Copyright 2019 - Thank Your Lucky Stars
Sunday, 16 April 2017 07:14

Thank Your Lucky Stars - The Show

Written by Geoff Leonard
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When ABC Television’s Thank Your Lucky Stars began in April 1961, it had two main policies. Firstly, the performers would not be restricted to the current hit-makers – a number of up-and-coming artists would also be appearing. Indeed, for a few episodes the newcomers were introduced by the stars as their “pick” for the future.

Secondly, the emphasis being on the then current record by the artiste concerned, rather than a live rendition of it, all performances would be mimed. Although this occurred occasionally on some shows, it was fairly unusual for everything to be mimed at this time.

Producer Philip Jones had previously been Programme Controller at Radio Luxembourg, and when appointed to ABC in the early sixties his brief was to broaden its audience already accustomed to programmes such as Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girls and Wham!. His idea of Thank Your Lucky Stars was one that certainly delivered on a broader appeal.

All TYLS performances were recorded at the ABC Alpha Studios, Aston, Birmingham, on the Sunday that preceded the Saturday broadcast, a slot which varied slightly, but was traditionally from 17.50 – 18.30, thus clashing with and rivalling BBC’s Juke Box Jury, which went out at 18.00.

The show was initially hosted mainly by Pete Murray, already famous for his TV appearances on Six-Five Special & Juke Box Jury, as well as many radio shows. Keith Fordyce also introduced a few shows from the short first series, which was not fully net-worked, but when it returned for a full run in September, Pete Murray had been dropped and Keith Fordyce had been joined by Brian Matthew, who looked after the segment named “Spin-a-Disc”, which was a sort of mini-Juke Box Jury, with its panel manned entirely by teenagers.

One of these, Janice Nicholls, became something of a celebrity with her catch-phrase comment on a disc she particularly liked: “I’ll Give it Five” (out of five) delivered in her distinctive black-country accent. She became a regular on the show from 1963.



The show’s signature tune was originally “Lucky Stars” by Peter Knight & The Nightriders but was later replaced by "Lunar Walk", composed by Johnny Hawksworth.

Part way through series 2, a strike by Equity, the actor’s union, forced Keith Fordyce to leave the show and a series of guest DJs came in to assist Brian Matthew, who considered himself unaffected by the strike because he hadn’t paid his union dues for several years and assumed he was no longer a member.

Unfortunately for Fordyce, when the strike was over, ABC decided not to re-hire him and Brian Matthew was left as the sole host. However, the policy of casting guest DJs for Spin-A-Disc continued, with many of them emanating from Radio Luxembourg, giving viewers the first opportunity to put faces to the familiar voices. Don Moss, Sam Costa, Barry Alldis, Jimmy Savile, Alan Dell, Muriel Young, Pete Murray (back in from the cold!), Jimmy Young & Kent Walton being amongst the regulars hired. In fact, of the then current top DJs, only David Jacobs didn’t appear – unsurprisingly since he was hosting Juke Box Jury for the opposition!



When it came to the all-important performers, the show moved swiftly with the times. During the first couple of series, regular guests included teen-idols such as Adam Faith, Craig Douglas & Billy Fury, mixed with some popular “middle of the road” performers, and bands included The Temperance Seven, The John Barry Seven, The Shadows & Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen.

The Beatles mimed to “Please Please Me” for the broadcast of the 19th January 1963, having pre-recorded it the previous Sunday, as was the regular TYLS formula. They became the first of a wave of vocal groups to break through, but shows still included crooners such as Matt Monro, Ronnie Hilton, and Michael Holliday & there were occasional appearances by “easy-listening” vocalists such as Alma Cogan & Cleo Laine.

By 1964 The Beatles had been joined by a whole host of other hit-making groups, such as The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, The Searchers, Freddie & The Dreamers, The Kinks and The Hollies. However, room was still found for the likes of Kathy Kirby, Frank Ifield, The Bachelors and Rosemary Squires, so variety was clearly the spice of life as far as producer Philip Jones was concerned.

Although the early emphasis was clearly on British acts, gradually more and more visiting American artists made the bill. Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney, The Supremes, Bobby Vee & Dionne Warwick became regulars, and the show continued to perform well in the ratings.

Occasionally there were “Specials”, such as the all-Merseyside performers’ edition broadcast on 21st December 1963. An episode which, incidentally, still exists in the ABC archives, unlike the vast majority of the others.


However, the groups in particular attracted a large and often hysterical teenage girl following, and host Brian Matthew was becoming rather fed up with the screaming from the audience that inevitably accompanied performances, and believes this was possibly reflected in his demeanour. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when he was replaced by singer/actor Jim Dale for what turned out to be the final series, which began on 2nd October 1965.

For the final episode, sub-titled “Goodbye Lucky Stars”, broadcast on 25th June 1966, Matthew returned along with former hosts Pete Murray & Keith Fordyce, as guests DJs. Also back was Janice Nicholls, whose “Spin-a-Disc segment had been dropped for this series. It also boasted an appearance by “The World’s Oldest Pop Star, Miss Ruby Miller” – who was in her mid-seventies at the time!

Towards the end its run, the series may have suffered unfavourable comparison with Ready Steady Go, which was an ATV show broadcast on Friday evenings (“The weekend starts here”), and much more youth-oriented than Thank Your Lucky Stars – no MOR singers here!

However, it’s notable that both programmes finished in 1966, TYLS had the longest run, and is thoroughly deserving of its place in TV’s popular music history.

This website is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Brian Matthew, who hosted the show for the majority of its six series, and was a much-loved DJ and presenter on radio and TV for more than 60 years of his life.



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