Joining Radio One disc jockey Tony Blackburn, bandleader Jack Purnell and Police Five host Shaw Taylor on the judges panel was yet another new face to the show.
New judge, Bridie Reid, from Leicester, had been appointed entertainments executive for Pontin’s in 1972. She had originally trained as a teacher but changed her mind to become a clerk with Westminster Bank, during which time she worked semi-professionally in clubs before turning professional. Her experience covered several TV appearances, variety shows on radio and for two years she fronted her own dance orchestra. For twelve years she had been well known as a singing personality working in night spots throughout the country.
The seven new acts looking to secure the final place in the following week’s All Winners Show were, in order of appearance;
- Brasstax (seven-piece group) from Stanley
- Chuck Ford (banjo player) from Isle of Wight
- Chas Martin (comedian) from Doncaster
- Kanada (trio) from Stoke-on-Trent
- Anne Salini (vocalist) from Mitcham
- Ronnie Cellini (vocalist) from Hitchin, Herts.
- The Sprinklers (five-piece group) from London
The winning performance was from the act that closed the show with the group The Sprinklers claiming the final place in the following week’s All Winners Show with their own song Face To Face, written by their guitarist Alan Coates. They scored 112 points, Tony Blackburn and Jack Parnell both awarding them the maximum 30 points, to beat runner-up Chuck Ford by just two points to snatch a last minute victory.
At the time of their appearance the group were the backing band for the TV star of The Sweeney, Dennis Waterman, who was forging himself a career as a recording artist.
The group were fronted by energetic lead singer Gary Deans who was backed by Steve Stroud (bass), Alan Coates (guitar), Rob Norman (keyboards) and Adrian Sheppard (drums). Alan, Rob and Adrian already had experience of performing for the ATV Studio One audience as they had previously appeared on New Faces in February 1976 with the group Screemer. Steve had gone one better than his bandmates and had appeared in the series four Gala Final with the group Sparrow.
Jack Parnell ‘loved them’ saying ‘the balance was great, the time was really good, the presentation was good, knocked me out.’ Tony Blackburn questioned the fact they were the backing group for Dennis Waterman, saying ‘they’ve no right to be backing anybody, because they are stars,’ adding ‘I think the song is a hit song.’
Shaw Taylor commented on the cleanliness of their sound, saying it was crisp, clear and fresh. Bridie Reid agreed that the performance was certainly ‘tight’ and praised producer Albert Stevenson for the quality of the acts on the show.
The Sprinklers split in 1980 and bass player Steve Stroud would later record with The Hollies, Bucks Fizz, Cliff Richard and Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Steve married Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker in 1992. Adrian Sheppard shared drumming duties with Ringo Starr on the track Wanderlust on Paul McCartney’s 1982 Tug Of War album.
Alan Coates’ career took him to the 1980 European Song Contest with the group Prima Donna and, not to be outdone by his bandmate Adrian, he joined Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey, in the group Broken English in the late 1980s. Keyboard player Rob Norman ran his own London recording studio before moving into video production over 25 years ago. Tragically energetic frontman Gary Deans died on the 2 September 1986 just four days after an accident in his car in Kent. He was just 33 years-old.
The opening act of the show were the seven-piece group Brasstax who were from the North East of England. The group sang It’s Too Long Since I Loved That Girl, which host Derek Hobson cheekily claimed was ‘a sort of epitaph to Lionel Blair‘ during his introduction for the group. With a solid 92 points from the judges they set an initial high score to beat.
The group consisted of the usual guitar, bass, drums and lead singer with added keyboards, saxophone and trumpet and they wore matching red and blue stage outfits.
Tony Blackburn opened the comments from the panel by saying ‘I thought they were very good. I thought the lead singer, particularly, put the number across very, very well indeed,’ and likened the singers voice to that of Joe Cocker. Shaw Taylor thought the number was a little monotonous, but felt their presentation of it was excellent.
Brasstax’s image impressed Bridie Reid a lot saying ‘they’ve taken a lot of trouble with their costumes,’ adding that many of the showbands she sees at auditions can often look very ‘tatty and smell like a Babylonian boozers bedroom sometimes.’ She concluded by saying she thought they would do very well as there was a lot of work for a group like this in the clubs. Jack Parnell offered the group a little advice and pointed out that the drums were ‘a little too quiet and damped down’ and that a little more volume and energy from the drummer would help the rest of the group.
Banjo player Chuck Ford had already appeared on television in Canada in a career that dated back to the mid-1960s. In November 1965 Chuck reportedly did ‘everything with a banjo except make it talk’ at the Ontario Steam and Antique Preservers Association Ladies’ Night banquet and in June 1966 he had appeared at the Bolton, Ontario Jamboree at the Ball Park.
Chuck had played his banjo with Mitch Parks on five tracks on the 1976 CBC Radio Canada LP which also featured the acts Don Clark Ragtime Band, Gregory Alliston and Trombones ’76.
On the show Chuck performed his act sat on a stool as his fingers flew over the frets of his banjo to play a medley of tunes made famous by Al Jolson. At he reached the climax of the act he leapt to his feet, his strumming hand by now just a blur, and he frantically finished with a flamboyant flourish which propelled him to the top of the leaderboard after just two acts with a very impressive 110 marks. Despite not quite winning Chuck would appear again on a future Near Misses show.
Returning to the panel for the comments the host Derek Hobson very carefully described the last few minutes of fun, which had been thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, as ‘finger plucking good.’
Shaw Taylor was delighted to see the banjo back on the scene again having spent his childhood listening to the instrument. He said ‘to suddenly see a solo artist with a banjo and really putting everything into it, I can’t fault the lad. I think he did absolutely superbly.’ Tony Blackburn enjoyed the fun that Chuck generated during his performance saying, ‘he gave me the impression he didn’t give a hoot what anybody else thought of him, he was just enjoying himself.’ Tony concluded by adding that he didn’t see Chuck as a headline act, but thought he’d made a very good support act.
Jack Parnell found the performance very exciting and called Chuck ‘a marvellous showman.’ Bridie Reid started her comments by comparing Chuck to the famous American banjo player, Eddie Peabody, who began his career back in the 1920s. She added ‘if he has 35 minutes of well presented, well linked material that comes up to that standard then I’d back my judgement with a six month summer season here and now,’ a comment she backed up with scores of 10 for presentation and entertainment value.
Chuck later moved to the Netherlands where he made further television appearances. It was through this footage that rare video of Chuck’s actual New Faces appearance was found that you can enjoy below.
Doncaster comedian Chas Martin was the third act of the show who delivered his three minutes of gags dressed in a bright, canary yellow, suit with a brown shirt and finished his look with a yellow and brown bow-tie. During his routine he referenced his outfit explaining it was ‘surprise present from the wife, I came home late the other night and found it hung over the back of a chair.’
He concluded his act by saying ‘if you’ve liked me jokes tonight, I thought of ’em meself, if you didn’t like ’em, Tony Blackburn told me ’em this afternoon.’
Jack Parnell kicked off the judges comments with some praise, saying ‘I thought Charlie did very well’ and added ‘I liked his material, I found it very palatable, it wasn’t dirty, it was most acceptable’ and concluded with ‘I quite enjoyed it.’ Bridie Reid thought he told his jokes very well but felt he could have linked his material a little better.
Shaw Taylor also questioned the comedian’s content, although he felt he should have blamed Tony Blackburn for that, and added ‘I would like to see him develop a character and it’s the things that happen to that character that are funny.’ Tony Blackburn completed the comments from the judges saying ‘for me Chas wasn’t quite original or different enough and he didn’t, quite honestly, make me laugh very much.’
When the scores were given it was the content mark that let Chas down with a 26/40 leaving him bottom of the scoreboard with a score of 85.
Chas was still performing into the 1990s and in December 1993 appeared at the NEAC Northern Branch Gala Show. Unfortunately he suffered the fate of all those who try to make an audiences of agents and bookers laugh at a trade event and found he was on a hiding to nothing at this particular showcase. When all efforts to raise a laugh failed, he had to resort to unoriginal gags that some of the audience found distasteful and included a blow-up doll in the act which was described by one reviewer as crude.
The next act were Kanada, the trio from Stoke-on-Trent who performed a song, Hi-Lo-Hi-Lo written by one of their friends that was based on the Mingulay Boat Song.
All three of the trio wore outfits featuring emerald green and provided vocals with Brian taking the lead while Ron provided backing vocals and played guitar. The keyboard player was Jenny, a music teacher, who also provided backing vocals and played her piano in a standing position. They were backed by New Faces studio Orchestra
Derek Hobson first asked Bridie Reid to give her thoughts on the act. She opened by saying ‘I couldn’t make out all the words actually, but the tune is very, very nice’ and said the song sounded very similar to Rod Stewart’s Sailing. Shaw Taylor said ‘I thoroughly enjoyed it, I found the song fascinating, the way they put it across, I loved the orchestration. I think we are going to hear a lot more of Kanada.’
Tony Blackburn thought ‘the harmonies were absolutely marvellous on it’ but added ‘I found them visually, not very exciting, that would be my only criticism of them.’ Jack Parnell agreed with Bridie Reid and complained about their diction saying ‘I couldn’t understand one word I’m afraid.’
When it came to the scoring they faired well on content with all the panel liking the song, however they didn’t score so well in the other two categories with Tony Blackburn only offering a score of four for entertainment value which caused Bridie Reid to scorn ‘Tony, that’s a lot of marmalade,’ whatever that meant!, They were left with an overall score of 90.
Next up was the vocalist from Mitchum, Surrey, Anne Salini. She chose to perform the Gladys Knight song The Best Thing That Ever Happened. Dressed in a pale blue full length dress Anne gave a powerful performance of the ballad, but risked becoming just a floating head and arms as she blended in far too easily with the blue curtained backdrop that the studio designers has positioned her in front of.
Jack Parnell started by saying, ‘I think Anne did a terrific job on that, great phrasing, her diction was good and her tuning was good as well. I was very impressed with Anne, I’d like to hear more from her.’ Bridie Reid commented that ‘every booker in the country will tell you that the most difficult thing to find these days is a good girl singer’ but said that Anne ‘makes you relax utterly’ and concluded with ‘I think she’s fabulous.’
Shaw Taylor referred to Anne as ‘a belter’ but said that he wouldn’t have chosen that song. He knew that when producer Albert Stevenson spotted Anne she was singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina which he thought she would sing beautifully. Tony Blackburn completed the comments by saying ‘I think the song was marvellous, and here is a good example of somebody who is visually very good as well. I think she sang the song with a lot of feeling.’
Anne scored a total of 103 points which included a maximum score of ten for entertainment value from Shaw Taylor. This score, while short of the winning mark, guaranteed Anne a return appearance on a future Near Misses show.
Before the penultimate act of the show, the audience were introduced to a few familiar faces in the studio audience. Series Four winner Roger de Courcey, with his trusted companion Nookie Bear announced that they were soon to fulfil their series winning Las Vegas engagement appearing with Dean Martin. Also in the audience were series five finalists Peter Collins with Style.
The penultimate performer, appearing immediately before winning act The Sprinklers, was vocalist Ronnie Cellini, who sang You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. He scored 93 points to finished fourth on the scoreboard.
Tony Blackburn said Ronnie sounded a little like Frankie Vaughan adding he had a ‘marvellous voice, he looks good, he sings well, I think he’ll go a long way.’ Shaw Taylor agreed he was ‘good looking, lovely voice’ but felt it was a bit slow and it ‘dragged’ a little.
Bridie Reid threw another name into the soundalike arguments by saying ‘I think that he very much sounds like Scott Walker and I think he should avoid that if he can.’ Jack Parnell thought Ronnie had ‘really good quality to his voice’ but added ‘not all the notes are quite in tune.’
Ronnie had been the resident drummer and vocalist at Luton’s Caesar’s Palace, but turned his back on show business in 1974 to become landlord of the Thatched House public house, Weston, near Stevenage. He had previously worked in London at Churchill’s, the Pigalle and Quaglino’s in addition to a two-year residency at the Lido in Paris and was a former member of the Londonaires.
Clearly Ronnie had a change of heart as in January 1977 he was the runner-up in one of the big-money talent competitions held twice a year at the Royal Standard. Walthamstow and in March 1977 he finished third in the Ind Coope Top Pub Star contest, behind winner and another former New Faces act Leslie Rae. He was however awarded the special £1,000 prize offered by the Daily Mirror Pop Club for the Top Pub Pop Star of the year.
In August 1977 Ronnie had performed his smooth treatment of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling at the Royal Standard Walthamstow at a presentation by International Theatre Promotions Ltd. A few of the guests for the show included New Faces producers and singer, Stella Starr therefore it may well be likely that this was where Ronnie was invited onto the television show.
Also performing were a number of previous New Faces acts, they were organist Steve Motel, and singer Bobbi Jo West. In August 1979 Ronnie appeared again at one of the grand talent finals at the Royal Standard, Walthamstow but on this occasion he’d switched performing for judging as he was one of the many decision makers choosing the winning act. By this time he was running the Black Bull, Bintingford, where he sang to his customers at weekends.
The final scores for all the acts were as shown below which meant The Sprinklers would return on 22 October 1977 for the All Winners Show and Chuck Ford and Anne Salini would make another appearance on the Near Misses Show on 19 November 1977.
|1||The Sprinklers (five-piece group)||38||37||37||112|
|2||Chuck Ford (Banjo Player)||37||36||37||110|
|3||Anne Salini (Vocalist)||34||32||37||103|
|4||Ronnie Cellini (Vocalist)||31||32||30||93|
|5||Brasstax (seven piece group)||32||28||32||92|
|7||Chas Martin (Comedian)||29||26||30||85|