4 Dec 1976 – Series Five (13)

Hartlepool comedian Peter de Dee.
Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Regular show panellists Mickie Most and Martin Jackson were joined by series five newcomers Muriel Young and Peter Prichard to review the performances of seven new to television acts, one of which was drafted in at short notice.

The acts that most performed, in order of appearance, were;

  • Penny Black (five-piece group) from Walsall
  • Mike Hill and ‘Frisky’ (ventriloquist) from Dublin
  • Gemma Murphy (vocalist) from Shannon, Ireland
  • Peter de Dee (comedian) from Hartlepool
  • Christy Lee (drummer) from Portsmouth
  • Bryan Taylor (vocalist) from Glasgow
  • Ding-a-Ling (seven-piece showband) from Limerick, Ireland

It seems that Angel (four-piece group) from Cheltenham, who were listed as appearing in a number of publications, made way for the Walsall group Penny Black, who were urgently contacted a few days before the show was recorded.

The show opened with an announcement from host Derek Hobson, who told the audience and the television viewers that the group Showaddywaddy, finalists in series one, were celebrating their first number one hit. Their single, Under The Moon of Love, would remain at number one for three weeks, just missing out on the coveted Christmas Number One, which was claimed by Johnny Mathis with When A Child Is Born.

Scottish vocalist Bryan Taylor impressed the judges and won the show.
Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

The winner of the show was Scottish vocalist Bryan Taylor who booked himself a return appearance on the Christmas Day All Winners show, and was one of three acts to score over 100 points, receiving 111 points from the judges. Bryan performed the song Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye), which had been a hit back in 1972 for Gladys Knight & The Pips.

Muriel Young called Bryan ‘a great quality artist’ and thought his performance was ‘wholly delightful.’ Martin Jackson pointed out that Bryan was Neville Taylor’s son and said ‘it’s obvious where he’s inherited that voice’ adding ‘I think he’s got a tremendous future.’

Music producer Mickie Most thought ‘it was a very stylish performance,’ and offered this advice, ‘if I was him I’d save every penny I had and take a trip to New York and go around the publishing houses of the United States to find the songs.’ Peter Prichard said Bryan was ‘great, I really like him, he’s going to be a big star this boy. He just needs that one number and he’s going to make it.’

Bryan’s singing career began at a very young age when he joined his father, Neville, on the single The Miracle Of Christmas at the age of just six. At the time Neville Taylor and his group The Cutters were a regular act on TV music show Oh Boy! and Neville had been signed to the Parlophone record label by George Martin, the man who would go on to produce The Beatles. The plan was to emulate Harry Belafonte’s success with Mary’s Boy Child with young Bryan singing on the track in an appealing and slightly wobbly voice to give it the cute appeal factor, however the record didn’t sell well at all and even the B-side, co-written by George Martin under the name of his father-in-law, John Chisholm, failed to boost sales.

Bryan’s cabaret material ranged from Frank Sinatra to Tom Jones to James Taylor and he’d performed his own show at the Crazy Daisy cabaret room in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Following his New Faces appearances he secured his own TV series, The First Time, on Scottish Television which saw him welcome guest acts such as Dana, Barbara Dickson and The Real Thing.

In 1977 Bryan appeared on the bill of ITV’s The Royal Show at Glasgow’s Kings Theatre in the prescence of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. On the same bill that evening were Ronnie Corbett, Lena Zavaroni, David Soul, Dolly Parton, The Jacksons and former New Faces finalist Elaine Simmons. In 1978 Bryan released the single Love Nights / Faded Love on the Private Stock record label.

Irish showband Ding-A-Ling were fronted by vocalist Shaun O’Dowd. Image: Flashbak.com

Runners-up on the show were Ding-a-Ling, the show band from Ireland with their lead vocalist Shaun O’Dowd. Their impressive score of 107 points was not quite enough to win the show but guaranteed them another appearance on the show and they would return for the Near Misses show on 19 March 1977.

They performed their single Those Rockin’ Sounds which they later featured on their 1977 LP Rockin’ Sounds. The group had already recorded a top ten hit in Ireland back in March 1976 with their single Gary, Don’t Go.

The other members of the band were Denis Allen (lead guitar), Bobby O’Driscoll (bass), Noel O’Toole (trumpet), Pat McDonald (saxophone / clarinet), Tom Frost (drums) and Brian O’Grady (keyboards) and they were managed by Paddy O’Connell.

Martin Jackson thought the showband were ‘superb’ and that they gave one hundred percent in entertainment value. Muriel Young thought they were ‘absolutely smashing’ adding they were ‘the tops.’

Peter Prichard agreed with the previous two judges saying they were ‘a good showband’ that provided good entertainment value. Mickie Most said he quite enjoyed it as it was ‘fun music and they played it well.’

Drummer Christy Lee with her all female group The Beat Chics in 1964. Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Finishing in third place in this high scoring heat, with a score of 104 was drummer Christy Lee, whose real name was Christine Leeworthy. Chrissy was from Portsmouth, not Plymouth as she was incorrectly introduced by Derek Hobson. Backed by the Johnny Patrick Orchestra Chrissy performed Sock It To ‘Em J.B. which had been recorded by Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers back in 1966. The performance featured a fantastically faultless ninety second drum solo in the middle of the song where Chrissy was in the spotlight while the lights were dimmed on the orchestra.

Judge Mickie Most, said he ‘couldn’t fault it at all’ and stated that Christy was ‘one of the six best girl drummers in the world.’ Peter Prichard said Christy was ‘marvellous’ and he was sure ‘she was a showstopper with that number when she fronts her own band.’ Muriel Young said, ‘she is a good drummer and I would like to see her with her own band.’ Martin Jackson called Christy a ‘superb technician and obviously a showstopper with a band.’

Christy had started drumming in pubs and clubs at the age of thirteen before joining the Ivy Benson Orchestra at the age of seventeen, playing with big names such as Dinah Washington, Fats Domino and Tom Jones. After seven years with the Orchestra Christy left to form the The Beat Chics, who were chosen as the support group for The Beatles on their first tour of Spain and France, they even travelled with them on their private jet where John Lennon and Paul McCartney busily wrote a number of new songs. Later in her career Christy was a member of The Skinnerettes, the house band on Frank Skinner’s chat show. When Ringo Starr appeared on the show he was asked if he remembered Christy. He claimed he didn’t, but Frank Skinner had prepared a photo of the pair together to prove his point. The Beat Chics released their single Skinny-Minnie on the Decca record label in 1964, which made a minor impact on the Billboard charts.

In the 1970s Christy formed became the first female bandleader working for the Mecca organisation, forming The Christy Lee Band who were resident at many ballrooms throughout the country including the famous Lyceum in London. Christy took the thirteen piece band to Portsmouth where a young trombone player named Lance Ellington joined. Christy would soon spot Lance’s potential as a singer, pairing him with Bette Hannah to form, as well as manage vocal duo Koffee ‘n’ Kreme. The duo would go on to achieve huge success on New Faces later in this series. In 1980 the Christy Lee Band released their The Best of the Woman in Me in the President record label.

In 2020, now at the age of seventy seven and performing as Crissy Lee, she appeared on the latest ITV talent show Britain’s Got Talent making it through to the semi finals having impressed the judges with her initial audition routine, although her original New Faces talent show appearance was never mentioned on the programme.

Walsall group Penny Black opened the show.
Image: Supplied by Barry Underhill

Penny Black were a popular female fronted five-piece band from Walsall and they opened the show with their version of Kiki Dee’s I Got the Music in Me, scoring a total of 89 points from the judges marks.

Penny Black’s lineup was Joan ‘Tiki’ Jones (vocals), Barry Underhill (bass guitar / vocals), Rob Wood (lead guitar / vocals), Roger Hayward (Hammond organ / vocals) and John Perkins (drums). They had recorded an EP that was to coincide with their debut TV appearance but it was never released.

The judges remarks were generally positive with Peter Prichard commenting that their female vocalist was ‘very pretty’ and that she reminded him of a ‘young Debbie Reynolds.’ Muriel Young said they had ‘zest, pow and kapow’ and liked them enormously. Her only criticism, of sorts, was that Joan was wearing a fashionable top, the baggy kind that floated around in the breeze, and she thought that ‘with her smashing little figure, she should give the boys a break and not cover it all up with that bit of old tat.’ Host Derek Hobson commented that he was glad Muriel thought the same about her figure too.

Martin Jackson referred to the group as the ‘Walsall Concerto’ and added that he thought the female vocalist had a very commercial sound and she would make a very good recording artist with her nice sharp, hard sound . He added that ‘they looked good’ and ‘she’s a nice little mover.’

Finally Mickie Most said he thought they had picked a good upbeat tune to open the show, but he thought that Kiki Dee’s original version was better. He felt that the band were ‘a little lightweight’ and ‘the sound needed to be a little stronger’ adding that ‘they needed more conviction.’

From the information provided by Barry Underhill, including an audio recording of their performance made by Rob Wood’s younger sister (listen below), their appearance on the show is absolutely certain. Barry also provided a copy of a telegram he received from Sandy Howard at ATV, dated 18 November 1976, requesting he telephone the New Faces office on 021 643 9898 urgently.

Audio recording of Penny Black’s opening number followed by the comments from the panel. Audio supplied by Barry Underhill

Penny Black continued to perform with various personnel changes, with Barry Underhill everpresent, between 1974 until 1989 when they changed their name to PARIS and introduced a revamped modern romantic image, which was initiated by their latest female vocalist, Paula Tuckley. They disbanded in late 1991, with Barry Underhill and Rob Wood continued as a duo until 1999. The original members of PARIS briefly reformed in 2012 to perform at a charity gig. The show was so successful they decided to continue performing until Barry Underhill left the band in early 2014 and PARIS finally disbanded shortly afterwards.

Peter de Dee posts a thank you in The Stage on 9 Dec 1976, confirming his appearance on 4 Dec 1976. Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Hartlepool comedian Peter de Dee was confirmed as appearing by his promotional advert in The Stage the following week. The advert stated that he had been a ‘sensational success’ and ‘even the band fell about laughing.’ He certainly made an impression in his bright orange shirt and black suit. Peter took the lead at the halfway point of the show with a score of 96 points.

Muriel Young said ‘he makes me laugh’ but said ‘he threw away a lot of those gags, his delivery was too fast and he wasn’t enunciating enough to get it over, but he is funny.’ Martin Jackson said Peter was a ‘crazy comic’ and ‘he dodges about a lot.’ He added were some ‘very funny lines there but a lot of them were lost.’

Mickie Most said ‘I enjoyed it,’ adding ‘he’s the best we’ve had so far,’ and concluded by saying ‘I really couldn’t find any fault with him.’ Peter Prichard said the zany comedian reminded him of Ken Dodd when he started, ‘he was the same way, he was attacking throwing everything away but giving you so much that out of it you were entertained.’

Peter de Dee was formerly the clown / drummer with the popular North East band Hawaiian Meets Country before going it alone as a funny man, using his endearing lisp and fast delivery to full effect.

In the mid-80s Peter risking the wrath of feminists across the UK as he teamed up with eight strippers to offer a completely new show aimed at the stag night audience. The Stripperama show featured Peter’s own fifty minute comedy spot which included the strippers in specially adapted dance routines. Around the same time Peter started writing for radio and television, including sketches for Spitting Image. In a complete change of direction from his stag night shows Peter was seen playing five different characters in the children’s television series Supergran. By the end of the 1980s Peter had added a side-splitting funny fire-eating finale to his routine that occasionally featured vulgar humour and cheap racist gags which some critics suggested he could have easily left out and still been as equally successful.

The second act of the show was Mike Hill and Frisky, an old English Sheepdog complete with Irish accent, who provided a three minute routine of quick gags and a few impressions by Frisky that gained a number of laughs from the studio audience. They took an early lead with a score of 92 points. They clearly continued to fool around during the judges comments as the audience were laughing throughout.

Martin Jackson called the act ‘absolutely delicious,’ adding ‘he was so intrigued by Frisky.’ Muriel Young thought Frisky the dog was an ‘inspiration’ but ‘wasn’t utterly mad about the chat between the two.’ Muriel added ‘one thing worried me slightly, the dog obviously has fleas which is part of the act, but he didn’t have time to mention them. I was waiting for an absolutely super gag about the fleas but we never got it.’

Peter Prichard thought ‘the dog is just lovely, he just needs to get his routine worked out.’ Mickie Most liked Frisky the dog too but thought that the pace was a little slow and the routine needed slightly better dialogue.

The blonde haired vocalist Gemma Murphy performed The Impossible Dream from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha and was also featured in the 1972 film version, which starred Peter O’Toole. Gemma scored a total of 80 points.

Mickie Most said he felt for Gemma as ‘she looked terrified’ and the nerves seemed to ‘close her throat.’ Peter Prichard also said he felt that Gemma was clearly suffering with her nerves, but she would have a very good chance to get on in musicals.

Muriel Young thought Gemma was ‘beautifully dressed’ and looked ‘absolutely gorgeous’ and added ‘nervous she was, but she got through that whole thing with great presence and the voice is there and it is fantastic.’ Martin Jackson thought that the song being a ‘man’s song’ went against Gemma and said that he saw her in musicals rather than as a single singer.

ActPresentationContentEntertainment
Value
Total
1Bryan Taylor (vocalist)393438111
2Ding-a-Ling (seven-piece showband)343637107
3Christy Lee (drummer)353435104
4Peter de Dee (comedian)30303696
5Mike Hill and ‘Frisky’ (ventriloquist)33263392
6Penny Black (five-piece group)30293089
7Gemma Murphy (vocalist)28272580
The final scores gave three acts another chance to appear again later in the series, but the winner by just four points was Bryan Taylor

Credit: Huge thanks to Barry Underhill (Penny Black) for providing the additional information, audio and images from Penny Black’s appearance.

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