26 Feb 1978 – Series Six (25)

Show host Derek Hobson.
Image: ATV Broadcast

There was a balanced mixture of experience on the judging panel with series six newbies Michael Aspel and Bridie Reid being joined by George Elrick, who made his first panel appearance back in series three and Mickie Most, who made a panel appearance in every one of the six series. They were joined at the judges desk by the very experienced show host Derek Hobson who was appearing in his 161st show, 153 as show host and eight as a panel judge.

There was also a good mix of entertainment experience on the show with some acts only recently starting in the business and others beginning their careers as far back as the 1940s.

The seven acts performing on this show and looking for a place in the last All Winners Show of the series were;

  • O’Hara’s Playboys (seven-piece group) from Sheffield
  • Al Showman (comedian) from Sandbach, Cheshire
  • Jimmy Crawford Blend (vocalist / guitarist duo) from Nottingham
  • Len Belmont (ventriloquist) from London
  • Mary Lamb (vocalist / guitarist) from Gillingham
  • Kenny Day (vocalist) from West Ewell
  • The Ordinarys (five-piece group) from London
Vocalist Kenny Day was the winner by a single point.
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The show winner by a single point was vocalist, and former choirboy from Birmingham, Kenny Day who secured his place in the penultimate show of the series on 26 March 1978.

By the time of his appearance on the show, Kenny’s singing career had spanned nearly twenty years. He released his first single Teenage Sonata in 1960, having previously played bass in a Mayfair orchestra. This was quickly folowed up by Why Don’t We Do This More Often, which was his second single, released on the Top Rank International label.

Kenny had soon secured the principal vocalist role in Paul Raymond’s Nite Life In Mayfair at London’s Celebrite Restaurant and also took a solo spot in the Show Girls Show at the same venue in 1963 before moving over to the sister venue, the Bal Tabarin. In September 1963 Kenny revealed another talent when he performed as an interpretive dancer in Vive Les Girls again at the Celebrite in a show where he also took on the role of compère.

By November 1964 Kenny was performing two shows a night at the Raymond Revuebar, with a couple of cabaret spots in the Playboy Room, followed by the 1.15am floorshow at the Celebrite. At the end of 1965 Kenny decided to start a solo cabaret career ending his role as resident singer at the Celebrite under the management of Paul Raymond. The following summer Kenny was on the entertainment roster at Butlin’s Pwllheli and in November 1966 Kenny had been given his television break when he was seen on the popular consumer affairs programme On The Braden Beat, an appearance which helped him secure a season in Las Vegas.

In 1971 and the first half of 1972 Kenny was performing as the lead role in the El Casino, Freeport in the Bahamas. He returned to the UK to join the Allan Blackburn produced Masquerade ’72 show at Margate’s Winter Gardens, which starred Tommy Cooper and also featured the Michael Tye-Walker (show1.7) dancers.

Kenny, a keen chess player, always had a board and pieces in his dressing room ready for a game. He also loved golf and was no mean performer with a handicap of eight. He was also a useful goalkeeper playing one season for Southern League side Bath City and often turned out for the Showbiz XI with greats such as Jimmy Tarbuck and Mike and Bernie Winters. During the Margate shows Kenny won the chess contest, beating Tommy Cooper in his first match and Peter Hudson in the final to claim the miniature trophy.

After shows in Puerto Rico and Canada, Kenny returned to Margate in 1974, in Ragtime, another Allan Blackburn show, which ran for eighteen weeks and was headlined by comedy duo Finn and Jones, who had appeared in the original New Faces Network Pilot back in 1973. The show also featured young magician and mindreader Stephen Wells (show 2.5). In October 1974, Allan Blackburn had once again signed Kenny for one of his shows and he appeared in Grayson’s Scandals at the London Palladium. The show was headlined by Larry Grayson and also featured New Faces judge Noele Gordon and series one finalist Elaine Simmons.

In 1976 Kenny became known as the ‘Kojak Of Song’ when he completely shaved his head and began performing naked from the neck up in the floorshow at the Boulogne Restaurant in the West End. In early 1977 Kenny took the male lead, alongside half-Turkish, London vocalist and newcomer Juliette de Ville (show 5.24), in the Val Arness production Way Out In Piccadilly at the West End’s Boulogne Restaurant, Gerrard Street, London.

The Jimmy Crawford Blend performing on the show.
Image: ATV Broadcast

The Jimmy Crawford Blend were close runners-up, finishing just one point behind winner Kenny Day, with their extremely lively version of the theme to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, which they performed dressed as extras from a Spaghetti Western.

Sheffield born vocalist Jimmy Crawford was joined on stage by guitarist Jim Ryder. The duo had been performing together in various groups for the previous fifteen years.

On the tenth June 1999, 21 years after it was first broadcast, a clip of their performance on this show was used in a question on the Jonathan Ross hosted quiz It’s Only TV, But I Like It in the section of the show referred to as Opportunity Knockers. The teams were given three talent show clips from yesteryear and asked to decide which act was still performing. The answer was confirmed when Jimmy Crawford himself appeared in a clip on the show confirming he was the one that was still performing.

49 year old Jimmy was born Ronald James William Crawford Lindsay in Sheffield in 1937 and worked as a draughtman in the City before turning to music. He was also a competitve swimmer and his love of motorcycle racing saw him compete at the Isle of Man TT Races.

Jimmy formed his first group, Ron Lindsay and the Coasters, but soon changed the name to Ron Lindsay and the Ravens to avoid any confusion with the American group The Coasters. Jimmy however found early chart success as a solo artist with two Top 50 UK singles charting in 1961. The second of the singles, I Love How You Love Me, reached number eighteen and enjoyed ten weeks on the UK charts. His third single, I Shoulda Listened To Mama, was released in May 1962 but failed to chart.

 In 1962 Jimmy appeared in the musical movie Play it Cool alongside Billy Fury, making his big screen debut, and Shane Fenton (Alvin Stardust). In the movie, directed by Michael Winner, Jimmy performed the blues song Take It Easy and was accompanied by Lionel Blair & His Dancers.

Once Jimmy Crawford returned to his group the Ravens soon became the Messengers and later were the Chantelles, where he first joined forces with guitarist Jim Ryder. By 1966 another name change now saw the group became the Jimmy Crawford Four. The group mixed music with comedy and impressions to deliver a complete and entertaining act. In November 1967 the group were called on to replace the Rockin’ Berries, who were booked to play the Royal Variety Show, on the Englebert Humperdinck Theatre Show in Bristol. It was around this time the group also delivered a very polished performance on Opportunity Knocks.

In October 1969 the Jimmy Crawford Four were now, albeit briefly, a quintet with members Tony Lee, Graham Traviss, Geoff Theaker and Jim Smith joining Jimmy Crawford to record a new double-sided single, Love Wonderful Love c/w Strange Song. By 1971 the group saw another name and line-up change with The Jimmy Crawford Blend featuring Big Jim (Ryder) and Perkin. The new group debuted at Talk Of The Midlands, Derby on 11 July 1971, where they received seven curtain calls and were immediately rebooked due to popular demand.

In 1972 The Jimmy Crawford Blend headlined a show at the Hopwood Unionist Club near Manchester with support from comedian Al Showman. Six years later they would both appear together again on this very New Faces show.

In 1977 the group toured Australia for six months with ‘Big’ Jim Ryder on guitar, Gary Lawson on keyboards and Barry Page on drums. By 1978, and for this appearance, the Jimmy Crawford Blend were now a duo and shortly after appearing on this show they were the support act for The Supremes in their London Palladium show, where they brough the house down, along with the interval curtains with their frenetic song and guitar performance. By 1981 the group had enjoyed their sixth tour of Australia and were wowing audiences at a Cabaret Showcase in Gillingham where they performed the same rousing version of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, they performed on this show.

Sadly ‘Big’ Jim Ryder died in February 2005 aged 65. Jimmy and his wife, Maureen, were involved in a serious car accident in March 2005 but they recovered well and Jimmy was able to return to performing. Jimmy is also a talented artist and you can view some of his work in the Gallery of Paintings on his website.

Finishing in third place was guitarist and vocalist Mary Lamb which should have guaramteed her a place in a future Near Misses show, however, she did not appear in another show and may have possibly missed out because of existing commitnments.

New Wave group The Ordinarys listen to the judges comments. Image: ATV Broadcast

The group The Ordinarys were the first New Wave group to appear on New Faces and they performed their own song I Wanna Be An Ordinary. The group had formed around 1976/77 by merging members from two local bands. Steve Phelps (vocals) was in the band Sonavabitch and was joined by Jim Lewis (lead guitar / vocals), Steve Phypers (drums / vocals), Steve Richmond (rhythm guitar) and Neil Broadbank (bass / vocals), who were from the group Granite.

By the end of 1977, thanks to the efforts of Steve Phelps and his brother-in-law Oliver Scarrott, the group were a local success and their shows were attracting big crowds as well as a good amount of press and interest from the music business.

The judges opinions were mixed with Michael Aspel commenting that ‘a lot of ordinary girls think they are absolutely great,’ but concluded by saying ‘the song isn’t much but they’ve got bags of attack, they should do well.’ George Elrick thought they had ‘lots of promise’ and if he could mark for enthusiasm he’d give then a ten. Bridie Reid thought ‘one of these days they will do very well, but there is a lot of work.’

Their appearance on the show was seen as a gamble for a group with such a modern style and despite entertaining Mickie Most, who gave then nine marks for both presentation and entertainment value and wished them ‘good luck’ the backlash from their appearance led to the demise of the group. They battled on until the end of 1979, with a number of line-up changes and sell-out gigs along the way but their demo recordings from the summer of 1978 remained shelved for over 25 years. Two singles were eventually released by Love Child Records, I Wanna Be An Ordinary in 2018 and Models in 2020.

The Ordinarys – I Wanna Be An Ordinary – New Faces 26 February 1978
Experienced ventriloquist Len Belmont with his new improved dog puppet Fred. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Vetran ventriloquist Len Belmont had owned his teenage boy doll, Charlie Cherrywood, since 1947, however he had recently paid out for modernisation of the controls and his new improved dog puppet, Fred, was given a showing during his performance on this show.

George Elrick thought Len was ‘a good competent vent’ that had a good technique. Michael Aspel thought Len presented ‘a pleasant act’ which he thought ‘would be probably very good on children’s Television.’

Len, born Leonard Alfred Brown, was born on 31 July, 1930 and went to school in Attleborough, Norfolk before relocating to Hackney, London. At the age of eight he became interested in puppets through his love of studying arts and crafts at school, where he made paper mache and clay models. After his national service in the army, where he was a party planner and performer, he started doing the popular end of the pier shows.

By 1953 Len had his own ‘family’ of puppets that included an Old Man, Young Boy, Baby Girl, Talking Dog, Old Woman and Crying Baby and most of these were made by Len himself. He also expanded his show to include a section that featured a telephone conversation with a distant caller with the voice of the caller coming over distinctly and realistically. In October 1957 Len won the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists Morris Hurling Cup at the second ventriloquists convention at London’s Norbury Hotel, where he used a walking stick as his dummy. He ended that month with an appearance on the ABC Midlands Talent Show Bid For Fame.

Len Belmont and Charlie Cherrywood. Image: Vent-O-Gram Magazine 1968

From 1963 to 1968 ‘Uncle Len’ was providing entertainment and talent and competition compere at various Butlin’s Holiday Camps, including summer seasons at Filey, Minehead, Bognor and Clacton. In 1965 he appeared on Tyne Tees Television programme Gangway and in January 1968 he appeared as Hugo, along with puppet Charlie Cherrywood, in the ABC Weekend TV play Living Doll episode of the Haunted series. The duo were back on the small screen in December 1968 when they played the ‘Bad Guys’ in an episode of The Avengers. Len followed up this run of television appearances by appearing on talent show Opportunity Knocks and ended 1969 as the Heinz Souperday Ventriloquist in their latest television advert.

As well as being a polishwed ventriloquist Len was also a performing magician. In February 1974 Len performed his ventriloquism act at an Evening of Magic presented by the London Society of Magicians and was joined on the bill by magician Roger Blakiston (show 1.10) who delivered a psuedo Shakespearian novelty magic act. Later in 1974 Len appeared in another television advert for Colibri Lighters and undertook an usual job at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre where he gave ventriloquism tuition to Ian McKellen for his role in the forthcoming Doctor Faustus play.

A few months before his appearance on New Faces Len, along with his newly modernised puppets, was the comedy guest magic act at Warners Holiday Camps for the 1977 summer season, visiting camps at St. Clare, Puckpool, Benbridge, Woodside Bay and Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. The ‘new look’ Charlie Cherrywood would become the face of French Golden Delicious Apples in their latest television advert in 1979.

As entertainment moved into the twenty first century Len found himself back on television when he was the ventriloquist announcer on Channel 4’s TFI Friday, where he was known as ‘Len the Vent’ by host Chris Evans. On the show Len would appear through a smoke screen to announce what was coming up on the live show. In 2017 Len was the president of the British Association of Ventriloquism and could be seen assisting comedian Justin Lee Collins with his ventriloquism skills in the series The Convention Crashers: Ventriloquists which can be found on the All 4 website. Sadly Len passed away on 23 September 2018 at the age of 88.

Comedian Al Showman. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Comedian Al Showman was born in Royston, near Barnsley, and had been an entertainer since 1949 and turned professional in 1963. His Al Showman Organisation, based in Manchester was one of the North’s leading agencies representing over one hundred comedians and many other acts. Before his appearance on this show he told his local newspaper ‘the only thing that worries me is that I am only on for three minutes, whereas my act is more of a slow storytelling type, cabaret orientated.’ As it was his spot wasn’t too bad. The trouble he experienced was that Mickie Most, who clearly knows a lot about music, seemed out of his depth when it came to comedy.

Up until the late 1960s Al had been associated with stag shows and strippers, before starting to rid himself of that stigma and concentrating of club and cabaret work. Known in the industry as ‘the comics comic’ his spot on delivery coupled with his cool, calculated scripts and his smooth, unhurried deliveries plus his ability to thrive on a double meaning without causing offence made him a hit in the clubs.

After major surgery at the start of 1970 Al took three months off but returned to the stage in time to celebrate his twenty-one years of being an entertainer. Shortly after his return he jetted off to entertain the troops in Cyprus on a twelve day stint at November 1970. In December 1972 Al was the support act at the Hopwood Unionist Club, Heywood, Manchester where the top of the bill was the Jimmy Crawford Blend and the two acts were reunited on this show.

In October 1974, with appearances on The Comedians and The Wheeltappers and Shunters’ Club already broadcast, Al won the the £5,000 first prize in the Mansfield Brewery Clubland Talent Show. From an original entry of around three thousand the seven finalists performed at a star-studded show held at Jesters Nite Spot in Mexborough, Yorkshire and the show was televised in the Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Border regions. Also appearing in the final seven were vocalist Christie ‘G’ and magic act The Duvals, both acts would later appear on New Faces and the show was compered by Norman Vaughan who would later appear as a judge on one show in series three and host the New Faces stage show tour.

A few months before the final Al had made a number of appearances at the Aquarius Club in Chesterfield, a collection of which was released on the LP Al Showman At The Aquarius. These recordings can be heard on You Tube. In 1976 Al had secured his own television show on Border television, but as this was not a networked show it didn’t exclude him from appeared on New Faces. In fact by the time he appeared on this show he’d already made fourteen appearances on the small screen, but this was his first appearance on network television.

Following his network television debut Al was added to the Colin Crompton Blackpool Summer Season 1978 show at the popular Talk Of The Coast, Viking Hotel venue. Joining Colin and Al on the bill were vocalist Pat O’Hare (show 6.2 & 6.7 winner) and comedy magician Larry Larkin (show 6.24 & 6.28). In 1979 Al appeared as one of the broker’s men in the pantomime Cinderella at the Norwich Royal Theatre. He was joined in the cast by two former New Faces contestants, with soprano Jayne Sullivan (show 3.39) and comedian Danny O’Hara (show 1.2) joining Paul Henry and Roy Barraclough in the shows line-up. Al’s performance in the show was almost cut short when in January 1980 he wrote his car off in an accident, but while he was shaken he was unscathed and able to continue with the performances in a show that was extended until March 1980.

The O’Hara’s Playboys had been performing in one form or another since around 1958 when they were based in Glasgow. The lead vocalist John O’Hara first joined the group, the known just as The Playboys, as a part time singer but mainly as a saxophonist. During one of their tours to Germany in 1962 the group were involved in a car accident which resulted in the lead singer and two guitarists leaving the group due to their injuries. John O’Hara took over as lead singer and the group reformed as a six-piece outfit.

Their name was changed to John O’Hara and the Playboys in 1966 and by 1968 they had released two albums, six singles. The group were hugely popular in Germany, touring widely and playing at the famous Star Club, Hamburg. They also made a number of television appearances in the UK including a July 1968 guest spot on The Golden Shot, hosted by Bob Monkhouse.

John eventually took over as band leader and the group took the name O’Hara’s Playboys, but a number of disagreements resulted in most of the original Glasgow based members leaving the group between 1969 and 1970.

The group saw many changes of personel during the 1970s and made an appearance on Opportunity Knocks before releasing their 1977 album Both Sides on the Look Records label. The line-up for that album released just a few months before this New Faces appearance included Steve Whitehouse (drums), Colin Lumsdale (saxophone), Chris Franklin (lead guitar), Bobby Van (keyboards), Mansell Sissons (bass) and Kim Wear (trumpet) and John O’Hara (vocals).

John O’Hara eventually went solo and was still performing into the 1990s, where he delivered his smooth and stylish vocals in a show at the Edinburgh and District Masonic Club. The show also featured vocalist Julie A’Scott who appeared on the Central revival of New Faces in 1986.

PositionActTotal Score
1Kenny Day110
2Jimmy Crawford Blend109
3Mary Lamb106
UnknownThe Ordinarys89
UnknownLen Belmont78
UnknownAl ShowmanUnknown
UnknownO’Hara’s PlayboysUnknown
The complete final scoreboard positions are unknown, however, the top three acts scored in excess of 100 points so those positions are accurate.

Archive: A copy is held by the BFI – Work – 572284

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