Thank Your Lucky Stars! 

24 March 2023 tbs.pm/78584

Six women sit in a red convertible being driven by Jim Dale with this thumb up

“A bevy of pretty girls… a sleek convertible… and off for a summer spin. Jim Dale, who’ll be introducing Thank Your Lucky Stars when it becomes “Summer Spin” on Saturday, doesn’t looks as though he minds whether the sun shines or not!” – TVTimes

 

Thank Your Lucky Stars was ABC Weekend Television’s tea time pop show that ran from 1961 to 1966.

The legendary Jack Good, the brains behind hit shows Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girls and Wham!! had left these shores to try and break the American market.

So ABC turned to a bright young producer, who had cut his teeth at Radio Luxembourg and Tyne Tees Television, namely Philip Jones.

The first show was broadcast on April Fool’s Day 1961 and was introduced by a pre-Top of the Pops Pete Murray.

Anne Shelton, The Five Dallas Boys, Allan Bruce, Jimmy Lloyd and Colin Day all appeared. Hughie Green’s The Puppet Song was danced to by the Peter Darell Dancers. Rediffusion’s Cool For Cats had used similar tactics in previous years.

 

Thank Your Lucky Stars crew

Thank Your Lucky Stars crew at Aston

 

The reason filming took place in Aston was due to a stipulation in ABC’s licence to broadcast.

Howard Thomas, the managing director of ABC. said :

“In Aston we record the pop singers in Thank Your Lucky Stars on a Sunday because it is the one day we can get them all together. We simply could not assemble all those people here in Birmingham at six o’clock on a Saturday night.”

The show was praised in the music press for letting established talent introduce new guests, who were tipped for the top.

Spin A Disc, starring Black Country lass Janice Nicholls, was launched as a one off special on 17 June 1961.

Devised by Alan Freeman, a Pye A&R man (and not the famous Alan “Fluff” Freeman of Pick of the Pops fame), it was a straight rip off of the BBC’s Juke Box Jury.

It allowed American artists to be featured if they were not touring the UK or British bands who could not get to Birmingham.

Audiences immediately related to Janice and this proved very useful in publicising the show, particularly in the newspapers.

The show was a hit and returned in September 1961, this time fully networked.

 

Brian Matthew

Brian Matthew

 

This time there were not one but two new hosts, namely Keith Fordyce and Brian Matthew.

Brian would be later sole host when a union strike meant that Keith refused to appear. Keith would come back in future shows as a guest DJ on Spin A Disc and the anniversary specials.

Ratings continued to grow. It was essential teatime viewing for teenagers the length and breadth of the country. One disgruntled Merseyside youngster wrote a letter to the TVTimes praising the show, saying it was the highlight of her week in an otherwise very boring existence.

A man and a woman in Thank Your Lucky Stars t-shirts. Text above: ABC TELEVISION invite you to THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS at Alpha Television Studios Aston Birmingham. Doors open at 6.00 p.m. No admittance after 6.15 p.m. Seats for THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS in circle only. ADMIT ONE Sunday, 21st March.

Audience ticket

The comedy records featured and the older variety acts meant that Mom and Dad could watch as well.

Dance crazes such as the Twist and the Madison were demonstrated by dancers, led by Lionel Blair.

Trad Jazz ruled throughout ’61 and ’62. But then something monumental happened.

On 19 January 1963, the Beatles appeared, miming to Please Please Me.

Like a breath of fresh air, the old 1950s acts were dropped from the schedule in favour of British Beat groups.

Solo artists suffered too, although American acts that came over on brief publicity tours were always accommodated.

The Summer of ’63 also saw the launch of Lucky Stars Summer Spin, hosted by Pete Murray from the Teddington studios.

Ratings were very healthy, with the rival BBCtv Juke Box Jury being regularly trounced.

But the BBC would have the last laugh, launching Top of the Pops in January 1964.

The Merseyside special of Lucky Stars drew huge audiences.

The famous edition of Saturday 21 December featuring Gerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas, The Searchers, Cilla Black, The Breakaways, Tommy Quickly and the Beatles was entered by ITV for the Golden Rose of Montreaux competition.

The show was proving popular internationally and clips were exported to Australia.

The show underwent a number of changes, but as so little footage survives, this aspect is often ignored. For instance the Go Jo dancers appeared regularly on the show and director Keith Beckett discovered Jackie Crier, who commentated on the latest fashions and dances.

In April 1965 the audience increased to 700 and a magazine style was adopted, featuring more filmed inserts.

Brian Matthew was politely asked to leave, driven understandably insane by all the screams. He left on good terms, appearing on the 100th anniversary show and Goodbye Lucky Stars, the last regular broadcast.

Host duties switched to the versatile and talented Jim Dale.

 

Janice Nichols waves a union flag

Janice Nichols

 

Janice Nicholls was dropped although there was such an outcry she came back to a revamped Spin A Disc, now called The Pop Shop.

Eventually she was dropped again with the record review section being scrapped altogether.

Guest artists such as Dusty Springfield and the Bachelors compered the show from 1964 onwards.

Artists enjoyed coming up to Birmingham and mixing in the Alpha studios canteen.

Sometimes things got a bit too lively, especially when Keith Richards of the Stones objected to the military style green uniform of the Irish showband The Cadets. Me and Them were involved in a fracas with the Hollies as guitarist Spencer K Gibbins explained:

My memory of this was of seeing George from our band (Me and Them) having a ‘tete a tete’ with Graham Nash of the Hollies.

We were talking to Lesley Gore (It’s my Party…)

George was near to the door, when Nash came barging through and knocked George flying… then he stupidly shouted to him ‘It’s your own fault you stupid b—–d for being there!’

That’s NOT what you say to a hard fiery lad from Barnsley!!

Mr Nash was VERY rude to him and Mr Davis retaliated by lifting him by his neck off the floor and then dropping him in a heap on to said floor! We… and the HOLLIES were naturally urging him to desist…. (Mr Nash WAS definitely ‘out of order’!)

Ratings were still very healthy throughout 1964 and 1965 but changes were happening.

The Beat Boom faltered and the BBC’s Top of the Pops cornered the pop market. Top of the Pops moved to London, making it easier to get artists in the studio at short notice.

 

Gene Vincent

Gene Vincent

 

The Musician’s Union flexed its muscles and, being a mimed show, Lucky Stars was a prime target.

With the ITV contracts up for grabs, less time and money was devoted to ephemeral material such as teenagers and pop music.

Dusty Springfield and Keith Beckett

Dusty Springfield and Keith Beckett [AI enhanced]

In April 1966 it was announced the show had been axed. By this stage some regions had dropped it completely, forcing teenagers to watch the dreadful rural soap Weavers Green instead of their favourite pop stars. ATV also did not broadcast the show in London, having in the past dropped it occasionally due to Lew Grade not being willing to pay for it.

Philip Jones revived the show for a one-off live special on Saturday 31 December 1966, featuring Paul Jones, Sandie Shaw, Adam Faith, Russ Conway, Max Bygraves and Frankie Vaughan.

Sadly only three episodes and bits and pieces survive. It appears that shows were wiped very soon after transmission dates, according to singer and songwriter Sylvia Mason:

Afterwards I was asked to have publicity photos taken with Ken Dodd for an article called ‘Happiness and Tears’.  His song being Happiness and mine full of gloom re it being a teenage suicide pact (oh dear!).  We were shown the footage after the show and they explained that after the broadcast the video tape would be erased and used for another show as it was very expensive. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that an engineer who hated pop music took great delight in wiping the shows almost immediately.

At least we have the excellent Goodbye Lucky Stars, broadcast Saturday 25 June 1966, featuring The Beatles, Roy C, Ray Ellington and Cleo Laine, The Ivy League, Peter & Gordon, Gene Pitney, Helen Shapiro, Miss Ruby Miller and Herman’s Hermits.

It was a fitting tribute to a much loved show.

 

Caption from the titles listing the stars: SHIRLEY BASSEY, THE SEARCHERS, CHUBBY CHECKER, MARIANNE FAITHFULL, THE ESCORTS, GUY HAMILTON, THE BIRDS, LADY LEE

 

 

Kevin Mulrennan’s 780 page book on the show is available on Amazon.

 

You Say

1 response to this article

Brenda OConnell 23 January 2024 at 9:52 pm

Great memories. I travelled to all the shows with Marianne Faithfull and remember her being on Thank Your Lucky Stars 1965 with Shirley Bassey |Chubby Checker and The Searchers.

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Liverpool, Friday 19 July 2024