After one hundred and sixty-one days away from our television screen New Faces returned with some additional precautions to prevent artists breaking the rule that they must not have appeared on TV for two years. After a number of acts in previous series had slipped through the net ATV decided to tightenen their surveillance just to be absolutely sure.
Producer Albert Stevenson also announced that contestants who had previously appeared on New Faces more than two years ago, and who still haven’t made the grade on TV would be able to have another go. He had also auditioned over 1,000 acts to find around the 200 that would appear in the new thirty show series, with the series winner guaranteed a Las Vegas contract.
The new series also featured some fresh faces on the panel and this very first show featured not one but two new judges. BBC Radio One, and Junior Choice disc jockey, Ed Stewart and Sunday People TV critic Hilary Kingsley joined show regulars Mickie Most and Peter Prichard.
They gathered on the new look judges desk, their backs to the studio audience, with Derek Hobson to their left side, instead of his more familiar right hand location, and watched the following seven new acts;
- Zodiacs (four-piece group) from Coventry
- James and Brown (boy / girl duo) from London
- Steve Motel (organist) from Dagenham, Essex
- Claude Powell (vocalist) from Chapeltown
- Sandi Ann Leigh (vocalist) from Birmingham
- Mike Marsh (comedian) from Wythall, Warwickshire
- Intercity Union (six-piece group) from London
The winner of the show was 23 year-old vocalist Sandi Ann Leigh who sang Leo Sayer’s hit When I Need You, which was chosen as it was a favourite song of her mothers and it suited her voice well.
Sandi recalls she probably performed in a long pink dress with a flower choker around her neck and she wore her hair long. Judge Mickie Most liked Sandi’s voice and performance but thought her image was too old-fashioned. The other judges, however, praised the performance and when the scores were totalled Sandi was declared the winner and booked her place in the first All Winners Show of the series.
The year before the show Sandi had been voted Female Vocalist of the Year in the New Cresta’s Midlands Variety Command Performance and had completed a summer season at Butlins Skegness.
Sandi had spent the summer season of 1977 in Cleethorpes as one of the support acts for Tony Christie, and also Guys ‘n’ Dolls who took over the lead act for two weeks. The season finished just a week before this show was broadcast and other support acts appearing were Cannon and Ball, Barley and Chris North and Jill.
The following year saw Sandi take a change of name as, at the suggestion of songwriter Don Black, she became Maggie Moone to took the lead role in the LP musical Dear Anyone (DJM Records). Over the next twelve months Maggie appeared on shows hosted by Des O’Connor and Jim Davidson and in 1980 came so close to winning the United Kingdom Song For Europe competition, narrowly missing out on a regional panel recount following a tied result.
In 1983 Maggie secured probably her most famous role as the vocalist on the new game show Name That Tune, hosted by Tom O’Connor and later by Lionel Blair. On the show Maggie had to learn over one hundred songs per series as she performed the middle part of tunes for contestants to guess in the ‘Sing A Tune’ section of the show. From 1986 Maggie was part of the cast of The Russ Abbot Show on BBC One, where she appeared alongside Russ Abbot, Bella Emberg and another New Faces success Les Dennis.
In 1988 Maggie returned to New Faces but this time on the expert panel when she was one of three judges on the Central Television series New Faces ’88 hosted by Marti Caine. Maggie now has over a dozen roles as principal boy in pantomime behind her and after spending seven years playing polo with her own ladies team she is now a qualified fitness instructor teaching fitness classes in the Dorchester area of the UK.
Runner-up was Midlands comedian Mike Marsh, who was the Pub Entertainer of the Year in 1972, and performed his act on crutches. On the night the show was broadcast, having been recorded during the previous week, Mike was appearing at the Coronation Club, Keresley along with the Kenilworth group the Cliffords.
The judges remarks on his act were very positive. Peter Prichard thought he was very, very good and enjoyed his performance very much. Peter added ‘he did exceptionally well, a nice delivery,’ and said ‘the material was very nicely placed.’ New judge, Hilary Kingsley commented ‘he made me laugh and I admire him, to see someone coming on, on crutches and making jokes about it is marvellous.’
The second new judge on the panel, Ed Stewart said he ‘enjoyed it very much, he made me laugh with good original material,’ and added ‘he succeeded tonight and wish him the very best of luck for the future.’ Finally Mickie Most added his thoughts, saying ‘I think this gentleman will make it, he overcame a lot tonight and did it very well.’
Sadly, just twelve months after his success on the show, Mike’s wife Maggie died following an emergency operation at Smethwick Neurosurgery Hospital, leaving Mike to raise their six year-old daughter. One month later Mike’s started to accept bookings again, saying he could not give up after all the hard work that Maggie had done to make his act a success.
Coventry group. Zodiacs, made their bid for fame after playing leading clubs in the Midlands for several years and were hoping their appearance would lead to them being signed for their first record contract. The Zodiacs had auditioned in the foyer of the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham along with another dozen or so groups before being told they would feature on a show.
Their line-up was Maurice Redhead (lead vocals), Steve Jones (bass and guitar), Jim Wallace (drums) and Terry Wyatt (guitar and bass) and each has considerable experience with other bands. On the show they performed a new song, written by Steve Jones, Last Night We Called It A Day. For the show, in what was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, the band were dressed in patriotic red, white and blue and drummer Jim Wallace was even playing a brand new premier drum kit in the same colours.
When they did get to play the show producer liked the way front man Maurice Redhead played the tambourine between his legs, which had been impressive at their earlier audition. Against the bands better judgment the producer persuaded them to all do it, and as a result they were the judges were very critical of the performance.
After the performance the judges gave their views on the group. Hilary Kingsley referred to the band in the same breath as The Tremeloes and The Hollies, but said she ‘found herself distracted by the tambourine playing.’ Peter Pritchard said ‘nothing about the song made it sound any different’ from numerous other bands around at that time. Ed Stewart claimed ‘I might forget the song but I will never forget the tambourine player.’ Mickie Most thought the song was not old fashioned enough and he would have been more impressed had the style of the song been from the 1950s and not the 1970s.
The Zodiacs received a score that was exactly half marks, with a total of 60 points; 18 for presentation, 20 for content and 22 for entertainment value.
Vocalist Claude Powell had been born in Manchester, Jamaica, and was a former chef at the Tower Isles Hotel, St Mary’s, Jamaica. He left the West Indies in April 1954, to join his then wife Gloria, in England. He spent six months in the steel industry before an invitation to perform a song at the Albion public house in Spital Hill, Sheffield helped to forge him a completely different career. The musician at the piano in the bar asked him to give a song, and when he did, the landlord was so impressed by his voice and delivery that he booked him to sing for five nights at a pound a night.
He’d already had a number of television appearances on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing on The Perry Como Show in the United States and on Opportunity Knocks in the UK, where he performed Story of a Starry Night, which featured on his Sings For You LP that was released in 1977. His appearance on Granada’s, Opportunity Knocks sadly Claude splendid performance didn’t appear to register the audience’s obvious approval on the clapometer.
His voice was described as the best of Nat King Cole, Satchmo and Paul Robeson rolled into one, plus added to that his individual style and terrific showmanship that switched with ease from ballads to pop to jazz made him a truly a great professional entertainer. It was this voice and performance style that lead to his appearance at the London Palladium with Matt Monroe, for one of the highlights of his career. as well as his UK performances Claude also performed in Spain, Africa and the Channel Islands ensuring he built an impressive international fan base.
In the 1980s Claude made two appearances on ITV soap Coronation Street and in 1988, with his second wide Linda, he took ownership of a Blackpool guest house but he continued to perform until 2007, when he was diagnosed with cancer. The man they regarded as the ‘Gentleman of Clubland’ and named ‘Mr Smoothie’ sadly died in October 2010, aged 77.
Credit: Special thanks to Maggie Moone (Sandi Ann Leigh) for the additional information about her appearance on the show.