15 Dec 1973 – Series One (12)

ATV ticket for the recording of this show. Image: Thanks to Ted Duggan

The judges for this show were unknown until the great memories of Ted Duggan and Iain MacDonald, both from the group Drops of Brandy, confirmed that they were Clement Freud, Noele Gordon and Tony Hatch.

The six new acts on show twelve were;

  • Desmond J and Triangle (four-piece group)
  • Ian MacGregor (vocalist)
  • Ricki Disoni (vocalist)
  • Stu Williams (comedian)
  • Drops of Brandy (five-piece group)
  • Renie Barce (vocalist)
19731115_RickiDisoni
Ricki Disoni. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Midlands vocalist Ricki Disoni was judged by the panel to have been the winning act from episode twelve and would return in the Grand Final on 29 December 1973.

Ricki, real name Gordon Waddison, was born in Walsall and began his entertainment career at the Rushall Labour club at the age of just eleven. At the age of fourteen he won the 1958 Chase Terrace Liberal Club talent contest, which included celebrated band-leader, and a future New Faces judge, Joe Loss on the judging panel.

In 1962 Gordon was a star striker and leading goalscorer for local football team Goscote Rangers and often made a quick post-game dash to fulfil his singing engagements. In 1967, aged 24, Gordon took up the unpaid role of compere and disc jockey of Saddlers radio which broadcast at Fellows Park before Walsall Football Club’s home games.

In the late 1960s Gordon was singing in clubs and dance halls with his own group, the Black Jacks, and was the compere at the Watersplash Club, Walsall Wood. In 1968 he signed a contact with the manager of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, which he hoped would help him break into the pop charts and one year later he turned professional and changed his name to Ricki Disoni (also listed as Dissone). The former milkman and council lorry driver, Ricki, also became the compere of Birmingham’s Cresta Club and secured a recording contract with Polydor records.

Ricki Disoni meets with future President Jimmy Carter. With thanks to Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

In September 1969 Ricki was commended by the head of Lichfield Divisional Police and awarded a medal for his bravery in apprehending two thieves who attempted to steal a cash register from a Stonnall cafe. Witnessing the robbery Ricki decided to give chase in own car and stopped the getaway to recover the takings.

In the early 1970s he saw his initial six day engagement as the compere of Derby’s Talk of the Midlands surprisingly last eighteen months, during his time there he worked with Frankie Vaughan, Des O’Connor and Tony Bennett and also released a live LP recorded at the venue.

In 1972 Ricki played shows in Las Vegas and the following year he realised a major ambition by playing at the London Palladium, appearing there with Frankie Howerd, and toured Australia and New Zealand arriving back in the UK just weeks before this New Faces television appearance and win on this show.

Ricki’s enjoyed further success after his appearance in the Grand Final show saw him appointed compere at Birmingham’s Night Out venue. He also returned to Australia and the United States, both on multiple times, winning club titles and awards in the US where he met future president Jimmy Carter and legendary folk singer Johnny Cash, who gifted him one of his famous hats. In the late 1970s he was signed by P&O Cruises for multiple cruise shows across the Mediterranean and the United States.

Coventry group Drops of Brandy were ‘too loud’ for Noele Gordon. Image: Thanks to Ted Duggan

Runners-up were the five-piece group Drops of Brandy, who it seems didn’t impress Noele Gordon who thought they were very loud but Clement Freud gave then rare high marks and Tony Hatch had very postive comments about their performance.

The group had already taken their brand of pop music from Land’s End to John O’Groats, yet they were still relatively unknown in their home town of Coventry, as they hardly ever played there. They were Ray Harte (rhythm guitar) and the brother of Tony, the group’s manager, lan MacDonald (vocals), Neil Richardson (bass), and brothers, Ted Duggan (drums) and John Duggan (lead guitar).

The group had enjoyed a weekly four-night residency at Bloomers Club, Birmingham and played regular gigs at RAF bases all over the country before their TV debut.  Their regular work was the result of two years of real determination as back in November 1971 the group had their van and £3,000 worth of equipment stolen from outside John Duggan’s home. 

Neil Richardson told the local newspapers that the items were not insured. The items stolen included two guitars, a brand new £400 drum kit, amplifiers and speakers.  Having everything stolen only six months after forming really pushed the band on and they worked like mad and chased bigger jobs so they could earn the money to pay off all the equipment.  

Some of their booking have included four months in Bradford. a nine-month residency at Tiffany’s in Liverpool as well as the Bloomers residency. They played strictly disco music and pop that people can dance to, songs from John Kongos and Hallelujah Freedom.

Drops of Brandy in Liverpool.
Image: Thanks to Ted Duggan

In November 1972, the group had the idea of playing their way from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for the Variety Club of Great Britain children’s fund. When they arrived in Dundee they met Cliff Richard, who was interested in their tour and was also performing in the Scottish city.

Mecca provided them with a float and during their fourteen day tour they played 30 gigs at pre-arranged venues, as well as playing continuously on the back of the lorry all the way. Money raised from their shows, street collections and sponsorship totalled £1,000 and their gig marathon was given a fifteen minute slot on Granada Television. 

Credits: Huge thanks to Ted Duggan and Iain MacDonald, both from the group Drops of Brandy, who provided the names and thoughts of the three judges from this show along with several photographs.

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