Show 34 of the third series saw the judging debut of cabaret star Danny La Rue, who was appearing at the Birmingham club the Night Out. Danny joined regular panelists Tony Hatch, John Robins and Arthur Askey to score the performances of the following seven new acts, who in order of appearance were;
- Highway (four-piece group) from Liverpool
- Martine Noone (female vocalist) from Leicester
- Shep Woolley (vocal /guitar/ comedian) from Portsmouth
- Melody & Lane (vocal duo) from Walsall
- Carl Stuart (male vocalist) from Stoke-on-Trent
- Derek Jones (comedian) from Bolton
- Shaftsbury (musical trio) from Portsmouth
Comedian Derek Jones was awarded the highest mark, scoring 99 points, and booked his place in the last All Winners Final of series three on 28 June 1975. In his introduction Derek Hobson said that Derek specialised in ‘minor catastrophies’ and warned that anything might happen in the following three minutes.
Derek presented an act that mixed gags with some Tommy Cooper style magic and even a display of fire-eating. His gags included, ‘this fella came over to me. He said have you broken down, I said why are you a mechanic, he said no I’m a chiropodist, I said well give us a tow.’ He also told a couple of Irish jokes and what appeared to be a racist joke about a missing policeman and a bus conductor.
Danny La Rue thought Derek was ‘very funny, very original’ and said he heard a lot of jokes he hadn’t heard before, adding that he was ‘very, very different.’ John Robins agreed with Danny’s comments and added ‘I think it’s nice to see a comedian that comes up with an act, rather than just does stories and leans against the mic stand.’ Arthur Askey thought Derek came across very well saying he was ‘very good indeed, very original and at least two of the gags I hadn’t heard before.’
Tony Hatch said ‘I think there is something unusual about this act, and I think with a little bit more experience he could get it all together and get over his nerves.’ He added that the more relaxed club atmosphere probably suited him better than the TV studio, but finished by saying ‘I think there is a future for him and I do wish him luck.’
Vocalist Carl Stuart, managed by Warrington agency Johnson & Fox (later Neil Johnson agency), who also looked after New Faces guest host Nicky Martyn, would get another chance as he appeared on the final viewer’s winners show of the series on 19 July 1975.
Carl, from Stoke-on-Trent, scored 96 points on the show for his performance of the song Love Is All. Carl had been performing in groups around the Stoke area for about ten years but twelve months before his New Faces appearance he had decided to go solo.
The set for Carl’s performance looked like it was made from grey plastic guttering that had huge holes drilled through it. During his performance the camera shot through and around these strange constructions, but Carl seemed unphased by this and belted out his song with confidence.
Tony Hatch lead the judges remarks by saying ‘I think that any artist that has to sing against a background of giant brandy snaps, really, you know, and sort of shot through it and round it, it’s a great disadvantage.’ Tony added ‘he has a tremendous voice, his pitch and control are just great, you can’t fault his technique at all,’ and concluded by saying he’d like to help him find the right song that suited his voice.
Danny La Rue thought Carl had ‘fine quality’ with a ‘good voice’ and ‘good pitch.’ John Robins referenced the After All I’ve Been Through documentary, which he produced and directed, by saying, ‘it conjures up memories of a documentary that we made some time ago about New Faces and the amount of people that used to come to the auditions and sing this particular song, and this is the first time really that one has sort of heard it with all it’s strength and vitality.’
Arthur Askey agreed with Tony Hatch saying ‘how can a fella sing when he’s in a Lego factory.’ Arthur added, ‘considering he comes from Stoke-on-Trent, because there’s no singers come from Stoke-on-Trent, except Tony’s wife Jackie Stone…Jackie Trent.’ After his quips Arthur concluded by saying ‘I thought he sang marvellously, I think he looks good and I wish him all the best.’
Carl continued to perform, mainly across the county of Staffordshire, for the next 20 years.
At the time of the show Shep Woolley lived on Tamworth’s Perrycrofts Estate, and had been in the Navy for the last 15 years, but had been given leave from his current posting in Plymouth to appear on the show. He’d already decided to leave the service few weeks after the recording of the show and had plans to become a professional folk singer.
The song he chose for his three-minute spot before the panel of judges was a humorous number he first heard in New Orleans, Draft Dodger’s Rag, which he recorded as his first single.
He opened his act with a few gags including one about the winter in Plymouth. He joked ‘it was about ten foot of snow and all the ponds were all frozen over and I was taking the dog for a walk. I said to this farmer, can my dog skate over your pond. He said is it thick enough. I said it’s an Irish Setter.’
He then introduced his chosen song as a country and western song and explained that they are normally about jail, train, trucks or mothers, and his song was about all of them, explaining that it was about ‘a bloke that breaks out of jail, jumps on a train, nick a truck and runs over his mother.’
John Robins thought Shep was very good and had a great personality but offered one minor criticism saying ‘I’d would have liked, maybe, to have dropped one chorus off the song and had a few more jokes.’ Arthur Askey agreed with John, saying ‘he was very good, his words were a bit woolley, like himself. He told me he got the words from an American marine, so it’s just as well, possibly, that we didn’t hear them, knowing the American marines.
Tony Hatch thought Shep had a ‘nice personality and a good face. I would prefer actually that he dropped a bit of the patter and put more of the song in, because he was a little but nervous on that and I think he found the confidence in the singing.’ Danny La Rue said ‘it was original and he was a very good singer,’ and added ‘I think he’s very confident.’
The Liverpool group Highway opened the show with a song of their own, Highway, written by Pete, their keyboard player. When it came to the judges remarks Tony Hatch said ‘I think the best thing I can say about them is they’re pleasant, inoffensive, but there is nothing really outstanding about them in any way, either by the song or by the sound that they are making that’s going to set them apart.’
Danny La Rue though they had a ‘marvellous clean, wholesome look about them, they are not covered in beads and sequins like several of our would-be pop singer stars.’ He added ‘the thing that impressed me the most is their very good appearance and their charm, great charm.’ John Robins agreed with Tony Hatch, but did add ‘it’s nice to see a group who are clean and don’t wear all the fancy gear doing something of their own rather than copying somebody else.’ Arthur Askey thought ‘they made a very pleasant sound,’ adding ‘they made an effort to give something fresh’ and concluded by agreeing with Danny about their fresh look.
Vocalist Martine Noone was born in County Kildare but was living in Leicester at the time of her appearance. Twelve months before appearing on the show Martine won a talent contest that prompted her to enter the world of showbusiness.
Commenting on her performance Danny La Rue said Martine had a ‘touch of the Ruby Murrays’ and then bizarrely offered to cut Martine’s hair to make it all ‘bubbly and short.’
John Robins voiced a concern that ‘a girl with a nice voice with a very simple and easy presentation, possibly the market available to her is not great, and although there is the odd spot on television, I think she would be hard going possibly for an audience with that sort of material in a cabaret.’ This comment prompted Danny La Rue to interject, saying ‘I’m sorry, I disagree with you entirely.’ He added ‘I wish people forget records and television, they came after performers. Performers have entertained thousands and millions of people without the aid of television.’
Tony Hatch briefly likened Martine to the Irish singer Dana and claimed that the same transformation could happen for Martine. He added ‘I think she should take some singing lessons, because she needs to develop more power to achieve greater variation in her presentation. I think that will help her, she sings a little bit out of tune to me.’
Derek Hobson broke up the disagreement to ‘wake’ Arthur Askey from his slumber for him to comment ‘I thought it was charming, I thought the orchestration was marvellous too.’ He concluded by saying ‘she’s got a sweet voice and I think it’s very kind of Danny to lend her that frock.’
The vocal duo Melody & Lane, were two brothers-in-law from Walsall, who sang in the local pubs and clubs just for fun. They performed the John Rowles 1968 hit, If I Only Had Time.
Arthur Askey said ‘they’re marvellous, I though they were great, they look like Millican and Nesbitt [1973 Opportunity Knocks winners] with hair don’t they.’ He also quipped ‘I wouldn’t sing that song in front of a judge.’
Tony Hatch was not quite so impressed, saying ‘the regrettable thing about this business is, I mean they are not very good really but then neither were Millican and Nesbitt, but Millican and Nesbitt had a great magic going for them.’ He added ‘even though these lads, well they put over the song quite nice, I found them a bit sort of plastic, rather like Thunderbirds models.’ He pointedly added ‘unless it’s a new gimmick where you sort of sing one line ahead of the other I think they could rehearse a bit more so that they actually sing it together.’
Danny La Rue said ‘I like the boys very much,’ adding ‘they are a good club act, I know clubs very well and people will sing their songs with them.’ John Robins said the duo ‘had rather a millstone around their neck in relation to Millican and Nesbitt but I do think, like Danny, that there is a market for that type of work, particularly in the clubs.’
Portsmouth group Shaftsbury had supported The Crystals and The Ronettes, playing at the London Palladium. The trio performed their own song, Crazy Jane, on the show and the judges were fairly positive with their views on the performance. They were Pete Roffey (guitar), Dave Martin (bass) and Roger Grigg (drums and vocals).
Arthur Askey joked he used to know a crazy jane in Shaftesbury Avenue adding ‘they never caught up with her either.’ Arthur added ‘I thought they were a very good group and I enjoyed their song.’ He also referred to a ‘funny little break at the end’ which he thought was ‘rather cute.’ John Robins commented that for any group it’s hard going and that it was the material that was key and he was impressed they had performed their own song, however, he said ‘it was just sort of middle of the road.’
Danny La Rue thought having the original material was very good and was impressed with the lead singer on drums which he commented must be very difficult, and finished by simply saying, ‘I like them very much.’ Tony Hatch thought the drummer [Roger Grigg] was great but though they needed to make the vocals sound a lot better, but added ‘it’s not a bad song at all.’
The only thing to happen for Shaftsbury after the show was a seven week tour of playing at Fiesta’s in Spain. It was certainly an interesting time to be in Spain as General Franco was on his death bed and the Spanish youngsters were all going crazy for their freedom once the dictatorship ended.
You can watch their performance on the show in the video below.
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Credits: Huge thanks to Ray Langstone for being the first person to find the newly uploaded footage of Shaftsbury on You Tube. A massive thank you to Roger Grigg (Shaftsbury) for his invaluable source of information on this show.