10 Dec 1977 – Series Six (14)

Vocalist Austin Brown.
Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Returning to the judges panel, for only his second appearance, was singer Dave Dee. He was joined by Mickie Most, Tony Blackburn and George Elrick.

The day after the show was recorded the show producer, Albert Stevenson, attended the latest New Faces audition night, which was held in the city of Liverpool. It’s uncertain if any of the ten acts from the Mike Hughes agency on display on the 7 December were selected to appear on a future show. The agency had produced a large number of previous show winners, including Al Dean, Les Dennis, Roy Walker and The Nobodies.

The seven new acts, hoping for a place in the next All Winners Show, included a comedian, three groups, two vocalists and a harmonica player. They were;

  • Poacher (six-piece country group) from Warrington
  • Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (comedian) from Redcar
  • Amanda Paul (vocalist) from Swansea
  • Alan James (harmonica player) from Bradford
  • Westway (four-piece group) from Liverpool
  • Hear No Evil (three-piece group) from Swindon
  • Austin Brown (vocalist) from Camberley
Country group Poacher.
Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Winning act Poacher, had themselves been poached by the show producers from under the noses of rival show Opportunity Knocks. Poacher had been waiting to receive their Opportunity Knocks date for some time, so the New Faces team moved in and quickly offered a firm date. It had taken lead singer Tim Flaherty over a year to form the group Poacher, named after a local pub, especially as all the other members were already performing with different groups. Completing the line-up were Peter Longbottom, Alan Crookes, Pete Allen, Adrian Hart and Stan Bennett.

The group started the road to success by winning the Warrington Guardian’s A Star is Born talent competition and two months before their New Faces appearance the group made an appearance on BBC North West’s We’ll Call You. Luckily this only got a regional broadcast so they were still allowed to make their New Faces appearance.

Poacher quickly realised the value of commercial sponsorship and very early in their career they linked up with Vladivar vodka, manufactured in their home town of Warrington. Having recorded their debut single on the RK record label in 1977, Poacher entered the US Billboard country singles charts in 1978 with the song Darlin’. They became the first and only UK country group to have a record in the US country Billboard charts but unfortunately the record label were too small to arrange the necessary distribution to make the song a UK hit. It was eventually a hit for Scottish singer Frankie Miller, reaching number six in the UK charts in 1978. The song was also later recorded by Tom Jones, Bonnie Raitt and Bonnie Tyler, who also has a connection to an artist on this show that you can read more about further down the page.

In November 1978 Poacher made an appearance on music show Get It Together, presented by former New Faces winner Linda Fletcher (Show 5.12), where they performed their song One More Fool. When the show aired the group were appearing at the Tulsa International Music Festival in Oklahoma, to audiences of around 8,000, so they were unable to see their performance on screen. Also appearing at the festival were Tammy Wynette, Jody Miller and Don Williams, who the group went on to support on his British tour. They finished 1978 with a number of awards including the Country Music Association’s ‘Most Popular British Act’ and the International Country Music Awards ‘Best British Group.’

In August 1979 Poacher were once again on television when they performed on Sing Country on BBC2 and went on to have their own Scottish TV series, Poacher Sings. Poacher toured Scotland in September 1979 when they joined a number of acts on the Country Spectrum tour that played in ten venues across the country. Joining them on the tour were the Garry Blackmore Band, Billy G. Smith and Patsy Peters, who had been a New Faces contestant herself in series four (show 4.19). In November 1979 Poacher released a new single, Star Love, again on RK Records, and they finished the year as the Country Music Association of Great Britain’s, British Artist of the Year.

In 1982 the group were one of many acts to appear on one of six, one hour shows, on Central TV’s entertainment show Starburst. Along with comedians, Bob Monkhouse, Bernie Clifton and Jim Bowen and pop acts Sheena Easton, Shakatak and Alvin Stardust, the shows also featured a number New Faces discoveries, including Paul Squire (The Millionaires), Michelle Fisher and Mike Lancaster. The associate producer on the programme was Nigel Lythgoe who would later earn himself the nickname ‘Nasty Nigel’ for his role as a judge on the music talent show Popstars that created the groups Hear’Say and Liberty X.

In October 1986, nearly ten years after their win and just as the Central revived series of New Faces ’86 was on air, Poacher seemed to receive a new boost to their career. Having reduced their line-up by two and now performing as a four-piece group they were signed by songwriter and producer Don Mitchell, who had worked with the group Alabama. The plan was to record a single and an album for release on both sides of the Atlantic on the Premier One record label. It’s not sure if that plan worked out as no details of a release on Premier One Recaords can be found.

Welsh vocalist Amanda Paul
Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

21 year-old Welsh vocalist Amanda Paul (real name Avis Hopkins), derived her stage name from the names of her fiance’s niece and one of her brothers. Amanda is likely to have had inside information about the show from her sister Gaynor (by now known worldwide as Bonnie Tyler), who had appeared on New Faces back in series two (Show 2.10) with her group Imagination. Before her appearance her manager and fiance, Bill Scott, claimed ‘She is very confident, and she is willing to accept any criticism that is made.’ Amanda’s main aim was to break the magical 100 points barrier to guarantee a second appearance on the show. She did just that and returned to perform on the Near Misses show on 5 March 1978.

When Amanda was 17 she started combining singing with her regular work, and was an attraction at local clubs, including the Melody Club in Gorseinon, where she was the resident singer for a year. In June 1975 Amanda qualified for the final of a talent competition staged at the Bryngelli Country Club in Swansea, however she didn’t finish in the top three acts, although former New Faces contestants Five ‘A’ Side finished in third place.

Amanda hoped her big break would come in November 1975 with the recording of Smiley, a song by Terry Dempsey, who had written Daydreamer for David Cassidy, however, the song failed to chart. In August 1976 Amanda, having already appeared extensively throughout Britain in cabaret, performed a season on at the Gaiety Theatre in the Isle of Man, where she used her Peggy Lee quality voice to her advantage by singing many of the star’s songs.

After Amanda’s two appearances on New Faces she was offered engagements in the plush Hilton Hotels in Bangkok and Singapore. In January 1979 Amanda’s entry to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest only ranked 32nd in the final 60 songs. The song that eventually represented the UK in Jerusalem was Mary Ann by the group Black Lace, which finished in 7th place. 

In March 1979 Amanda performed at the British International Song Festival, which brought some of the top names of the song world to the Music Hall in Shrewsbury. Amanda performed the song Fascination and the festival also featured New Faces winner Cherry Roland (Show 6.13) who sang Wicked Lady, although neither featured in the prizes. The £3,000 first prize for the best song went to singer-composer Kay Garner of Kingston-on-Thames. Kay, a one-time singer with the Ronnie Scott and James Last Orchestras, scored 95 points out of a possible 100 for her Song for Sammy, a song inspired by her eight-year-old daughter Samantha.

Liverpool group Westway. Left to right: Graham Jones, Ray Smith, Mike Harvey and Paul Brooks. Image: Liverpool Echo, Reach PLC. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited.

Wirral group Westway were formed by Graham Jones (vocals and guitar) who recruited Ray Smith (bass, saxophone and flute), Mike Harvey (drums) and Paul Brooks (keyboards) who were all playing in the resident band at the Hamilton Club in Birkenhead. Graham, who is also the group’s songwriter, previously faced the New Faces judges as a member of the Vince Earl Attraction, who were beaten by Roger de Courcey and Nookie bear on the first show of series four.

Their chance of making a name for themselves came when MCA heard some of their demo tapes, however they were disappointed with the sound quality so the group built their own studio Ray’s cellar and submitted some more tracks which lead to them earning a three year contract. In July 1977, having signed a deal with MCA Records, Westway released their debut single Sing Me A Glad Song, which was written by Graham Jones. They started work on their debut LP, which they planned on calling, A Big Hand For The Band and hoped to release in early 1978, however, no details of this release can be found.

Following their appearance on the show in August 1978 Westway were one of the acts that performed in a charity show at the Golden Guinea Club in New Brighton, Wallasey. The proceeds of the show were donated to the St. Vincent School for the blind and partially sighted. Topping the bill that night was comedian Al Dean, who won two New Faces shows in series three and was runner-up to Marti Caine in the series Grand Final in July 1975.

Comedian Roy ‘ Chubby’ Brown. Image: The Stage Media Company Limited

Comedian Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, real name Royston Vasey, born in 1945, was a steelworker’s son who started in showbusiness in the mid-sixties. Having failed a written army test at the age of 15 Roy left home and ended up sleeping rough in a boat in Redcar. A year later he joined the merchant navy and worked two voyages to Africa . Once back on dry land, while keeping watch for two other lads robbing a shop he was arrested, resulting in a stretch in Medomsley Detention Centre. Once released he joined a band as their drummer and then became half the comedy act Alcock and Brown, who opened shows for comedians Les Dawson and Frank Carson and the comedy group The Barron Knights. In the double act Roy (Alcock) played piano and ukulele while Brown told the jokes.

When the Alcock and Brown split, Roy retained the flying helmet, added goggles and a loudly chequered suit to create a look which crossed Max Miller and Benny Hill’s Fred Scuttle for his solo act. He entered his much publicised ‘blue’ period a year before this appearance on New Faces which leaves you wondering what kind of gags his three minute set would have included, especially for a show broadcast early Saturday evening, but I guess we may never know as this show is one of many to be wiped by ATV.

His material began to change when he was booked for stag nights and he discovered he didn’t have enough of the right material. He found he was funnier being blue than being clean and people laughed louder at the dirtier jokes. To give a measure of the type of humour Roy was now delivering one journalist is said to have claimed that he made ‘Bernard Manning look like Andy Pandy.’ Building his ‘adult’ comedy persona around the colourful ‘lovable’ rogue he didn’t appear on television again, as himself, for another 18 years. His material was deemed to be too controversial and profanity-filled for a TV audience, but he did appear as a guest on the Frank Skinner chat show in 2007 to talk about his unique style of humour.

Despite his bawdy and downright rude stage act Roy showed he had a good heart when in June 1978 he was one of a number of artists who performed to pay tribute to Don Crockett, one of the most respected North Eastern comics who had tragically died. Also appearing on the memorial show at the Club Fiesta, Norton, Cleveland show were Peter de Dee and Leighton Roberts, both former New Faces discoveries. Proceeds from the show were donated to Don’s dependents.

In 1981 Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown began to emerge from the tough working men’s club circuit, and in 1983 began making ‘decent money,’ quickly packing theatres, clubs, discos and cabaret venues up and down the country on word of mouth publicity alone. Travelling nearly 82,000 miles in twelve months he has reported to have taken just two days off in a year. Roy is a self-confessed workaholic and constantly works on his material by reading the daily newspapers to keep his act topical and current. With bootleg cassette tapes being swapped by adoring fans his notoriety soon grew and when playing shows on his own territory, tickets sold out faster than any other attraction on offer, Barry Manilow and Wham! included. Roy was soon filling venues in excess of 2,000 seats and in most cases all it required was a single advertisement in the local paper to generate the publicity he needed.

In October 1985 Roy was banned by Fleetwood council. His act proved to be too blue for the councillors and the planned concert at the resort’s Marine Hall was cancelled just days before it was due to be staged for fear of dragging down the venue’s reputation. Councillors were alerted when posters for the show read ‘If easily offended stay away.’ The Conservative council spokesperson said, ‘we are not prepared to tolerate this sort of insulting thing for our customers.’ By this stage of his career Roy was a hugely successful cult figure in the north but still relatively unknown south of Watford but when The Stage favourably reviewed his only London appearance to date, in May 1984, even their printed description of his act prompted an outraged response from some of their more particular readers. His top venue shows, whilst certainly not for the faint-hearted, were now earning him up to £20,000 a week before costs and expenses.

In September 1987 Roy found himself back in court where he was ordered to pay nearly £1,000 for beating a nightclub bouncer. He was also given a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years. Charged under his real name of Royston Vasey, he admitted fracturing a bouncer’s skull with a prop cosh during an argument at Leo’s club in Redcar. Only his guilty plea and his apparent remorse at what he had done saved him from an immediate prison sentence. The court heard how he had brandished a plastic sword used in his highly successful clubland act under the nose of the bouncer and when the argument got out of hand he hit the bouncer across the head with a cosh that was also used in his act.

Roy was involved in further controversy in July 1989 when an angry mob of fans smashed up a sales stall and stole hundreds of pounds worth of cassettes, posters and other concert souvenir merchandise from the lobby of Southport Theatre after Roy had walked off stage early at the opening performance of his scheduled series of weekly summer shows at the seaside resort. Less than a hour into the act a noisy fan heckled the comic and was marched out of the auditorium by security. The fan returned moments later and continued yelling at the comedian from the stalls, at which point Roy abruptly left the stage and didn’t return. Over 300 hundred angry fans surrounded the venue management demanding a refund of their £6 tickets. When they failed to get satisfaction, they attacked the souvenir stall, smashed tables and broke open a large trunk containing stocks of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown merchandise.

In February 2000 the comedy show The League of Gentlemen invited Roy to play the major of the fictional plague-stricken town of Royston Vasey, the town that took it’s name from the risqué comedian real name.

Roy was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and subsequent surgery left him with only one vocal chord. Having never smoked Roy put the cancer down to working in smoky venues for nearly 30 years. He’s now fully recovered and at the height of his success he was playing live to over 150,000 people a year in a career that has spanned over five decades and by 2007 he had reportedly sold over £40 million pounds worth of tapes and DVDs, which he was releasing annually.

In 2007 Channel 4 screened Will Yapp’s documentary about Roy. Will shadowed Roy for a month filming him at home, with his third wife Helen and their two young children, as well as in his recording studio where he was working on his Christmas single. He also watched as Roy performed to his adoring audience in Blackpool in an effort to get to the real man behind the flying cap, the multicoloured suit and the extremely ‘blue’ jokes. The documentary Roy Chubby Brown: Britain’s Rudest Comedian is available to watch on You Tube, however, please be strongly advised that if you are easily offended, it does feature material and language that could upset some more sensitive viewers.

In April 1976 vocalist Austin Brown, who had for three and a half years been resident compere and vocalist at Bob Lewis’s Club Double Diamond in Caerphilly, took up a new appointment at Bob Potter’s Lakeside Club in Frimley Green. Austin was regularly heard on BBC radio singing with the SRO, MRO and the London House Orchestras and had earned himself a reputation in clubs as one of the best cabaret presenters in the business.

Just under twelve months after Austin appeared on New Faces disaster struck as the Lakeside Club was razed to the ground in a devastating fire. The blaze, which broke out just after 2am, left nothing but girders and a few bricks and was almost certainly an arson attack as gallons of diesel fuel had been poured over the roof, where the fire started, and water supplies at the club had been turned off.

Just three months after appearing on New Faces Austin Brown used his experience of being on a talent show to write to The Stage entertainment newspaper to share his views on the future of such shows following announcements that the both Opportunity Knocks and New Faces would not be renewed another series. Austin’s proposal was that any future talent series should be based on a five-weekly cycle, with similar acts group together on each show. Austin’s plans would mean one week for singers or duos and other weeks dedicated to comedians, speciality acts and groups with the fifth week being an all winner’s show. Each act would have 8-10 minutes and marks would be cumulative, the acts getting the highest marking in each category going into the grand final at the end of the series.

Swindon group Hear No Evil had been active in pubs and clubs since at least 1973. Records show that they performed at The Target pub, which had opened in 1971 and was located in the Butts Shopping Centre in Reading.

2 thoughts on “10 Dec 1977 – Series Six (14)

  1. […] In January 1987 George signed a twelve month residency as the compare at Blackpool’s Viking Hotel, Talk of the Coast cabaret lounge. In addition to hosting the year-round star nights at the venue and presenting his own comedy spots George hosted the resort’s biggest talent contest Star Trail, which offered £2,500 in prize money. The star names that appeared in his first twelve months at the venue included The Black Abbots, Frank Ifield, Freddie and the Dreamers, Charlie Williams, Black Onyx, The Ivy League and Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (show 6.14). […]

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