With just two places to fill in the series Grand Final and only seven shows remaining in series four New Faces reached its 99th show. The professional panel for the show were Tony Hatch, John Hamp, Noel Edmonds and Jimmy Henney.
The seven new acts, featuring six musical performances and one comedian were;
- Livingstone (six-piece group) from Bristol
- John Hutchinson (vocalist) from Bristol
- The Rickard Brothers (vocal duo) from Coventry
- Ann Sheridan (vocalist) from Leeds
- Mike Kelly (comedian) from Bradford
- Sharon (vocal / guitar) from London
- Wolf J. Flywheel (four-piece group) from Rotherham
The list of acts above were published in The Stage on Thursday 10 June 1976, however, the Daily Mirror on Saturday 12 June listed three of the acts on the show as The Rickard Brothers, Wolf J. Flywheel and comedy magician Tiny Ted. It’s therefore not certain which of the other five acts could have made way for Tiny Ted to appear or if he did appear at all.
Readers of the Coventry Evening Telegraph on Saturday 12 June 1976 who were checking out the personal adverts on page seven would have done well to avoid the ‘spoiler’ posted by the staff at Men’s clothing store Nickleby which revealed the winner of the New Faces show later that evening.
The winning act was Coventry singing duo The Rickard Brothers, who had previously failed one audition for New Faces before being accepted at their second attempt. They chose to sing the Neil Diamond song Red Red Wine and scored 99 points to finish well ahead of the six other acts.
Johnny Rickard and Lee Russell (later referenced as Lee Wright, so may have changed his name), both aged twenty five, had been singing together for around two years after originally started out on their own solo careers. They joined forces to fill what they saw as a gap in the current market for a male harmony duo.
They travelled the 6,000 miles back from Cape Town, South Africa, after completing a six month contract at a top city nightclub, to appear on the programme. They were taking no chances on success though as they booked return flights to South Africa, however, they let the tickets expire and decided to stay in the UK after their success on the show.
They hoped that their success on the show would help them find a manager and before they left the studios they were approached by judge Jimmy Henney about signing a recording contact as well as offers of management. They signed a three-year contract with Polydor Records and released Red Red Wine as their first single in July 1976. They also signed a management deal with the same agency that looked after Dick Emery and Norman Wisdom.
In November 1977, Polydor ploughed in excess of £30,000 into promoting and packaging their new single Broken Hearted Avenue from the songwriting team of Tony Hiller, Lee Sheriden and Martin Lee, who wrote Brotherhood of Man’s Eurovision Song Contest winning song, but the track failed to chart in the UK. They released further singles within their three year contract but none of them made an impact on the UK charts, although they did have some chart success in South Africa.
By 1981 Lee Wright (formerly Russell), one half of the Rickard Brothers, became disillusioned with the cabaret life and he dropped out of the entertainment scene, but he returned in 1987 to win Entertainer of the Year in the Midland’s ‘Rolls Royce; of talent shows, staged at Birmingham’s New Kings Theatre. Billed as ‘the man the ladies want to win’ he scooped top prize of £800 in front of the 500 capacity audience. His prize also included regular bookings at the cabaret club and a spot in the 1987 pantomime. After winning Lee said, ‘Winning has given me a real buzz. Now all I want is to get back into the business again, I’m raring to go.’
Johnny Rickard also gave up the dream of stardom in the early 1980s and settled into his office job as an insurance broker. In 2003, at the age of 51, he was back performing again this time as a Neil Diamond tribute act where he played stately homes and large country estates as well as playing a huge show at the The Dubai Country Club, Dubai. BBC Radio 2 presenter Paul Gambaccini said of Johnny’s other tribute act, ‘Johnny is excellent, as good as any Elvis tribute could be.’
Top marks for originality went to Wolf J. Flywheel, for a name which gave no indication that they were the latest exciting exponents in the revival of Rock and Roll. The name seems to have come from the useless private eye character played by Groucho Marx in the movie The Big Store.
The members of Rotherham based group Wolf J. Flywheel were fronted by Jack Day, the singer with the big moustache and even bigger sideburns.
After their TV appearance on New Faces the gum chewing, side-burned draped and crepe footed group, who were certainly too young to have been around during the first rock era, applied their craft to table top jiving fans during their tour of the North East circuit. A recording of the group from the late 1970s can be listened to on You Tube.