29 Jan 1977 – Series Five (21)

Information on Bristol group Grapevine is very scarce. Image: ATV Broadcast

The judges panel saw show veteran Mickie Most joined by regular panelists Jack Parnell and Jimmy Henney plus series five newcomer Peter Prichard.

They viewed, commented and scored the following seven acts;

  • Tamashante (five-piece group) from London
  • Prelude (female folk guitar / vocal duo) from Reading
  • Les Wilson (comedian) from Leicester
  • Gillian Burns (vocalist) from London
  • Tony Major (vocalist) from London
  • Grapevine (six-piece group) from Bristol
  • Karlee Duo (boy / girl accordion duo) from Kingston upon Thames
London vocalist Gillian Burns later made the role of Nancy in Oliver! her own

The winner of the show was cockney born and bred vocalist, Gillian Burns. Gillian was from a show business family and had been singing since the age of fifteen. Her first West End appearance was in 1965 as cast member of the John Barry musical, Passion Flower Hotel at the Prince of Wales Theatre. She was in among excellent company as also in the cast were Jane Birkin, Francesca Annis, Pauline Collins, Michael Cashman and future New Faces ’86 final judge Bill Kenwright, now a West End Theatre Producer and has been chairman of Everton Football club since 2004.

Gillian Burns signed to the Barn record label. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Gillian followed this up with a six month cabaret tour as one half of a double act with her father Ray Burns, himself a famous big band crooner. Gillian became a solo artist in 1967 working in clubs, cabaret and on cruise ships. In the December after her New Faces appearance she joined the cast of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, playing the character of Nancy, with shows in the West End and across the country as it toured UK theatres. Gillian went on to perform the role of Nancy in over 1,400 performances and is still considered one of the best Nancy’s to appear in the role.

In 1978 Gillian released two singles, Thank You For The Music and Mister, It’s Your Lucky Day on the Barn Records label. Gillian was seen performing again with her father, Ray Burns, when they appeared together on the 1990s TV show Barrymore, performing a wonderful version of Birth of the Blues.

Leicester comedian Les Wilson. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Leicester comedian Les Wilson was very familiar with the ATV Studios in Birmingham as in 1972 he was doing the audience warm-ups for The Golden Shot. In 1973, when he was on the entertainment roster at Pontin’s the future New Faces judge and Pontin’s Entertainment Executive, Bridie Reid, called Les her ‘top tip for the future.’

Les must have got some insider advice about the New Faces show during the show at Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens in the summer of 1976. Headlining that show was series three winner Marti Caine and also on the same bill was series four winner Roger de Courcey with his sidekick Nookie Bear.

The summer following his appearance saw Les headlining the Showtime ’78 show at the Marine Pavilion, Folkestone which followed an appearance on the BBC TV Ronnie Corbett Show in March 1978.

Reading folk duo Prelude. Image: ATV broadcast

The Reading folk duo Prelude were Brenda Tily and Shelagh Bennett, started singing together at local folk clubs and concerts around the local Reading area for a few years before turning professional. They should not be confused with the North East folk group Prelude who had a Top 40 hit with After The Goldrush in 1974.

In 1975 Prelude released a self-titled LP, on the Crotchet Records label, which featured a mixture of modern and traditional folk songs and a few originals written by Shelagh. A few of the tracks on the LP can be heard on you tube, such as John’s Song, The Water Is Wide, the self-titled Prelude and the Shelagh Bennett composition Love Is.

London vocalist Tony Major. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Popular East London vocalist Tony Major was on a run of contest appearances as only a few weeks before his appearance here he was a contestant in a talent competition at the Royal Standard, Walthamstow, where second place went to vocalist Ronnie Cellini, who would appear on New Faces on show six of the following series.

Twelve months after his appearance on the show Tony was the well-dressed singer / compere at the Elm Park Hotel, Hornchurch. In 1983 he was placed third in the St. George’s Tavern’s Pub Entertainer of the Year awards winning £150 and a bottle of White Horse Whisky as his prize.

There is little in the news archives for the group London Tamashante with a week of shows at Madison’s in Newcastle in December 1978 and a reggae single, a cover of Neil Diamond’s song Red Red Wine, recorded with Count Prince Miller in the same year on the Hawk record label and published by ATV Music.

The only information I could find on Karlee Duo was their appearance in a show at Fulham Music Hall where they appeared with trumpet player Roger Green, who appeared on show three earlier in this series.

Archive: A copy is held by the BFI – Work – 570010

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