29 Oct 77 – Series Six (8)

London vocalist Annie Bright was just one point off a maximum score. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

A number of publications list Mickie Most as a judge on this show, however an advert in The Stage the week after the show lists Jack Parnell instead of Mickie Most as being a judge on this particular programme, this was also confirmed by Annie Bright.

Jack Parnell was joined by Muriel Young, Martin Jackson and yet another new face to the show, TV presenter and host of the BBC’s Song for Europe, Michael Aspel.

They collectively watched and marked the following seven new to television acts, once again under the careful guidance of show host Derek Hobson.

  • Graham Desmond (magician) from Ilford, Essex
  • Reunion (five-piece group) from Ardee, Eire
  • Dave Wills (comedian) from Crayford, Kent
  • Love Train (seven-piece group) from Sunderland
  • Suede (vocal / guitar trio) from Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • Paul Mann (vocalist) from South Norwood, London
  • Annie Bright (vocalist) from London

The runaway winner of the show was London based vocalist Annie Bright, who performed her version of the Peggy Lee song Sneakin’ Up On You, and scored 119 points, leaving her just one short of the magic and so far elusive maximum score. Her only point dropped point coming from the scorepad of bandleader Jack Parnell who was the last to deliver his scores. Annie recalls that Jack didn’t follow the other judges by giving full marks as a matter of principal, as he never gave anyone full marks.

Annie’s score was the highest of the show since January 1975 when Luie Cabbellero was awarded the same marks in his series three win. Ventriloquist Roger de Courcey scored 118 points when he won the first show of series four in December 1975. As the winning act of the show Annie, wife of jazz saxophonist Dave Gelly, booked herself a place on the Christmas Eve All Winners Show.

For her performance Annie wore an outfit created for her by theatrical dressmaker and costumier Eric Lloyd, who had toured in the Soldiers In Skirts revue in 1953, alongside New Faces judge Danny La Rue, before beginning his career as a dressmaker in the 1960s.

Annie had begun her career as a music teacher, however, she was no stranger to television talent shows having already been a finalist in Rediffusion’s 1964 ITV show Search For A Star, where she performed under her real name of Ann Taylor. Shortly after the show she decided to try to make it in the music business herself and began playing working men’s clubs, entertaining all types of audiences from miners in Wales to shipbuilders in the North East.

Annie was grateful to Michael Aspel for more than just his awarding of a maximum thirty marks. While waiting for a taxi after the show Annie bumped into Michael and after confirming they were both travelling back to London he agreed to share the ride with her, and picked up the fare. Once they arrived on the station platform Michael said he was travelling first class and asked Annie if she would like to join him, and offered to pay for the upgrade fare on her ticket. Annie accepted and the pair travelled back to the capital together and enjoyed a nice glass of wine.

Muriel Young and Annie were to cross paths again just a few years later when they found themselves together on the board of a theatrical charity. While they were serving together Muriel kindly obtained two video recordings of Annie’s New Faces appearances for her.

Comedian Dave Wills scored over one hundred points. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

In a high scoring show there were two other acts that recorded marks in excess of one hundred and booked themselves a place on the one of the next two Near Misses shows. The vocal guitar trio Suede appeared on the next Near Misses show on 19 November 1977 but comedian Dave Wills would have to wait until the New Year’s Eve show for his Near Misses appearance.

Cockney Comic Dave received some great comments from the judging panel, who were clearly in a generous mood with their scores on this show.

Jack Parnell said that Dave was, ‘very good indeed, he reminded me of Max Miller’. Muriel Young said, ‘I enjoyed him enormously, a very funny man’. Television and Capital Radio presenter Michael Aspel said, ‘he has a lot of attack he engages your attention all the time,’ while Martin Jackson commented that Dave had ‘a lot of drive and aggression,’ and added, ‘he’s going to go a long way.’

Ardee based group Reunion had a successful audition for New Faces back in 1976 but thought their chance had slipped away. They were thrilled when the call finally came, a few months before the show, that they would get their long awaited appearance on this show.

Reunion chose to perform the song The Ballad of Lucy Jordan which was originally recorded by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show and later a hit across Europe for Marianne Faithfull, who the group has toured with in 1976. They scored 92 points and finished fifth, unable to compete with the high scorers at the top of the leaderboard. Their score breakdown was 30 for presentation, 31 for content and 31 for entertainment value.

Ardee group Reunion. Image © Independent News and Media PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Reunion’s members were Patsy ‘Rat Scabies’ Finnegan (drums), Peter ‘Plank’ Halpenny (bass), Jimmy ‘Muppet’ Murphy (keyboards), Paddy ‘Gravel’ Kelly (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Ben ‘B.C.’ Corcoran (guitar).

The judges thought the group had potential, but Michael Aspel thought their choice of song failed to get the best out of them, adding there was ‘a lot of life in the group that I haven’t seen.’ The Daily Mail’s Martin Jackson was in agreement, also finding fault with the song choice, saying ‘it wasn’t musically adventurous enough for them.’ Jack Parnell however did like the lead singer’s voice but felt their rhythm was a little ‘lumpy’. He did however think they stood a chance if they ‘tightened everything up.’

The group released their second single just a few months before appearing on the show, a cover of the Long John Baldry hit Let The Heartaches Begin. Their first single Sing Me A Rainbow, also recorded by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, had been released in 1976.

In December 1977 the group discussed a deal with German recording giants Ariola, who had Boney M, Donna Summer and The Sprinklers, on their books, but had problems getting a suitable song to record as Paddy Kelly sounded so much like Neil Diamond and Dr. Hook. 

Comedian Graham Desmond. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Magician Graham Desmond had been performing his act since the early 1970s and made an appearance on Opportunity Knocks on 27 October 1975. The timing of his previous television appearance kept Graham just within the new rules of the show by only two days. Graham’s appearance on Opportunity Knocks was on the same show as comedian Alan J. Bartley, who would also go on to appear on New Faces later in this final series, appearing on 12 March 1978.

Two years after his New Faces appearance Graham was producing package variety shows for social clubs as well as still performing as a professional magician himself. Graham is quoted as saying, ‘My variety show is already selling well, and gives up-and-coming artists a chance to work in a modern theatre.’

In August 1980 Graham recorded a show at a children’s party for inclusion in the BBC German Service series He, She and It. The radio show was broadcast in Germany in English, with German translation. While I’m struggling to see how a magic act would work without visuals Graham firmly believed that magical effects could be presented on radio, especially mind-reading tricks.

In 1994 Graham created a storyline for the ITV police drama The Bill. The episode was titled Masquerade (The Magician) and the story centred around a crooked illusionist who used his knowledge of magic to commit burglaries. While the storyline didn’t give away the secrets to any magic tricks the Magic Circle threatened legal action against Thames Television if the organisation was mentioned in the episode of the serial drama series.

In the mid-1990s Graham was back on television appearing in ITVs The Time, The Place where he performed some card and some rope tricks. He also appeared on Channel 4s Without Walls where he performed in a documentary about traditions and children in society. By this time he was not only performing magic but was also devising formats for TV shows and was also the resident magician at The Medium Exchange American Theme Venue in Essex.

In 2004 Graham was one of six magician’s looking for love who appeared on the Magicians In Love mini-series that was shown during Live At Johnny’s, a five night’s a week entertainment show, broadcast live from a shed and hosted by Johnny Vaughan and Lauren Laverne. In the episode below, Graham is a late addition to the house, and is introduced to the other five magician’s.

Graham Desmond appearing on Magicians In Love on BBC Three.

Graham Desmond, known to many as ‘Happy Graham,’ sadly passed away on 5th July 2019, aged 74 years. He had been a magician and entertainer for over sixty years and was a member of magic circle.

Credit: Huge thanks to Annie Bright for providing additional details of her appearance and experiences on this show.

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