6-5 Special examined and a look at Thank Your Lucky Stars' first guests

 

British teenagers, like their American counterparts, rejoiced in the arrival of rock'n'roll. It was a music they eagerly embraced as their own. 

Before the days of drug and <a href="http://www.michaelshouse.com/alcohol-rehab/residential-alcohol-rehab.html">alcoholism rehabilitation programs</a> it helped drive a welcome wedge between them and their over protective parents, who could not understand or, for that matter, even stand Rock'n'Roll (r'n'r). As 1957 dawned, r'n'r was be grudgingly being accepted by the British record business (run by the equivalents of the teenager's parents) as a temporary, though uninvited, visitor to the land of Shakespeare. There was the feeling (and indeed hope) both inside and outside the music industry that this raucous racket would soon return to America, and that sanity would again prevail in this green and pleasant land. However, if there was money to be made from it, most record companies felt it was their duty to direct such ill begotten gains into their own coffers. After all how long could such an alien noise (it was rarely referred to as music) survive in an atmosphere where there were so few chances of hearing it or seeing its exponents.

 

In America, simply by turning their radio dials, teenagers could hear Top 40 stations playing wall to wall hits. They could welcome the new breed of C&W stars like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins and Carl Perkins into their living rooms, or even settle down in bed in the company of raw R&B acts like  Fats Domino,  Little Richard, Clyde McPhatter  and Ray Charles. In Britain however there were no pop music stations, no R&B or C&W stations and the vast majority of US hits in the latter two musical areas were not even deemed suitable for release on this side of the Atlantic. The only UK radio stations were those run by the government owned BBC, who were not early converts to this new cacophony that came courtesy of the country's ex-colony. If you listened continuously to the BBC's Light programme (the station targeted at the supposed less intellectual members of the population) you would hear no more than a handful of current hit songs  a day, and as often as not they were performed by vocalists from the big band era,  singers who had been household names in the days that people huddled around their wirelesses in Anderson shelters, whilst the bombs dropped on Britain.

 

In the fifties, television was the new young medium, however this did not mean that it was any more open to r'n'r. In most cases the only way British fans were only able to see their favourite recording artists was at their local cinema, where they might appear live, on tours or more likely on film. None of the US TV shows including pop acts were aired  on UK TV and therefore the only chance of seeing anyone on the small screen would be on a local variety show. However, you could bet your 78 collection that the vast majority of acts on such shows would be home-grown, smile-as-you-sing graduates from the academy of the all-round entertainers. If you have now got a clear picture in mind of the times you will understand that  the arrival in February 1957  of '6-5 Special' on the BBC came as a great shock to the majority of the (pop)ulation and as manna from heaven to the many rock ravenous teenagers. It was their first opportunity to regularly see r'n' r on the small screens.  The show was the brainchild of TV producer Jack Good  and Josephine Douglas, and revolutionary and welcome as it was, it has, over the years, gained a reputation far in excess of that it deserves.  It was basically an informal musical variety show, aimed as much at fans of big bands,  jazz and popular music as it was to followers of r'n'r. 



 

JACKIE DENNIS - ONE OF THE SHOW'S HOME GROWN STARS


At the time any programme with the occasional R'n'R act or record in it would have been as warmly welcomed by the growing number of eager enthusiasts as was this musical hotch-potch. Presented by Pete Murray (a radio DJ whose musical preference was for artists in the Sinatra, Nat Cole, Peggy Lee mould) and co-producer Douglas, a pleasant 'auntie' figure who would have been more at home as a children's TV presenter. They were often joined by such loveable (or should they be loath able characters) as Freddie Mills (an amiable ex-heavyweight boxing champion -  a fore runner of Henry Cooper and Frank Bruno) or the comic (!) paring of Mike & Bernie Winters, Martin & Lewis clones whose antics would have been considered too childish for them to join  Miss Douglas had she had been given a children's TV show. Often seen on the show were the big bands of Ted Heath, Johnny Dankworth, Ken Mackintosh and the balding drummer Eric Delaney. They would be joined by mid 50s balladeers like Dickie Valentine, Frankie Vaughan, Michael Holliday, Dennis Lotis and Ronnie Carroll with old-school songstresses Alma Cogan, Marion Ryan, Rosemary Squires, Eve Boswell, Joan Regan  and Edna Savage often bolstering the bill.

 

Johnny Dankworth, Chris Barber, Betty Smith and Kenny Baker were among the many jazz stalwarts whose presence often graced the show, whose most regular act was ex-jazz trombonist Don Lang and his so-called Frantic Five, who could all give a few years to the fathers of R&R, Bill Haley & The Comets.  '6-5 Special' did however have its high spots, and it was these that most teenagers patiently waited for every Saturday evening. Sometimes you would be treated to film clips (mostly from as yet unreleased movies) of such acts as Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis or the Platters. On other weeks you might get a 'record of the week'  from  Buddy Holly, Paul Anka, Jackie Wilson or  another major US rocker, and a play on this spot almost always sent the records zooming up the charts. In the absence of many US visitors, Jack Good had to find local R&R talent and this he was particularly adept at. Marty Wilde, Adam Faith, Terry Dene, Jim Dale, and Jackie Dennis all got their start on the show. Despite the success of the show, it was not a guaranteed passport to fame as Terry Wayne, a Carl Perkins clone, who always appeared on screen surrounded by an obviously false fan following will tell you. Other acts whose exposure could never convince British teenagers to part with their six shillings for  a single included extrovert pink-haired, leopard skin wearing Wee Willie Harris, Larry Page, 'The Teenage Rage',who dared to cover the Cricket's 'That'll Be The Day', or Tommy Steele's brother Colin Hicks and his Cabin Boys. Top line acts who often appeared  on the show included skiffle stars like Lonnie Donegan, The Vipers and Chas McDevitt, Tommy Steele, the King Brothers, Russ Hamilton and Laurie London, the latter two going on to join the exclusive 'British-acts-in-the US-chart' club.

 

The show  became the most publicised and talked about TV programme of its time and introduced the world to the Hand Jive, a dance craze that even went on to sweep the States. Sadly for anyone who would like to see '6-5 Special',  it appears that only one or two of the actual shows were deemed worthy of taping for prosperity (and they only prove how little genuine r'n'r it contained) and your best chance of checking it out is via the budget priced film of the same-name.

 

Jack Good, who in the mid-60s produced the successful US pop TV series 'Shindig',  departed from the '6-5 Special'  in 1958  and launched a rival pop music show on ATV, 'Oh! Boy', which was Britain's best R&R show of the decade. The '6-5 Special' finally ran out of steam at the end of 1958.

 

 

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS - THE FIRST YEAR

 

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS was launched by ITV in the UK on April 1, 1961 but was not networked until September of that year. This is the act line up for all the shows seen nationwide that year.

Saturday 16th September 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Don Arrol,
Valerie Masters,
The Viscounts,
David MacBeth,
Al Saxon,
Patti Brook,
Clinton Ford
Guest DJ: David Gell

Saturday 23rd September 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Ted Heath and his Music,
John Leyton,
The Brook Brothers,
Gary Mills,
Kenny Clayton,
Donna Douglas,
Cleo Laine
Guest DJ: Pete Murray

Saturday 30th September 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Billy Fury,
Adam Faith,
Matt Monro,
Tony Osborne,
Big Jim Sullivan Combo,
Jackie Alton,
Carole Deene
Guest DJ: Sam Costa

Saturday 6th October 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Cliff Richard,
The Shadows,
Helen Shapiro,
The Mudlarks,
The Karl Denver Trio,
Robb Storme,
Shane Fenton and The Fentones,
guest DJ: Barry Alldis


Saturday 14th October 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Denis Lotis,
Jess Conrad,
The Allisons,
Bert Weedon,
Oliver Reed,
The Vernon Girls,
Ivory Joe Hunter
Guest DJ: Ray Orchard

Saturday 21st October 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
The Temperance Seven,
Ronnie Hilton,
Danny Williams,
Michael Hill,
Chas McDevitt and Shirley Douglas,
The Vernons Girls,
The Springfields,
guest DJ Jimmy Young

Saturday 28th October 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
The Kenny Ball Jazzmen,
Craig Douglas,
Marty Wilde,
Nick Villard,
Doug Sheldon,
The Polka Dots,
Cleo Laine
Guest DJ: Peter West


Regulars Eden Kane, John Leyton & Adam Faith



Saturday 4th November 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Adam Faith,
The Brook Brothers,
John Leyton,
David MacBeth,
Geoff Goddard,
The Dale Sisters,
Dion,
guest DJ Alan Freeman

Saturday 11th November 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Hosts: Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew
Petula Clark,
The Big Ben Trad Band,
Ricky Valence,
Danny Davis,
Frank Ifield,
Rose Brennan,
Gene Vincent,
guest DJ Peter Noble

Saturday 18th November 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
Billy Fury,
Emile Ford,
Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen,
Alan Fielding,
Johnny Crawford,
The Kaye Sisters,
guest DJ Sam Costa

Saturday 25th November 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
The John Barry Seven,
Joe (Mister Piano) Henderson,
Ricky Stevens,
Paul Raven (aka Gary Glitter)
The McGuire Sisters
Guest DJ: Denny Piercy

Saturday 2nd December 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
The Temperance Seven,
Lionel Bart,
The Brook Brothers,
Roy Lee,
The Ted Taylor Four,
guest DJ Ted King

Saturday 9th December 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
Russ Conway,
Mr.Acker Bilk,
Gary Miller,
Al Saxon,
Dick Charlesworth and his City Gents,
Ray Ellington & Sandra Gale

Saturday 16th December 1961 5:45 - 6:10 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
Cleo Laine
Billy Fury
Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band,
Duffy Power
Joe Brown
Bill Forbes
The Karl Denver Trio
Guest DJ Jimmy Henney

Saturday 23rd December 1961
ABC Christmas Lucky Stars 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
The Beverley Sisters,
Ronnie Hilton,
The Springfields,
Elaine and Derek,
Zack Laurence,
David Lisbon,
Lonnie Donegan,
guest DJ Jimmy Savile

Saturday 30th December 1961 5:50 - 6:30 pm
Host: Brian Matthew
Cliff Richard,
The Shadows,
Helen Shapiro,
Billy Fury,
Chubby Checker

Thanks for TY.L.S. to Kevin Mulrennan