5 Feb 1977 – Series Five (22)

Mind reader, Graham P. Jolley.
Image: Thanks to Graham P. Jolley

On the assembled judging panel for this show were Mickie Most, Shaw Taylor, Alan A. Freeman and Lionel Blair. They watched the following seven new to television acts;

  • Soul Direction (five-piece group) from Birmingham
  • Laraine Lee (vocalist) from Barnsley
  • Tony Kent (comedian) from Nottingham
  • Brother (trio group) from the Isle of Wight
  • Graham P. Jolley (mind reader) from Maidstone
  • Bill Campbell (young vocalist) from London
  • Reno (four-piece group) from Nuneaton

The show was one of a few to announce joint winners with the trio Brother and mind-reader Graham P. Jolley both scoring 109 points and booking themselves a place in the All Winners Show the following week.

Graham P. Jolley was billed as the international entertainer you can’t keep out of your mind, so maybe he orchestrated his own win with the judges by working out what they were looking for in his act. Graham’s style was fairly unique, mixing his deadpan humour with his apparent ability to read people’s minds to good effect he impressed the panel of four judges.

Mickie Most said that he didn’t normally like this sort of act, but he liked Graham, saying ‘he was different.’ Lionel Blair said the act was great, but he didn’t like his cream trousers and green jacket combination, which Graham pointed out was Armani, however, Lionel was still unimpressed. Graham remembers that of the four the most enthusiatic judge was Shaw Taylor.

Graham was managed by agent Chic Applin, someone who had supplied acts for the east coast Pontin’s holiday centres when New Faces producer Albert Stevenson was responsible for booking the entertainment for the organisation. Chic also managed Chris North & Jill and Peter Collins with Style who both also faired well on their respective New Faces appearances.

After his appearance Graham went on to perform on the famous Las Vegas strip adding a Cunard cruise ship appearance to his shows when he performed on the QEII. He was seen on television again in the 1980s when he appeared on BBC One’s The Keith Harris Show and in the 1990s he was regularly generating random digits on big-money phone-in quiz, Talking Telephone Numbers, hosted by Phillip Schofield. He also appeared with the BBC’s Alex Jones and Matt Baker on The One Show in 2015 to perform one of his mind reading illusions on his fellow guest, comedian Alan Davies.

In 2011 Graham appeared on the ITV show Penn & Teller Fool Us where he performed two tricks, one with Jonathan Ross and some snooker balls, which he had also performed some years earlier on BBC’s Wogan TV show, and the second a card trick that did indeed fool the American magicians.

Comedian Tony Kent.
Image: Old Clubland Acts Facebook Group

39 year-old comedian Tony Kent was an all-round entertainer who was often billed as comedian, vocalist and dancer in his many years of clubland work during the sixties and seventies.

While Tony didn’t win this show he must have scored well with the judges as he would make a follow-up appearance on the show the week before the series Gala Final, suggesting his score here was in excess of the magic 100 points.

In November 1972 his audience at the Cresta Club, Solihull, Warwicks were rolling with laughter at this act and all was going well. He had just finished a joke about Bernadette Devlin and lan Paisley, and started to move on to one about an IRA man and his grenade, when things took a more sinister turn.

Tony stopped short of the punchline as he was interupted by a burly man wearing dark glasses who rose from his table, grabbed Tony by the arm and whispered, ‘No more Irish jokes.’ He firmly pressed a £20 note in Tony’s palm, before returning to his two tough-looking mates to watch the rest of the act. Tony swiftly switched to Scottish and Welsh gags, avoiding all manner of Irish jokes for the rest of the show. Afterwards Tony said, ‘the man had a thick Belfast accent but nobody in the club had seen him or his friends before. The £20 will be donated to charity,’ said Tony, adding ‘I don’t want to meet that chap again to give it back.’

With his act largely based on ‘give me a subject, I’ll give you a gag,’ Tony was never beaten with his speed and attack described as incredible, plus he could also sing very well too. In 1976 Tony was voted Midlands Comedian of the Year and following his two successful New Faces performances he appeared on television with Frankie Vaughan and was a regular on the BBC Radio programme You Must Be Joking.

He continued his success in 1978 finishing in third place in the Best Solo Comedian of the Year at the National Club Act Awards. The Clubland scene awards reviewed acts over the previous nine months, awarding them points for particular achievements, with more than 500 acts of all types nominated for the various awards. The winner in the solo comedian category was Opportunity Knocks success Tom O’Connor.

The awards that year featured a large number of acts who had first been seen on New Faces. In the solo comedy category Ian ‘Sludge’ Lees was the runner-up with Jim Davidson, now hosting his own TV show, finishing fourth. Vocalist Patti Boulaye finished third in the top female vocalist category, and Dave Blakeley ranked fourth in the top male vocalist category. The Mighty Atom & Roy were runners-up in the comedy act category and Showaddywaddy were placed third in the group of the year awards.

Reno, the four-piece group from Nuneaton, had only been formed a few weeks before they auditioned to appear on the show. Their first ever performance of their American West Coast sound certainly impressed the producer of the show, Albert Stevenson. It only took him a matter of minutes to spot the quality of the group and their audition, announcing ‘we’ll have you on the show.’

Their manager, Brian Yeates, said, ‘we didn’t deliberately keep it a secret. I just let the lads get on with it and they didn’t let themselves down.’ He added, ‘it says a lot for their confidence that they can get through a tough television audition without making any previous appearances.’

At the time of their audition the group had five members, Mick Broadhurst (bass), Don Ker (guitar), Dave Simpson (drums), Paul Price and Pete Brazil, who were all no strangers to Coventry’s music scene. They had all played with local groups, including The Sorrows, Patsy Powell and Staveley Makepiece before forming Reno.

They were billed on this show as a four-piece group and it’s uncertain if that was an error or if one of the audition members had left the group before their television debut. One early 1978 news article shows a change of manager, with John Starkey looking after the group as well managing Jasper Carrott, and also a change in line-up. with Pete Oliver (guitar) replacing Don Ker, so maybe it was the later who missed out on the New Faces appearance.

They wrote their own material and earned themselves a number of bookings across the UK for the summer of 1977 and regularly appeared at The New Pheonix, Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry throughout that year. In 1978 they were still playing live shows and were also perfecting their own original sound in a recording studio with their music was being plugged by two Radio One DJs, Dave Lee Travis and David ‘Kid’ Jensen.

They had bought their expensive sound system, used in their live performances, from their good friends the Electric Light Orchestra, and it served them well in their new venue at the Ryton Bridge Hotel, Coventry. They had also signed a publishing deal with United Artists for their original songs, written by Paul Price and Pete Brazil, but all were reluctant to give up their full-time jobs until they had a firm chance of becoming a successful group.

Birmingham group Soul Direction played a number of shows around the Coventry and Reading areas and a few years after their appearance toured the United States and Germany, however in 1979 they were also billed as New Faces overall group winners, which is a bold claim that my particular research into this show cannot back up. In the same year the group helped Chester College Rag Week raise, a then record amount of, £6,500 for local charities by performing at the evening Rag Ball along with another group, Paradox.

Credit: Many thanks to Graham P. Jolley for his valuable contribution to the details on this show

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