1 Oct 1977 – Series Six (4)

Justin and Jay Weltch.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

It was an all male panel on show four with the familiar faces of Lionel Blair, Jimmy Henney and Les Reed being joined by Terry Wogan, yet another show newcomer, who at the time was the host of the Radio Two Breakfast Show. He became the third BBC radio presenter to appear on the show after BBC colleagues Noel Edmonds and Tony Blackburn.

Under the stewardship of regular show host, Derek Hobson, they watched the following seven new acts;

  • Leigh-Grant Explosion (six-piece group) from Leicester
  • Mike McCabe (comedian) from Ireland
  • Renny Lee (vocalist) from East Anglia
  • Tony Mandell (vocalist)
  • Penny Wager (four-piece group) from Manchester
  • Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra (eight-piece band) from Lancashire
  • Justin and Jay Weltch (vocal duo) from Cardiff
Show winners The Leigh-Grant Explosion.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The panel decided that the winning act on the show were the exciting six-piece pop / harmony group, featuring female vocals, Leigh-Grant Explosion. By winning the show the group booked themselves a second appearance on the first All Winners Show on the 22 October 1977.

Just over twelve months earlier the group had performed two shows at Bailey’s Coventry. They appeared just one week before two other New Faces successes with series one winner Tom Waite and Series Four finalist Eve Adam sharing the bill at the West Midlands venue.

The week before their success on the show, they ran an advert in The Stage magazine that urged readers not to miss their performance on the show, saying, ‘You may think you’ve seen it all before, but you’ve never seen anything like this!’ Their performance on the night must have been, quite literally, explosive as the following week in The Stage magazine they ran another advert celebrating their success thanking ‘pyrotechnic’ George and his crew for helping them solve some tricky problems.

The Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra (Jass not Jazz). Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Also doing enough to earn a second appearance were the eight-piece group from Lancashire, the Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra, and yes it’s ‘Jass, not jazz.’ Usually you would need to score over one hundred points to guarantee a return to the show but it’s not certain that is what happened with this group. Having just failed to top the scoreboard the Orchestra were reportedly invited back by popular demand, to appear on a special New Year’s Eve show. ITV chiefs were said to have been so impressed by their performance and the amount of fan mail that arrived at the studios they decided to include them in a special programme featuring top class acts who just missed out.

The judges had plenty of positive comments about the jazz band. Les Reed thought they played ‘happy music,’ and added ‘they will always work in good places, they are different than normal jazz outfits.’ Jimmy Henney said they were ‘great’ and that they were ‘excellent, good musicians.’ Terry Wogan said ‘they play genuine Dixieland music,’ and Lionel Blair announced, ‘they’re great, they have a great happy sound. They look good and enjoyed them very much.’

The Orchestra were managed by Dave Warwick, of Warrington’s David Anthony Promotions who was also responsible for the country group Poacher, who appeared in a later show in the series. The Blue Magnolia Orchestra were formed in 1968 and their members were Ken Duckers (saxophone and vocals), Les Harris (trumpet and vocals), Trevor Stent (clarinet and leader), Alan Miller (trombone and vocals), Bob Hayward (piano and vocals), Tony Antrobus (drums and vocals), Roger Hewitt (tuba) and Dennis Harrison (banjo and vocals). The group had diverse careers as teachers, joiners ex-dockers and engineers.

In August 1981 the orchestra appeared on Granada TV in a episode of The Video Entertainers with Andy Fairweather Lowe and Frank Carson. In April 1983, the orchestra celebrated their fifteenth anniversary of playing on Merseyside and for thirteen of those years they played weekly at the Coffee House in Wavertree. To celebrate this anniversary they released their third album, Live At The Coffee House, and vowed they would still be around ‘in another fifteen years,’ and it seems that was extended by nearly an additional thirty years as the Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra, albeit with a new line-up, still perform weekly shows (pre-Covid times) on a Tuesday evening at The Rose of Mossley, Liverpool.

Irish Comedian Mike McCabe.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Mike McCabe, a clever comedian with a good collection of jokes and an ability to put them over without the use of bad language, got his chance to appear on the show following a performance, in front of show producer Albert Stevenson, at the New Faces Auditions Showcase Final held at the Prince of Wales in Hackney. Also selected to appear in the series from the same audition show were duo Vernon and Maya and group Intercity Union.

In July 1977 Mike began a very successful run in the Hugh Leonard comedy Da at the King’s Head, Islington, where he played the characters ‘Young Charlie.’ In November 1977 he was back on television, playing a character called Michael, in BBC Two’s Play Of The Week, The Kitchen, which was written by Arnold Wesker. The play starred Peter Egan as a chef who, as the tensions build up with the serving of 2,000 meals a day, goes berserk and brings the kitchen of the restaurant to a halt.

Manchester group Penny Wager began as a duo, John Wilson (guitar) and Ann Rhodes (electric organ), back in 1971 and the following year they recorded and released their Folk LP, Light Of Other Days. In September 1973 the two seasoned entertainers were joined by Pete Astles (guitar), who had previously played with another Manchester group The Pennines, for a performance at Rhos-on-Sea’s Riverboat Folk Club. They returned to the same club in May 1975 but by this time they were back to performing as a duo again. It’s not clear if the additional members added to the group for this New Faces appearance were permanent or session musicians.

In January 1976 vocalist Tony Mandell was performing as Buttons in Cinderella at the Pier Pavilion, Cleethorpes. His performance of songs from The Black and White Minstrels quickly won over the children in the audience, as well as their parents. In June 1980 Tony appeared in Stars Of Music Hall at Scarborough’s Floral Hall alongside Sunderland brothers Bob and Alf Pearson, comedy singer Reg Dixon, comic Ronnie Cryer and fellow vocalist Rae Gordon.

In May 1987 Tony opened Victoria Court, his private residential home in Hornsea on the East Yorkshire Coast. It offered ‘A Room With A View’ and welcomed retired thespians, entertainers and musicians.

4 thoughts on “1 Oct 1977 – Series Six (4)

  1. As a member of the Leigh grant explosion ,just like to point out that we were from Leicester. Not Nottingham


    1. Thanks for the correction Micky, that’s now been updated. I’d love to know more about your ‘explosive’ performance on this show and any additional details about the group, so please get in touch using the contact page of you can provide any extra information.


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