3 Apr 1976 – Series Four (16)

International singing star Karen Russ. Image: © The Stage Media Company Limited

It was a mix of regular and relatively new faces on the professional panel for show sixteen, which marked the halfway point of the shows leading up the Grand Final at the end of July 1976. Regulars Clifford Davis and Arthur Askey were joined by series four newcomer Noel Edmonds and returning for his third appearance, and his second in as many weeks was Danny la Rue who was still appearing at the Night Out Birmingham.

The seven ‘new to TV’ acts looking to book a place on the next All Winners show were;

  • Chris North & Jill (comedy illusionists) from Norfolk
  • Fusion (three-piece group) from Essex
  • Renato Pagliari (male singer) from Birmingham
  • Martyn Thrussell (vocal / piano) from Aylesbury
  • Karen Russ (vocalist) from London
  • Pat Tansey (comedian) from Birmingham
  • Cissy Stone Band (six-piece group) from Birmingham

The professional panel voted the Irish born comedian, who was living in Bromsgrove, Pat Tansey as the winner of the show with 115 points. He beat illusionist act Chris North and Jill into second place by a slim one point margin.  The panel described the winning act as ‘one of the best comedy acts ever seen on the programmes,’ however his celebrations were short-lived and he never got to perform on the show again.

New Faces winner disqualified

Comedian Pat Tansey, still performing in 1986. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The Sunday following the broadcast an exclusive article in The People newspaper revealed that Pat Tansey was another in a long line of acts that were not ‘as new to TV’ as the producers were led to believe.  In the article Peter Oakes revealed that Pat had appeared on rival show Opportunity Knocks just twelve months earlier.  With all contestants on New Faces having to sign a form stating they have not appeared on any other networked TV show, this was seen as a clear breach of the rules for the show.

A spokesman for the show said ‘The rules of the New Faces programme are quite clear.  Every artist is asked to sign a form asking whether I he has done any television work previously Pat Tansey answered that he had done none. Later it transpired that he had, in fact, appeared in Thames’s Opportunity Knocks on March 31 last year. The rules say that no one may take part in New Faces who has appeared on network television within three years of the relevant programme. Obviously Pat Tansey had to be disqualified.’

The article in The People also named a number of other New Faces acts that had potentially ‘broken’ the rule, including Charlie James, Michelle Fisher, Carol Christmas, Spencer K Gibbins, Johnny Lancaster and Eric Fields.

New producer Albert Stevenson had clearly had enough of this bending of the rules and is quoted as saying ‘I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I hope by disqualifying Tansey it will serve as a warning to others.’   It seems there was no acrimony over the situation. According to Albert Stevenson, Pat Tansey readily admitted his Opportunity Knocks appearance, and he wished him the best of luck in the future but made it clear that ‘rules are rules’.

Pat Tansey appearing at Ricky’s Restaurant, Walsall billed as winner of both shows. Image: © Trinity Mirror created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad news, and ‘King of the Blarney,’ Pat used the publicity to his advantage and went on to have a successful comedy career, which included advertising his act as the winner of both shows, which technically he briefly was.  In November 1979 Pat joined a number of former New Faces comedy acts in the new series of The Comedians. Other acts appearing on the first show were Mick Miller, Johnny Carroll and Roy Walker.

In 1980 Pat was the winner of the Comedian of the Year at the Midlands Variety Command Awards, held at the New Cresta Club, Solihull, and was performing his stand-up routines well into the 1980s.

New winners

Eventual show winners, high scoring speciality act, illusionists Chris North and Jill. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Once his appearance was revealed to the show’s producers, Pat Tansey was disqualified. His place in the next All Winners show would be awarded to the magic act Chris North and Jill, who had performed the zig-zag lady illusion. Once a holiday camp photographer, Norwich illusionist Chris and his assistant Jill Cullum had been performing together since 1973, when Jill replaced his previous assistant Lynn.

Chris persuaded local promoter Barry Dye to be his manager, a move that kick started his professional career.

Their sudden success and such a high score for a speciality act, saw them make many other TV appearances including the Wheel Tappers and Shunters Club, 3-2-1, Tom O’Connor’s London Night Out.

In 1976 they were also awarded the Club Mirror National Club Award for the top speciality act in Britain, which was presented to them at a star-studded evening held at the famous Golden Garter. Manchester.

In 1978 they cruised extensively for the P&O Line on their ships Canberra, Oriana and Sea Princess.  These cruises took them all over the world and they visited many exotic countries often cruising around the South Pacific area for three months.

Viewers Panel Winners

The Cissy Stone Band were the Viewers Panel Winners. Image: Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited.

The Viewers Panel voted the Cissy Stone Band as the act they would like to see again as they booked their place in the new Viewers Winners Show on 5 June 1976.

Cissy Stone, real name Kathleen McGonagle, was born in Cork, Ireland before the family originally relocated to Southport before moving to Birmingham, where he dad ran a barber’s shop.  The former hairdresser was now the girl with the eyepopping outfits and rainbow wigs who had lead her band through the auditions just five weeks earlier, such was their almost meteoric rise to fame. For Cissy, however, it had been a long road to success. She had been singing for more than six years and before forming the band, she was a singer with Body and Soul.

Her new name was selected just to go with the new group formed two years earlier. Stone was a signpost to that town which she saw on her way back to Birmingham after gigs, that gave her that ‘nearly-home’ feeling and when the was in St Tropez with Body and Soul the heard someone calling a pet dog Cissy.

The five men in the band were Phil Brittle (drums), Chris Brown (keyboards), John McNulty (bass),  Steve Bennett (lead guitar) and Cissy’s romantically linked sax player Patrick Geddes- Smith.

They released their debut single, Gone But Not Forgotten, on the Decca label in 1976.

In 2016 Cissy Stone was interviewed about her career on local Midlands TV channel, Big Centre TV, and you can view this episode on You Tube.

Other Acts

Italian tenor Renato Pagliari, pictured in 1975. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

35 year-old Italian tenor Renato Pagliari, who hailed from Sutton Coldfield, and sang in three languages, had twelve months earlier won the M&B and Birmingham Mail sponsored talent contest held at the Solihull Civic Hall.  Following his win, one of the judges, Birmingham club owner Eddie Fewtrell, booked Renato for a spot at his Barbarella’s venue, who was paid £500 for his evening’s work.

The former waiter was born in Rome but settled in the West Midlands as a young man.

After his performance on the show Noel Edmonds said that a tenor like Renato could never be a star, but he would have to eat those words in 1982.

After his appearance on the show he caught the attention of songwriter Johnny Edward who teamed Renato with a new singing partner, Renée (real name Hilary Lester), and provided them with the Christmas number one single, Save Your Love. The single topped the charts for four weeks having displaced The Jam’s Beat Surrender. 

Shortly after the song entered the top ten, Renée had to fulfil a previous commitment with another band and the follow up singles did not achieve the same success.  Between his new faces appearance and the decline of his short period of fame Renato sang on cruise ships and later returned to private life still occasionally singing at his son’s restaurant, Renato’s, in Tamworth.

Renato was a supporter of Aston Villa Football Club and during the early 1990s manager Ron Atkinson asked him to sing Nessun Dorma at half time during a match, to help motivate the players.  In a TV appearance on Room 101 Ron Atkinson would claim that the only person who could sing Nessun Dorma better than Renato was Luciano Pavarotti.

Renato sadly died in 2009, at the age of 69, following surgery for a brain tumour.

Well travelled singer Karen Russ. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Singer Karen Russ had been performing all over the world for over a decade when she made her appearance on the show.  She was surely one most travelled artists in show business, with thousands of miles on cruise liners to her credit and many successful overseas engagements.

In the late 1960s she was a very popular act with London’s West End Club audiences, and had toured Spain, Kenya and Madeira as well as performing on a three month cruise on the QE2 which gave her the chance to visit America. She was the first artist to appear in the Swaziland Casino in South Africa.



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