12 Mar 1977 – Series Five (27)

Vocalist David Laine. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

As the series raced quickly towards the end this was the last show for new acts to make a bid to be part of the Gala Final show. With the next two shows inviting back Winners and Near Misses from previous programmes the acts we would see from now on would only be those that had been seen before.

The four judges forming the expert panel for this show were Jimmy Henney, Jack Parnell, Peter Prichard and George Elrick.

They watched the following seven new acts;

  • J.J. Stewart (comedian) from London
  • Mr Carline & Mr Walling (comedy double act) from London
  • Susan Wilson (vocalist) from the North East
  • Mother Nature’s Children (four-piece group) from Chesterfield
  • Don Shepherd Set (jazz trio) from Norwich
  • David Laine (vocalist) from Normanton
  • Wine & Roses (five-piece group) from Cardiff

This was another show were the judges found it impossible to split the top scorers resulting in another tied result. The winning acts, both scoring a very impressive 109 points, were Cardiff group Wine & Roses and London comedian J.J.Stewart.

In what was clearly a high scoring show there were also two other acts that would get a second chance to make that Gala Final show in just three weeks time. The comedy double act Mr Carline & Mr Walling and Chesterfield group Mother Nature’s Children both scored highly enough to be invited back to appear on the following weeks Winners and Near Misses show.

The winning group Wine & Roses released their debut single, Hold Me Baby, on the Barn Records label in 1978.

Comedian J.J. Stewart performed his very funny and popular telephone routine. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Comedian J.J.Stewart had been performing under the name Bobby Stewart, but announced a name change shortly before the show was recorded. Before his New Faces appearance he had performed his comical musical act in pantomime, cabaret and summer shows across the UK.

His chatty style had been developed during his long residency in London, where he performed with his own band. He took the chance to branch out as a solo entertainer and a tour abroad quickly followed, taking in Malta, Tehran, South Africa, a cruise date on the QEII plus work in the Carribean. He returned from South America in 1977 in time to audition to appear on New Faces.

In February 1978 he was working hard for his laughs at Birmingham’s Night Out where Matt Monro was the star attraction. In the summer of the same year he was one of a number of New Faces winners to be added to the Pontin’s Holiday Camp entertainment roster alongside previous show winners vocalist Linda Fletcher and vocalist / comedian Lee Wilson.

In May 1979 he was performing with his silver trumpet at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, where he shared the bill with Bobby Crush, Charlie Williams and New Faces series four Gala Final winner Roger de Courcey. By this time his act had moved away from his crazy comedy telephone routine he performed on this show and it now featured his attempts to get a female audience member to accompany him on the trombone.

After appearing with Trevor Chance, another New Faces winner himself, at Central London’s Aphrodities venue in June 1979 he performed a summer season at Blackpool’s South Pier, alongside yet another show winner, comedian Mick Miller, who at the time was one of the stars of Granada TV’s The Comedians. At the end of 1979 J.J.Stewart was back in pantomime playing Buttons and appearing with Peter Brough and ‘Archie’ Andrews, in the production of Cinderella in the London borough of Wandsworth. In 1980 he appeared with New Faces judge Lonnie Donegan and Jack In The Box singer Clodagh Rodgers in Startime ’80 summer show at the Pier Pavillion in Cleethorpes.

In 1984 J.J.Stewart was on his travels again and was entertaining British troops stationed in war-torn Lebanon. The comedy entertainer was dispatched to the centre of the fighting in Beirut to deliver a little homespun humour to the small contingent of British troops who formed part of the international peace-keeping force. The following year he was still playing his trumpet and was one of the support acts for the Rolf Harris show in Dartford.

Mother Nature’s Children. Image: The Songs of Karen Plummer and Charles Finney (Facebook)

Zany Chesterfield group Mother Nature’s Children had auditioned for New Faces back in 1975 and been accepted but a change to the show producer meant that they had to audition again to earn their spot on this show.

The group, were Mick Weller (drums), Charles Finney (bass / vocals), Karen Finney (rhythm guitar / vocals) and Mick ‘Plunk’ Plunkett (lead guitar), and had been performing around Sheffield, Barnsley and Leeds prior to their television debut. They performed their own song Monkey Back Ride which was written by Charles, Karen and her sister Janis Marsden. They recorded the song as a single ,on the President label, and it was produced by Dick Rowe, the man who famously once turned down The Beatles. The song can be heard in the video below.

The group later became the Grace Poole 5 with Karen, Charles and Mick Plunkett being joined by Louise Groves (keyboards) and Richard Thomas (drums) and together they won Radio Hallam’s Rotherham Rocks contest. While they were recording their song Dandy at Scam Studios in 1979 the vocalist from another group, who were rehearsing in the same building, came into the studio to listen, saying he liked the song. The vocalist, Phil Oakey, and his group The Human League went on to have a UK number one single in 1981. In June 1980 the Grace Poole 5 supported UB40 at the The Herringthorpe Show, Rotherham.

Monkey Back Ride / Rollin’ Down the first single by Mother Nature’s Children.

Following their successful appearances on New Faces the comedy duo Mr Carline & Mr Walling were scheduled to appear at Scarborough’s Floral Hall in June 1977, however, Mr Walling was advised to give up show-business after suffering a heart attack and their spot on the Holiday Startime show with Frank Ifield and Ken Goodwin was filled by high scoring New Faces winner, Luie Caballero. Despite Mr Walling’s health scare the duo did return to television in October 1977 on the ITV Saturday afternoon Variety Madhouse, which was based on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In formula of verbal and visual gag-a-minute. The other artists involved in the show included Russ Abbott, Faith Brown and Roger de Courcey.

North East vocalist Susan Wilson had relocated to Cardiff back in the early 1970s to become one of the finest female singers on the Welsh club circuit. She formed a successful comedy vocal duo with her husband Eddie Buchanan mixing vocals with a little comedy to great effect. Together they performed their act around the world, touring Australia on at least three occassions, and in October 1978 were presented with the most Popular Vocal Act award by Max Boyce at the Second Annual South Wales Club Night in Swansea. Tragically Eddie died on April 24, 1987, at the age of just 47, in Newcastle-on-Tyne after a long illness following a heart operation. He was survived by his wife and their son, Robert.

Classically trained, 28 year-old, six foot, Northern vocalist David Laine was based in Wakefield but had been making one night appearances as far as Sunderland and Birmingham as well as crossing the Pennines to make an impression in a Blackpool talent contest. He was the runner-up in the 1975 finals of the Pub Entertainer Of The Year and won through to the finals again in 1976 but second time around he only left with a consolation prize of a bottle of whisky.

David continued to be an attraction on the club and cabaret circuit for a number of years after his New Faces appearance and in March 1980 he released his first LP Both Sides of David Laine on the SRT label. The record, sold well in the clubs, and featured the songs Love Is In The Air and Avenues and Alleyways.

The year after the show the jazz group the Don Shepherd Set were the resident trio at Mecca’s Norwood Rooms, Norwich. In February 1980 they were the unfortunate first-hand witnesses to the sudden death of East Anglia musician, promoter and booking agent Chic Applin. At late night dress rehearsal for the opening day of the prestigious new Town House Hotel, the Don Shepherd Set were on stage at around 1am when Chic Applin returned to the front of the stage to start the group off with their signing-off piece Show Me The Way To Go Home. As Chic turned round to face the dance floor he suddenly collapsed. The shocked hotelier, Joe Butler, immediately rushed Chic to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where he was admitted to intensive care but he later sadly died having suffered a massive brain haemorrhage.

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