The second show of the series, which was highly likely to have been recorded some weeks before Christmas, featured an expert panel of three familiar faces in John Smith, George Elrick and show regular Tony Hatch who were joined by Lonnie Donegan, who was making his New Faces judging debut.
Despite his image as a zany singer of hits like Rock Inland Line and My Old Man’s a Dustman, the then 43 year-old king of skiffle was renowned for his acid, biting wit in show business circles. A regular, yet unnamed, judge was reported to have said “I’ve already asked the producer if I can be on the panel the week Lonnie makes his debut. It could be the best show of all.”
Four show viewers from Birmingham made up the Viewer’s Panel and got to choose their winner from the acts on show. They were Mrs Jean Powell from Acocks Green, Miss Chris Leek from Harborne, Mr John Roberts from Edgbaston and Mr Alastair Askham from Harborne.
The TV Times encouraged viewers to write into New Faces, ATV Birmingham, B1 2JP if they wanted to appear on a future viewers panel.
Lonnie and the rest of the panel watched the following confirmed line-up of seven ‘new’ acts;
- Sounds Familiar (four-piece group) from Bedfordshire – Score 70
- Chas O’Brien (vocalist) from Eastbourne – Score 90
- Trevor Hill and Ian Hall (vocal / instrumental duo) from Manchester
- Tony Stanley (impressionist) from Fulham
- Ukrainian Black Sea Cossacks from Oldham
- Andy Cameron (comedian) from Glasgow
- Easy Street (four-piece group) from London
In the various information archives there is an act referenced as being on this show, they were;
- Pacific (four-piece group) from London
It now seems clear, from the show footage posted online, that the line-up didn’t feature this group. It’s likely that show winners Easy Street, who were not listed in the TV Times, may have appeared instead of Pacific.
There is, however, no clear explanation in the news archives as to why Sounds Familiar (show 3.18), last seen as scheduled to appear on the second Viewers Winners final of series three, would have returned for another appearance on this show. I can only assume that they maybe didn’t actually appear on the Viewer’s Winners show but they returned early on in series four to fulfil their guaranteed additional appearance.
Despite Lonnie Donegan accusing them of “dressing like workman’s labourers,” the show winners were the easy listening rock group Easy Street. The backbone of the group were former folk duo Ken Nicol and Peter Marsh and their normal trio was completed by Richard James Burgess and they were joined on the show by part-time member Pete Zorn.
Their win was soured a little as they had musical and amplifying equipment worth £2,345 stolen from their van as they celebrated their win in a local restaurant. Fortunately, helped by the local press coverage, the police managed to find it fairly quickly and they were reunited with it by the time of their appearance in the Winners Final.
The win secured Easy Street a place in the first All Winners Show of Series Four broadcast on 31 January 1976.
In October and November 1976 Easy Street supported Barclay James Harvest on their 27 date UK tour playing at venues such as the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, the Usher Hall Edinburgh, Victoria Hall in Hanley and the Hammersmith Odeon.
The Viewers Panel picked impressionist Tony Stanley who would get a second chance in the first Viewers Winners Final on 28 February 1976. It’s highly likely that he performed it on the show as one of the memorable routines from his stage show was his impression of Donald Duck singing My Way which was always enough to touch the heartstrings. In the early 1980s Tony would appear as various minor characters in a couple of episodes of the TV drama Bergerac.
The group Sounds Familiar opened the show and scored 70 points. The second act was vocalist Chas O’Brien, he faired much better with the judges who awarded him 29 points for Presentation & Star Quality and 32 points for Content, giving a total of 90 points and making him the early leader.
The next act were the duo Trevor Hill & Ian Hall, who performed one of their own songs, Gypsy Dancer. The pair had plans to form a group, however, they realised that they performed well together so decided to continue their career as a duo.
Runner up on the judges scoreboard was Scottish comedian Andy Cameron who had made his late start in show-business just three years earlier at the mature age of 32.
His football hooligan themed act, complete with several tartan scarves, received praise from Tony Hatch, who commented that most comedians complain of not having enough time but he thought that Andy had the audience in the palm of his hand in just three seconds.
John Smith was not so supportive claiming he couldn’t understand him, which prompted Lonnie Donegan to jump in and defend the comedian by saying; “well listen better, people in other parts of the UK have to understand English comedians so try listening better.”
One of Andy’s gags on the night was; “I got off the train at Euston Station on my way to Wembley and said to the driver, that was a really smooth journey driver except for crossing the border at Carlisle. Sorry, says the driver, it was an English supporter. Was he on the line? I asked. No, says the driver, he was in a field…but I got him!”
His exposure on the show gave Andy regular work in Scottish football clubs. In 1978 he had a Top 10 UK hit single with his own song, Ally’s Tartan Army, written as an anthem for the Scotland Football team who were appearing in the World Cup in Argentina that summer. He invested the profits from the single into an album which he hoped would cash in on World Cup fever, but the Scotland team crashed out in the group stages and the album was not a huge success.
Andy secured his own TV series with BBC Scotland and he won Scottish TV Personality of the year in 1983 for his show It’s Andy Cameron. He also worked on BBC Radio Scotland for 15 years, winning Radio Personality of the Year in 1984. In 1994 Andy joined the cast of the STV soap Take The High Road, where he played Chic Cherry until the soap finished in 2003. He now works as an after-dinner speaker and has a stand-up act at Rangers F.C., the team he is a well-known supporter of. He was appointed a MBE in the 2015 New Year honours for his services to entertainment and charity in Glasgow.
The Ukrainian Black Sea Cossacks were a unique and spectacular cabaret act, featuring exciting Cossack songs, music and dancing, incorporating comedy and audience participation.
Special thanks to Peter Marsh (Easy Street) for the additional information about their appearance and for helping confirm, via Paul Phillips (Driver 67) and his sister, Pete’s widow, that Pete Zorn was their fourth member when they performed on the show.
Huge thanks to Andy Cameron for sharing his recollection of his appearance on the show.