1 Jan 1977 – Series Five (17)

The Man of a Thousand Voices, impressionist Benny Yorke. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

This first show of 1977 was directed by Hector Stewart as the programme’s regular director, John Pullen, was in London directing the Royal Gala show, from the Talk of the Town, for transmission the following Sunday evening.

Jimmy Henney was again scheduled to appear but was replaced by Muriel Young for the show, presumably as he was still recovering from his illness that forced him to withdraw from other recent recordings. Muriel was joined on the panel by Jack Parnell, Peter Prichard and Martin Jackson.

The seven new to television acts were;

  • Quinn (five-piece group) from Birmingham
  • Harry Rowley (harmonica) from Cheshire
  • Distinction (female vocal quartet) from Merseyside
  • Art Sutter (pianist / vocalist) from Airdrie
  • Benny Yorke (impressionist) from Co. Durham
  • Siobhan McManus (vocalist) from Dublin
  • Brother Kip (seven-piece soul group) from Letchworth, Hants

The panel of four judges placed Birmingham group Quinn at the top of the leaderboard, winning the show by a single point and booking themselves a one of nine places on the 12 February 1977 All Winners Show.

Runner-up Art Sutter Image: Dundee Courier, D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd.

Runner-up by a single point was Airdrie pianist and vocalist, Art Sutter. In the late 1960s Art had played shows with the Art Sutter Trio, the band he formed himself, however, they had to complement the act by having a day job selling whisky. In August 1976 Art was one of the acts featured in the Andy Cameron show held at the Glasgow Pavilion, where he delivered a pleasing vocal at his piano.

Years after his appearance Art clearly wasn’t bitter at losing out on New Faces by just a point saying, “If I had won and appeared in the final, my career might have taken a different course and I could have become just another singer/pianist.”

In May 1982 Art returned to performing with his trio, providing support for Joe Loss and his Orchestra, at Motherwell’s Civic Concert Hall, where they played a wide range of songs from the Hill Street Blues theme to their own version of Meatloaf’s Dead Ringer For Love.

In the 1980s Art appeared on the programme Shammy Dab, a comedy panel game broadcast by Grampian. The show saw BBC Sport’s Dougie Donnelly pose questions to two teams of comedians and in one of the rounds the teams had to guess what tune Art was playing on the piano, who then also posed a couple of questions. During one of these games, the song was Distant Drums and Andy Cameron said he’d wished it was Distant Pianos.

In 1985 Art took on a new role as a Radio DJ on BBC Radio Scotland afternoon show, taking up the 3.30pm slot where he often played piano on the show. Art left his DJ role with the BBC in 1993 following a general re-shuffle in programming content due to the stations change in direction, a decision that was much criticised by listeners.

In January 1989 Art moved into television presenting a new series, On The Road, shown at weekly at 7p, on Grampian television. In October 1989 the popular broadcaster hosted his own late night music and chat show, The Art Sutter Show, which ran for nine years on Grampian Television, making it the longest running Scottish chat show. In March 1990 a new series of the Art Sutter Show was like a New Faces reunion with singer Elaine Simmons, who won the first ever show in series one of New Faces and series three winner Marti Caine,

  • Watch Elaine Simmons perform the George Benson hit In Your Eyes.
  • Watch Marti Caine, interviewed by Art Sutter, talking openly about her difficult battle against cancer.
22 Episodes of the Art Sutter Show can be viewed on this You Tube Playlist from STV

On Tuesday 7 September 2004 the new SAGA 105.2FM radio station, tailored for the over-50s audience, launched at 6am in Glasgow and Art Sutter was the first DJ to be heard as he hosted the breakfast show. Following a takeover of the station by GMG Radio and a rebrand to Smooth Radio Glasgow, Art was one of six DJs who had their contacts terminated, as the station increased it’s use of celebrity presenters broadcasting their shows from London.

Distinction. Left to right: Amanda, Barbara, Donna and Susan.
Image:Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited.

The vocal quartet Distinction were four teenage girls from Toxteth, Liverpool, formed just twelve weeks before the show was broadcast. In just three months they had gone from obscurity as just four girls interested in pop music to seize a chance of a lifetime.

The group were granted a private audition for New Faces, performing a song composed by local writer Graham Jones called Could It Be (That I Love You, Boy) which was so impressive they were immediately booked for this New Year’s Day programme.

The girls were sisters Barbara (16) and Susan Phillips (17), Donna Alleyne (17) and Amanda Smith (17). They were first spotted at a Black Music Workshop in Upper Parliament Street and under the guidance of the management of the Hamilton Club, Birkenhead, their natural talents had been harnessed and improved to form a unique act.

37 year-old Benny Yorke, was an impressionist that was aptly titled The Man of a Thousand Voices. The long list of impressions in his huge repertoire included the likes of Phil Silvers, Tommy Cooper and James Stewart, which he ingeniously managed to weaveinto the a clever parody of The Deck of Cards. Benny was also known for using Hanna Barbara cartoons and old movies as a source of inspiration, delivering a case of Scooby Doo meeting up with John Wayne on the Sands of Iwo Jima was just one such example.

Other clever head-to-head conversations included in his routines featured Hylda Baker and Andy Pandy, Ken Goodwin and Bugs Bunny, Elvis Presley and Top Cat. To conclude his highly polished stage act Benny used to throw himself wide open to the audience by offering to impersonate any of their favourite artists and he hardly ever came unstuck. Benny’s act, mostly delivered his funny impressions in a single soliloquy, moved at a rapid pacekeeping audiences on their toes to fully appreciate it.

It was a pity when he appeared on New Faces that Benny only got the standard three minutes in which to impress the panel of judges, as in trying to pack too much into the limited time allowed it became a sheer impossibility to convey the many facets of his act, which was so revered by North East clubland.

Benny Yorke was hoping for a break in television following his New Year’s Day TV appearance, but if the offers did happen to come in he would have had to turn them down for a number of months as he had all his teeth out shortly after the recording. Speaking at the time Benny said, ‘I can’t sign for anything until I see how I look with my new choppers, but at least I’ll have time to study the Muppets and the other cartoon characters that I’m planning to bring into my act.’

Specialist music act Harry Rowley had previously appeared on Opportunity Knocks and was a former member of the harmonica virtuosos The Multi Chords, who had played shows in Japan, and the United States in the early 1970s. In March 1972 Harry formed a harmonica duo with another player named Fred. In 1973 Harry was booked by the Chandris Cruise Line and cruised the Pacific and Singapore. Around the same time the cruise line also signed another former New Faces speciality act, booking mind-readers The Amazing Margoes to cruise the Carribean on one of their liners.

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