11 Dec 1976 – Series Five (14)

Band leader Joe Loss made the first of just two judging panel appearances on the show.
Image: ATV broadcast

The panel for the show saw a late change with a scheduled to appear, but unfortunately ill, Jimmy Henney replaced by band leader Joe Loss. He was joined by show regulars Mickie Most, John Smith and Jack Parnell.

The assembled panel of four watched another seven new acts who, in order of appearance, were;

  • Five ‘A’ Side (five-piece group) from Middlesbrough
  • Peppa George (female vocalist) from Paisley
  • Nickey Gunn (comedian) from County Durham
  • Dave Mandall (flamenco guitarist) from Hatfield
  • Maori-Hi-Lites (traditional dancers) based in London
  • O’Sullivan Brothers (vocal / guitar duo) from Cork, Ireland
  • Destiny (four-piece group) from Birmingham
Comedian Nickey Gunn was the clear winner with 101 points.
Image: ATV Broadcast

The winner, by a clear ten point margin, was Teeside comedian Nickey Gunn who scored a nine from all four judges for his entertainment value. Nickey delivered a slick line of patter and also delivered a quick impression of Kojak and finished with his own version of Bouna Sera interspersed with a series of quick fire gags. It was a confident and polished performance but without any single standout moments.

Jack Parnell was impressed that he hadn’t heard any of Nickey’s jokes before and he liked his original style of delivery. Mickie Most described his performance as ‘very smooth’ although he did think that he used ‘a couple of vulgar jokes which were a bit unnecessary.’

John Smith, who was also from the North East, thought Nickey told jokes that had a style of his own and added that if he didn’t win the show he would still be very, very big. Joe Loss ended the comments by saying that Nickey was very professional, but, being a little more old school, agreed with Mickie on the subject of his material.

Opening the show with Sky High were Five ‘A’ Side. Image: ATV Broadcast

Five ‘A’ Side opened the show with Sky High, a song that was a big hit for Jigsaw in 1975. The designers took the literal interpretation on the song choice flooding the stage with dry ice that, at times, seemed in danger of completely obscuring the drummer and finished off the set with a backdrop of blue skies and swirling whispy clouds.

Music producer Mickie Most kicked off the judges comments and started by picking up on their semi-professional status saying they were a little suspect in the instrumental department although he thought the vocals were strong and finished by saying that it had been a promising debut. John Smith said they did well enough for him to want to see their full act, but he would have to see a full half hour cabaret appearance before he could judge them properly.

Joe Loss said ‘the harmony was very pleasant’ and Jack Parnell agreed with Mickie Most about the playing standards but liked the vocals.

19 year-old vocalist Peppa George certainly caught the eye of John Smith. Image: ATV Broadcast

19 year old Peppa George had been in the business for two years and had just returned from a tour of South Africa. She delivered a very expressive version of Maybe This Time from the musical Cabaret.

Joe Loss offered Peppa a little personal advice, saying she should ‘watch her top notes’ as she was an aggressive singer. Jack Parnell thought Peppa ‘handled really quite a difficult song, really quite well’ and ‘she did a pretty good job.’

Mickie Most thought that her voice may have sounded better by picking a song that was more current than the standard she selected as he felt the song choice may have harmed her chances of success. John Smith was ‘not worried about the voice or the song’ adding that ‘Pippa’ [sic] was ‘a very attractive girl, she’s got a beautiful face and lovely eyes and that dress, it emphasises all her assets.’

Twelve years after her TV debut Peppa George once again returned to the talent show stage appearing on New Faces ’88 in the duo Perfect Match, singing with her husband Billy Simpson. Despite winning Club Act of the Year in 1984 they couldn’t repeat the success on the stage of the Birmingham Hippodrome losing out to vocalist Stephen Lee Garden who would be crowned the eventual series winner.

Flamenco guitarist Dave Mandall performed his own song. Image: ATV Broadcast

Dave Mandall performed his own composition Caballos Salvajes (which translates to Wild Horses) which he had written especially for the show. Sat before three large bullfighting posters from Lloret de Mar Dave’s fingers flew so furiously over the frets of his guitar all he needed was some dancers armed with castanets to complete the Spanish vibe to his performance.

Jack Parnell said he thought it would sound better with the castanets and clicking heels of the dancers as on it’s own ‘it was not quite enough musically.’ Mickie Most took the opportunity to explain to the audience the technicalities of the style of guitar playing, especially the purpose of the ‘capo’ which had been used to change the key to make the song more comfortable to play.

John Smith ‘liked the presentation’ and said ‘his appearance was perfect’ but added he should have taken his watch off but wouldn’t hold it against him. Joe Loss said that he would have liked this kind of music played at a dinner party.

Traditional New Zealand song and dance act the Maori-Hi-Lites. Image: ATV Broadcast

The Maori-Hi-Lites were originally from New Zealand but were now based in London. They performed a traditional Maori song and dance routine on a set decorated with palm trees.

The group of six featured one female group member on acoustic guitar while the other two female and three male members performed their choreographed dance routine complete with traditional facial expressions. All six wore traditional Maori dress with the three male members sporting a sash and shorter skirts than the female members.

Following the performance Derek Hobson first went to Mickie Most for his comments and he admitted he ‘wasn’t really ready for that’ but he though the novelty act, if peformed in the right places, would do very well but doubted their potential to appear at the top of the bill. John Smith got his comments off to a slightly embarrassing start by mixing the Australian Aborigines with the New Zealand Maori’s before he was corrected by Derek Hobson. He concluded by saying that ‘you don’t have to understand the words to find them entertaining.’

Joe Loss said of the act ‘that’s entertainment’ and suggested that the producers of summer shows would be looking for this kind of act. He added, ‘it’s happy music, they look good, they work well and I think the public would love them.’ Jack Parnell’s comments were brief and a little tongue in cheek, he said, ‘they are warm, happy, smiling people…I can’t understand why they killed Captain Cook.’

Michael and John O’Sullivan from Cork, Ireland. Image: ATV Broadcast

The O’Sullivan Brothers, Michael and John, sang an upbeat cover of The Cats song Mary Lee, introduced by Derek Hobson as a cowboy number. They performed in matching blue suits with wide lapels and large dickie bows on a set designed to look like a bar and complete with a large backdrop of two matching curvy female silhouettes.

Joe Loss though they looked clean cut and nicely dressed but felt that they needed some stronger material. Jack Parnell didn’t think their suits matched the song choice, saying they ‘looked a little old fashioned,’ but liked the performance.

Mickie Most wasn’t keen on the song choice but thought they sang quite strongly. He said that they needed a song with more quality and that was more memorable song. John Smith thought that they would need to update their appearance as he agreed with Jack Parnell and thought they should lose the ‘showbusiness jackets.’

Birmingham group Destiny were the final act to perform. Image: ATV Broadcast

Birmingham group Destiny were Susan (vocals), Dave (guitar), John (drums) and Karl Barlow (bass) and they performed a medley of songs that included Zing Went The Strings of My Heart, On The Street Where You Live and Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town).

In his younger years Karl Barlow had played bass in a Coleshill based group called Frute, who in 1969 had entered the Lichfield Mercury Big Beat Contest. They competed alongside five other Midlands groups including Six-inch-Nail from Sutton Coldfield, Shades of Confusion from Castle Bromwich, Iron Hammer Blues Band from Penkridge, Hot Blood and the Lunatic Fringe from Birmingham.

John Smith kicked off the comments by airing his concerns about how the group would sound without the backing of Johnny Patrick’s studios band, but said the act was ‘very interesting.’ Joe Loss and Jack Parnell though the type of music and the style of the group and instruments was a strange misfit and questioned their timing.

Mickie Most thought Detiny were on television a little too early in their career as their ‘singing and playing wasn’t very tight’ and they ‘just weren’t ready for this type of show.’ He concluded by saying that had they waited six months or a year before appearing they would have got the routine together a little better, but he added ‘it’s a shame really because they tried very hard.’

The final scores are shown in the table below and at the foot of the page you can watch the whole show on the inserted video from You Tube.

Mickie MostJohn SmithJoe LossJack ParnellTotal
1Nickey Gunn25272326101
2Peppa George1923242591
4Dave Mandall2222242290
5O’Sullivan Brothers1919222383
7Five ‘A’ Side1720182176
Comedian Nickey Gunn was the only act to top one hundred points and booked his place on the Christmas Day All Winners Show.
Karl Barlow (Destiny) has uploaded a copy of this show obtained from Albert Stevenson’s archives

Credit: Huge thanks to Karl Barlow (Destiny) for providing the link to the recording of the show above.

Archive: A copy is held by the BFI – Work – 570122

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