19 Feb 1978 – Series Six (24)

Comedy magician Larry Larkin fought back against the judges comments.
Image © ATV Broadcast via IMDB

The judges panel for this show were to get a taste of their own medicine from one contestant that decided to make a stand and fight back. The unsuspecting four faces on the panel were Shaw Taylor, Terry Wogan, Rosalie Horner and Peter Prichard.

They watched and commented on another seven new acts, who were;

  • Larry Larkin (comedy magician) from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire
  • The Vintage Hot Orchestra (eight-piece group) from Norwich
  • Gill Gerardo (vocalist) from London
  • Sweet Satisfaction (vocal duo) from Bakewell – Listed as Satisfaction
  • Mel Danser (vocalist) from Ilford
  • Ian Lockyer (guitarist) from Malvern Link
  • New Shay Showband (five-piece group) from Colchester

The judges scores placed the 43 year-old vocalist Mel Danser at the top of the scoreboard after hearing his performance of Send In The Clowns, the song written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music.

Show Winner Mel Danser.
Image: ATV Braodcast

At the time of his appearance on the show Mel was fronting his own showband, which he had formed at the young age of just 23, making him one of the youngest bandleaders to appear at London’s plush hotels. His style was likened to Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett.

The judges were very complimentary with their feedback saying ‘his professionalism is faultless’ and ‘I don’t know why he bothered to come on the show, as his band never stops working.’

Mel left grammar school early, at the age of 15, to begin an apprenticeship at an advertising agency art department and also attend St. Martin’s School of Art on a part time basis. He soon joined the Beaumont Operatic Society, an amateur dramatic group, which helped to develop his natural singing talent. His first stage appearance came at sixteen when he appeared in the Annie Get Your Gun chorus. At the age of twenty he played the lead role of Curly in Oklahoma at The Peoples Palace theatre on the Mile End Road. 

One of Mel’s early successes came in 1958 at the Butlin’s Holiday Camps and Hotels weekly talent contents claiming a win at one of the weekly shows. A young comedian from Liverpool also won his show during the same week, his name Jimmy Tarbuck. In 1959 Mel appeared on Lou Preager’s Find The Singer TV Talent Show, a series that also featured Jimmy Henney and Ray Ellington, both would go on to appear on the New Faces judges panel.

Mel began singing at a club opposite his amateur dramatic rehearsals and the resident swing group suggested he should enter a singing competition judged by their resident singer, Terry Parsons. Mel won the contest and was soon singing with Harry Pitch (show 6.19) and his big band, meanwhile Terry Parsons was discovered by Winifred Atwell, changed his name to Matt Munro and became one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene.

Mel Danser Showband. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Mel balanced both his singing and his job at the Rank Organisation, where he designed storyboards and layouts for Hanna Barbera’s TV cartoon series, The Jackson Five and The Adams Family. He also worked in advertising and worked on famous TV campaigns including the PG Tips Chimps commercials. After forming his own band, The Mel Danser Showband and Singers, he decided to turn professional and concentrate on his singing appearances. Later in his career Mel made guest appearances with The Thames TV Big Band and paints for his own pleasure, making his home on the Westcliff-on-Sea seafront on The Essex Riviera.

Young zany comedian, Larry Larkin.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The other memorable performance of the show came from Oswaldtwistle’s comedy magician Larry Larkin, who’s act was heavily criticised by the panel of judges. As the judges gave their feedback on Larry’s disastrous performance, awarding him the lowest score of the seven acts, the cheeky comedian retaliated by flashing his own feedback cards giving his opinion on the judges views.

As Radio 2 disc jockey Terry Wogan began to criticise Larry’s act the comedian quickly produced, seemingly out of thin air, a card which read ‘Rubbish.’ This was quickly followed by three other cards which said ‘I Love Tony Hatch’, ‘Panel Beater’ and ‘How Sad.’ The uproar in the audience meant the views of the panellist could not be heard for laughter.

Larry admitted he was taking a stance against the way the panel often heavily criticised the acts when they were unable to respond as their microphones were taken away. He said, ‘I have felt for a long time that it is unfair for the panel to pull acts to pieces when the performers cannot answer back in some way. I decided to take these cards on. Nobody knew that I was planning to display the cards on the programme, not even the producer.’ The unusual protest left the panel looking a little bit embarrassed, however, had the act gone well Larry had a ‘Thank you’ card ready, but as it was he didn’t need to use it.

Although the panel considered Larry a total disaster, he had instant appeal to the millions of television viewers who sent in such an avalanche of mail, backing Larry’s talents against the panel, that ATV were forced to ask Larry Larkin to make another appearance on the show. Larry would return on 19 March 1978 in a special Viewer’s Request Show.

In July 1978 Larry was added to the bill of the Colin Crompton Show at the Viking Hotel’s Talk of the Coast venue, Blackpool. Larry won many warm plaudits for his Tommy Cooper style of performance. Also on the bill were two other New Faces discoveries, Pat O’Hare, who won two shows on his way to the 1978 Series Six Gala Final and Al Showman, voted Yorkshire Television’s comedian of the year, and who appeared on show 6.25. In 1980 Larry was delivering his zany comedy act at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Pwllheli, Wales.

The Vintage Hot Jazz Orchestra pictured in 1985 as a seven-piece group. Image © Iliffe News & Media Ltd.

The Vintage Hot Orchestra had been delivering Jazz, Music Hall, Hot Music and Dance Music and the perfect cure for the blues since they formed in 1971. The zany orchestra’s antics were often likened the famous Temperance Seven and Bob Kerr’s Whoopee Band. The type of music they performed included The Sheikh of Araby, Button Up Your Overcoat and Me and Jane in a Plane.

Six months after they appeared on this show the eight-piece jazz group were the star attraction at a musical evening staged at Wicks’ Garage in Wisbech. The show was something of a gamble for organisers Ray Wicks and Derek Moyses, but about 140 people attended meaning they were so delighted they considering organising something similar again.

In 1982 the group released their LP The Perfect Cure For The Blues with the seven member line up of William Donnelly, Michael James, Ken Maxwell, Pieter Von Stryck-Nynne, Ian McNastie, Ian Bell and Muffin ‘Count’ Moriarty.

In 1983 the group were one of a number of former New Faces acts based in East Anglia enjoying a performing the summer season. Some of the others also performing in the 1983 summer season were Eve Bridger, Peter Collins, Ian Simpson, Tony Kent, Maxi Mann and Johnny Cleveland.

In August 1985 the Vintage Hot Orchestra were the star attraction at Fenland Aero Club’s annual barbecue at Holbeach St John airfield. This rare treat for Fenland jazz fans proved so popular that the committee had to order a second pig for the barbeque from the local butchers.

In 1989, for the fourth consecutive year the group, once again, performed at King’s Lynn’s Festival Too where they opened the music concert series in King Staithe Square. The concert line-up for the Festival also featured two men who had previously appeared on the New Faces judges panel. Dave Dee performed with the group Marmalade and the King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, closed the festival with a performance on the final night of the week long celebration.

The jazz group were still performing in the late 1990s and played a concert at Burghley House, Lincolnshire on 25 July 1998 complete with fireworks accompaniment. The group performed two selections of Dixieland jazz favourites and popular classics.

Guitarist Ian Lockyer from Worcestershire. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Malvern’s Ian Lockyer had been performing as a guitarist and vocalist since at least the early 1970s and in the summer of 1976 he was one of many artists that provided entertainment for thousands of holidaymakers at Butlin’s Holiday Camps. Performing across three venues, Bognor Regis, Clacton and Minehead, Ian was one of the acts providing late night cabaret alongside New Faces names, Les Dennis (four appearances between Dec 1973 and Nov 1974) and Sandi Ann Leigh (shows 6.1 and 6.7). In August 1976 Ian also supported comedian Johnny Carroll (show 2.11).

In 1980 Ian was back at Butlin’s Minehead with a number of other former New Faces acts, Cherry Roland (show 6.13) and series two finalist and part-time show host Nicky Martyn.

Ian continued to perform into the 1990s and in February 1991 he was one of the acts in a Les Osman showcase at the Manchester Hotel, Bournemouth. Ian was the opening act of the showcase playing a Hooked on Classics medley featuring everything from The Flight of the Bumble Bee to the William Tell Overture. In the 1990s Ian often used his dazzling guitar skills to deliver a tribute to The Shadows, which by the end of the decade lead to him performing as Hank Marvin in his own tribute show.

In 1998 Ian was the recipient of the Best Instrumentalist Award at the South Wales Inter-Clubs Entertainment Federation’s Club Act of the Year Awards night. Ian mixed his guitar speciality numbers which ranged from semi-classical to pop, and ballads to rock with his superb guitar playing and vocals, in his act that involved lots of audience participation, and a sprinkling of well-timed humour.

1Mel Danser98
UnknownGill Gerardo93
UnknownThe Vintage Hot Orchestra88
UnknownNew Shay ShowbandUnknown
UnknownIan LockyerUnknown
7Larry Larkin72
The incomplete scores from this show. The first and last places are confirmed, however, the two missing scores mean the remaining five acts cannot be placed.

Archive: A copy is held by the BFI – Work – 572281

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