12 July 1975 – Series Three (42)

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Male impersonator and mime act, Mr. Leslie Rae. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

In the 42nd show on this mammoth series, regular host Derek Hobson welcomed a panel of Mickie Most, Tony Hatch, John Smith, and George Elrick to offer their judgement on the following seven new acts;

  • Mr. Leslie Rae (female comedy / mime) from Burnley
  • Rainy Day Feeling (four-piece vocal / harmony group) from Middlesborough
  • Marie Toland (female vocalist) from Newcastle
  • Sheer Elegance (male vocal trio) from London
  • Mick Miller (comedian) from Liverpool
  • Dave Blakeley (male vocalist) from Cheshire
  • Delia St. Clair OR Della Billson (both female singers)
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Heat winner Mick Miller. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The panel agreed that Liverpool comedian Mick Miller was the winning act and would make a return appearance the following week in a bid to make his way to an appearance in the Grand Final at the London Palladium.

At the age of sixteen Mick was signed as a professional footballer, by none other than the football legend Stanley Matthews. He was a professional player, keeping goal for Port Vale, for two years before being given a ‘free transfer’ to Pontin’s where his long career in entertainment began.

After winning this heat it took two years for him to appear on TV again. Mick was already booked up for the six months following his win and had to turn down numerous offers to fulfil his prior arrangements. By the time his diary was clearing he believes he’d been forgotten about, but his ongoing club work helped him to return to TV on the BBC show We’ll Call You, where he appeared with another former New Faces act, and fellow Scouser, Colin Areety.

Still performing at the age of 70 Mick’s most recent TV appearance was on the BBC quiz show, Celebrity Pointless in February 2020.

The appearance of one act is doubtful. Delia St. Clair is in some listings but Della Billson from Aldershot is listed in others.

Since her days as a Butlin’s redcoat, from 1965-1968, Jenny Malkinson had changed her stage name to Mr. Leslie Rae and started to perform a male impersonator and mime act. Following her New Faces appearance the Southampton based mime act went on to win the £1,000 prize in the Ind Coope Pub Star of 1977 which lead to an appearance on the Frankie Vaughan show in October of the same year.

Following a serious car accident while in Miami in 1980 Leslie was left paralysed from the waist down, but thankfully with hospital treatment and determination just one year later she was not only walking but dancing and getting her act together again.

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Geordie singer, Marie Toland. Image: Alaska Records

25 year-old, four feet ten, Newcastle singer Marie Toland‘s was a woman of many talents, she studied drama at college, wrote poetry, ran a poker school (winning more than she lost) and started he own dance troupe.

Marie’s singing career began, when aged just seventeen, as a resident vocalist with the Don Smith Band at the Oxford Gallaries in Newcastle. In 1969 she released her debut single Take Away The Emptiness Too on the Pye Records label under the name of Tina Tott.  Copies of that single sell for around £200 today and are sought after by Northern Soul collectors, many for the B-Side, a track called Burning In The Background Of My Mind.

In 1973 Marie joined the Newcastle based group Burlesque as their lead singer.  At the time there was a boom in Geordie groups and with agents fighting to sign them, bookings flooding in and record companies requesting tapes things seemed to be taking off for the newly formed group, when a double disaster struck. Just months after forming Marie damaged her vocal chords and was order to rest it for a month, leading to the group having to cancel all their shows.

Once Marie recovered they soon picked up more bookings, but the the second disaster then struck.  On their way to Teeside the group’s van was struck by a car which then collided with the following car, which Marie and bass player, Paul Rutherford were travelling. Paul suffered severe chest injuries and was hospitalised with breathing difficulties and Marie broke both legs. This accident cost the group a £500-a-week all expenses paid contract in South Africa and they had to cancel hundreds of bookings.

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Rainy Day Feeling performed their own number I’m A Fool In Love.  Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

In 1974 Marie had recovered and was back in the recording studio to record and subsequently release an EP of all six of the United Kingdom Eurovision songs that were to provide the track for the competition.

It was rumoured that Marie was the original artist chosen to represent the UK at the 1974 Eurovision Contest to be held in Brighton, however, those rumours proved to be unfounded and Olivia Newton-John sang the UK entry, Love Live Love, in the year that catapulted Abba’s onto the International stage as their hit Waterloo grabbed the Eurovision crown.

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Singer Dave Blakeley. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

After appearing on the show singer Dave Blakeley was later re-discovered singing at Fagin’s night club in Manchester and was signed to the RBA Ltd agency.  He had done impressively well in a short space of time and had rapidly gained recognition on the club circuit. His performances had a hint of the northern comedian in his between- song patter and he had a pleasant voice capable of tackling a wide range of material.

Dave ranked fourth in the top male vocalist category in the Club Mirror National Club Acts Awards for 1978/79 behind Vince Hill (first) Tony Monopoly (second) and Pat O’Hare (third) and he was back on TV in 1980 appearing on ATV’s Arrival, which was produced by New Faces producer Albert Stevenson as well as being a guest star on Miss Great Britain.  He later managed a couple of clubs and restaurants in Dubai before moving to the Costa Del Sol in Spain.

Sheer Elegance were a British soul trio, Dennis Robinson, Bev Gordon and Herbie Watkins, who wrote their own material. Following their appearance on the show they released a single, Going Downtown, but it failed to chart.  They did go on to have two top twenty hit singles, Milky Way, reaching number eighteen and Life Is Too Short Girl peaked at number nine and spent a total of nine weeks in the UK charts.  In 1976 they supported The Supremes on selected dates of their UK tour and performed for HRH Princess Margaret at the London Palladium Royal Gala Concert in aid of the Migraine Trust. They also released their only album, titled Sheer Elegance, in the same year.

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