

Len is unable to offer any further leads but he's sure additional copies survive. Either lying around in some cupboard of a foreign archive or  former employee, or in the hands of someone in the UK who has at least 2 of  the original tele-recordings of 'lost' shows!

By Paul Rumbol

LATEST NEWS UPDATE  - October  2016

After years of pure and wishful supposition the power of the Internet has indeed helped fill in a few more missing pieces of this enigmatic jigsaw puzzle. A person in Arizona in the USA has been discreetly offering additional Oh Boy! shows in his possession.
After the closure of his smash hit London west end musical Good Rockin' Tonight back in 1992 Jack Good appeared on an early morning BBC chat show hosted by Kilroy Silk to discuss the topic of  'nostalgia'. He confided in fellow guest Dick Fiddy, chief archivist at the British Film Institute, that he was not in possession of any other than the two known existing shows and would dearly love to find some additional copies.  Within weeks Good had departed the rat race and emigrated to the US to live a hermits existence in a desert region near the town of Albuquerque by the Manzano Mountains in New Mexico, USA.

No written records have survived giving details of overseas sales but strong evidence suggests that ABC made 13 working prints of shows 26 to 38  (the final surviving show) for transmission in the US. The two existing shows in the British archives (from 4th April and 30th May 1959) are among these 13 episodes.  In the ABC trailers on the master film prints each is marked Show numbers 5 and 13 respectively. This implies that the first show of these 13 was recorded on 7th March 1959 and working prints continued to be made each week for export until the very last edition on 30th May. Quite simply stated it appears that 11 of the original 13 prints have been mislaid, stolen or simply not returned to ABC archives.

Details of the  13-recorded shows made up for broadcast in the US are as follows:

ABC Catalogue Show   1. 7th March 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   2. 14th March 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   3. 21st March 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   4. 28th March 1959 [In private hands]
ABC Catalogue Show   5. 4th April 1959 [Existing catalogued show]
ABC Catalogue Show   6. 11th April 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   7. 18th April 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   8. 25th April 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show   9. 2nd May 1959   
ABC Catalogue Show 10. 9th  May 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show 11. 16th  May 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show 12. 23rd May 1959  
ABC Catalogue Show 13. 30th May 1959 [Existing catalogued show]

 

[The scan on the left is of a US TV Guide magazine and shows at 6.30pm Central Time an episode of Oh Boy! - aired on the 6th August 1959 (ABC Catalogue Show 12) "Guest is American gospel singer Rennee Martz". Missing!

Though telerecordings of 13 shows were made up to be sent to the US it appears that for artistic reasons American TV executives decided to air only 7-8 of them. Furthermore, they cut out the footage of comperes Tony Hall and Jimmy Henney  and commissioned the young 15 year old Brenda Lee to film the introductions and announcements. There are several other supporting pieces of evidence to suggest that these 13 shows were directly marketed specifically for an American audience. In came some big American names to close the shows each week including the Inkspots in show 7, and crooner Conway Twitty on shows 10 and 11. Indeed Brenda Lee herself was given star billing in show number 5 closing with two fantastic renditions of both the A and B sides of her new single "Humming The Blues Over You" and "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey."

So as not to displease the ever-faithful British viewers, old favourites like Cliff Richard and The Drifters, Billy Fury, Dickie Pride and Marty Wilde continued to appear regularly. And other big British names like Tommy Steele,  Lonnie Donegan and Alma Cogan made their debut appearances on Shows  6, 7 and 9  respectively. Furthermore, promo photos of ABC Catalogue Show number 1  (7th March '59) abound which in itself  is conspicuous as so few pictures from the latter part of this series, now well into its 9 month run, have surfaced.

Of the missing 11 of the 13 shows, a copy of show number 12 from 23rd May 1959 was available from the ABC (later Thames TV) archives as late as 1970.   A  2 minute clip of Cliff Richard performing his latest single release  "Mean Streak" was lifted from this show for inclusion in a documentary made in 1966 to commemorate ABC’s tenth anniversary in broadcasting. This documentary entitled  "The ABC of ABC" has survived and is retained in the British Film Institute Archives.

Finally, the enigmatic figure selling the 'lost' shows in the States claimed that 4 shows in his possession featured Cliff Richard in them. Excluding the widely available final show (Cat. no 13) where Cliff sings "Turn Me Loose", Cliff did indeed make four appearances in these 13  USA Oh Boy! shows. It  may be that these 13 were the only shows in the entire 38 show series recorded….at least for America. Whether any working film prints from the exciting earlier 1958 broadcasts were made is anybody’s guess at this stage.  Perhaps they went out live and were not recorded at all.  Despite this sad possibility, the likely fact that some 1959 shows have survived is the most exciting news we have heard in 44 years!

If you have any personal reminiscences, film/video copies of shows or know of the existence of such or further information - in fact anything at all that could be of interest, we will be most please to publish it with credits.

Read 365 times Last modified on Friday, 21 October 2016 15:27

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