8 Jan 1977 – Series Five (18)

Barnsley comedian Steve Collins. Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

The second show of 1977 saw the return of band leader Joe Loss to the panel for his second and final appearance as a judge. Joe took his place alongside Tony Hatch, Alan A. Freeman and a fit again Jimmy Henney.

The seven new acts bidding for stardom this week were;

  • Lucky Numbers (five-piece group) from Limerick, Ireland
  • Steve Collins (comedian) from Barnsley
  • Tricia Parnell (vocalist) from Doncaster
  • Gary Malcolm (comedian) from South Wales
  • Norman Castle and Gill (vocal / instrumental duo) from Liverpool
  • David Kerry (vocalist) from Ireland
  • Mardi-Gras (five-piece group) from Hessle, Hull

The winner of the show was Doncaster vocalist Tricia Parnell.

Comedian Steve Collins was the type of chap who does not believe in rushing things. His career progression had been steady rather than spectacular. He began as a semi-pro Country & Western singer and then became a Butlin Redcoat during which time he switched to a comedy act, before moving to the club circuit as a principle comedian.

Steve even took his time when it came to romance. He met Carol, a Richard Stone dancer, during his first season at Butlins, Skegness, and they ended their first year on speaking terms. A year later, in 1966, Steve decided he rather liked her and in 1967 they eventually married. In 1968 the yodelling comedian swapped his red coat for a blue one becoming the assistant entertainments manager and compere at the Pontins holiday camp in Blackpool. In 1971 Steve enjoyed a successful summer season at the Sun Lounge in Filey and in 1972 he was the comedy act on the Gene Pitney bill at the Batley Variety Club.

Steve found out about his New Faces appearance at the end of 1976, after arriving home from a working holiday cruise on board the luxury liner Ithaca, visiting Madeira, Gibraltar and Mallorca. Waiting for him was a letter from show producer Albert Stevenson informing him he had been selected to appear on this show.

Steve was another of the New Faces acts that had previously made an an appearance on rival talent show Opportunity Knocks. He appeared on the show broadcast on 24 August 1974 alongside a 75 year-old one string fiddle player, a gospel group and traditional dancers who performed to fiddle and flute accompaniment who all lost out to sixteen year-old Gillingham vocalist Helen Foster.

Liverpool duo Norman Castle and Gill had teamed up just six months before their appearance on this show, in a bid for stardom. Norman was a singer songwriter and Gill sang and played electronic piano. They had warmed up for their debut television appearance with a Christmas party show at Parkgate Hotel, near Liverpool, on the 29 December 1976.

Norman Castle was previously a member of the Birkenhead trio The Little Folk, alongside Mike O’Brien and Ken Dickenson. The trio ran their own folk club in Oxton, Merseyside in the late 1960s and in 1971 they recorded a live LP, Leave Them A Flower, at The Coach House folk club, writing some of the tracks on the LP themselves.

Norman Castle and Gill (sometimes listed as Jill) were still performing together in 1981 when they were billed as International Cabaret Stars, so it seem stheir career since the show had taken them to foreign lands.

Mardi-Gras, the five-piece group from Hessle near Hull, released an EP, Mardi-Gras Sings, on the Gough & Davy Records label in 1977. Gough & Davy was, and still is, an old-fashioned record shop in Hull, that at the time had it’s own record label.

The four-track EP featured the tracks C’mon Be Happy, If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind, Everything I Own and And I Love Her.  It is assumed that the EP was released to coincide with their appearance on New Faces so they may well have performed on of the four tracks on the show, although this cannot be confirmed.

Irish band Lucky Numbers were a pop band from Limerick, Ireland. In September 1977 they played a show at Woody’s nightclub in Sligo, the day after another New Faces act, Jamie Stone had played at the same venue.

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