TV Cream

It's Saturday Night

27. You’ll have to take us as you find us

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Although the BBC and ITV spent much of 1982 attempting to revitalise light entertainment through experimentation with new formats and new kinds of stars, there was still room for old-school variety, and in particular, talent shows. Granada Television’s head of light entertainment, Johnny Hamp led the charge.

Having produced The Video Entertainers for the network in 1981, Hamp wanted to develop a nationwide forum for new acts. He came from a show business background (his father was a magician), and has an obvious eye for talent (he produced the first television promotion of the Beatles), and so such programmes were tailor-made for him. Prior to 1981, his track record had been excellent. Bernard Manning, Cannon and Ball and Paul Daniels were all doing good business on Saturday nights and all were discovered by Hamp. “The faces project the talent,” he said when asked to explain how he was able to spot future stars. His intention was to build upon his earlier work and create a programme that would allow his newest discoveries to perform their act in their entirety. This was to be the Granada Television series, Success, which began transmission at 6.45pm on Saturday 8 May 1982.

Lining up were Stan Boardman, Roy Walker, Mick Miller, Dustin Gee, Tammy Cline, Lisa Stansfield and singer/composer Gerard Kenny. None of them were new to television (Stansfield had been discovered on Hamp’s The Video Entertainers) however, this was the first time they had been given their own show. With the exception of New Yorker Gerard Kenny, all of the featured acts hailed from the north of England, and from working men’s clubs.

“I am always in pubs and clubs seeing as many as 90 acts a week,” explained Hamp. “The north started the trend in big time club entertainment but now there are not so many clubs. There’s still a mine of talent to be tapped – the search is just that little bit more difficult.” Explaining the thought process he employed when seeking out stars Hamp commented, “some performers can bring the house down in pubs and clubs but simply don’t translate their success on television. Similarly, there are acts who make an instant appeal on television but don’t go over on the stage … It’s not enough to be a good singer. They have to spread their wings and exploit other aspects of their talent. Roy Walker, for instance, is a very pleasant singer, but this talent has never been exploited because there just hasn’t been time.”

The promise of Walker actually singing provoked some excitement in the tabloids with the 22 May 1982 edition of The Sun proclaiming that “Comedian Roy Walker is getting ready to make his mother a very happy woman. He is going to sing – seriously. Walker, 42, star of shows like The Comedians and Licensed for Singing and Dancing, is a guest of impressionist Dustin Gee on Success. And next week’s Success is devoted to his own life story, with sketches, jokes and a song written especially for him by Les Reed. Walker says ‘my mother has always believed comedians are men with red noses and funny suits who fall about. She doesn’t think telling funny stories is any way for a grown man to earn his living. Every now and then she says to me, ‘Can you just sing a song for the neighbours?’ So this is it – for me Mum.’”

Lisa Stansfield was to appear on Success’ 15 May edition, and like Walker, it was to bring great satisfaction to her mum. “When we came home after appearing in The Video Entertainers, the neighbours had put up a sign in our garden saying, ‘Watch Lisa Stansfield on television,’” recalled Marion Stansfield on the eve of her daughter’s Success debut. “We couldn’t afford champagne, but we bought a cheap bubbly and celebrated. Actually, the success worried me, I thought perhaps some people might resent it; that other children might be jealous”. Although only 16, Lisa Stansfield was a veteran. On one occasion at a talent show in Rhyl, television presenter Jess Yates had placed her in the runner-up position, however it was at the Talk of the North Club Talent contest in Eccles where she found her lucky break. Johnny Hamp, one of the judges, booked her for The Video Entertainers. “Apart from her voice she has a great personality,” he remarked, “and I am convinced she will be a big star”.

That Stansfield would go on to greater things is testament to Hamp’s continuing ability. However, not everyone he uncovered could achieve such success. Tammy Cline appeared on 5 June edition, already hailed “Britain’s best female country singer, as decided by two major polls in the music press”. Born in Hull on 16 June 1953, Cline began her performing career with local band The Falcons, marrying guitarist Rod Boulton; with whom she went on to form the duo Tammy and Dave Cline. A number of solo appearances on radio and television followed but her big break came with an appearance on the ITV talent show, Search For A Star.

Like all the others, an appearance on Success, represented her first prolonged television exposure and a chance to consolidate her career to date. Amid all the excitement of an impending primetime television appearance, Cline (real name Marilyn Boulton) remained resolute that the “big time” would not change her: “You’ll have to take us as you find us,” she remarked in 5 June edition of TV Times. “There’s no side to us. If you can’t be natural what else can you be?” As if to underline the fact, her husband Rod, was compelled to add, “one of the simplest things in life is sewing, and any woman who makes a meal out of it is ridiculous.”

Next: “Entertainment that keeps on the move”

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. George White

    February 19, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I suppose “Tammy Cline” (such a tacky clubland name, reminiscent of Irish stars such as TR Dallas, Jesse and the James Boys – or indeed Italian B-film actor pseudonyms like Robert Widmark) was doomed to become anything other than a passing novelty, at least in England. Scotland and Northern Ireland (and the Republic) are the only parts of the UK where country has become mainstream, certainly local country.

    • Richard16378

      February 20, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      At least American country has the periodic mainstream phases, late 1950s to mid 1960s, mid 1970s to early 1980s & mid to late 1990s.

      I guess this has occasionally rubbed off on some English performers.

      • George White

        February 20, 2018 at 9:56 pm

        Yes, and of course, you did get British or British-based acts, i.e. JJ Barrie and Lena Martell getting success, but Lena Martell is Scottish, and like Ireland, Scotland has a very big and very popular country scene, but only in Scotland and to some respects Ireland and country fans in other parts of the UK. British country music isn’t mainstream in Britain to the extent that Irish country music is unavoidable in Ireland, not folk music, but the likes of Big Tom, Larry Cunningham, Margo and Daniel O’Donnell(a crossover), Susan McCann, Philomena Begley, Ray Lynam, TR Dallas, astonishingly not a one hit wonder, and Foster and Allen, – another crossover, all have cultish folowings, in the UK, some appeared on Sing Country, but are in rural areas, at least, beloved, iconic, almost.
        And that’s the older acts. There’s this horrid trend of boyfolkers, usually spurned on by the success of Garth Brooks-via-Eoin McLove, Scouse-Ulsterhybrid Nathan Carter, and frosty-haired 90s throwback Mike Denver, lots of handsome young men singing absolutely earnestly straight, sub-Wurzels rural humour songs like Hit the Diff, thinking that is country, and not narrative-driven songs of private lives. And a lot of these guys are ex-boybanders or rappers who failed to hit big. Guys with names like Derek Ryan, Lee Matthews,Richie Remo and Marty Mone, the Bruce Les and Bruce Lis of Irish country music.
        In England, there’ve never been any breakout. A few tried, Hank Wangford, Pete Sayers, Charlie Landsborough (who became big in Ireland, but only hit Songs of Praise level of fame).

        • Richard16378

          February 21, 2018 at 6:32 pm

          I always thought Daniel O’Donnell was the inspiration for Eoin McLove.

          Reeves & Mortimer seemed to use Foster and Allen as a basis for Mulligan & O’Hare.

          • George White

            February 22, 2018 at 7:47 am

            O’Donnell is the basis for McLove.
            And yes, Mulligan and O’Hare were inspired by Foster and Allen, though their videos in recent times on obscure satellite channels seem to be inspired by the two Dermots’ visual accompaniments of such songs as the Day the Donkey Derby Came to Town.

  2. Glenn Aylett

    February 19, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    It showed that as late as 1982, with the alternative brigade on the march, their arch enemy Bernard Manning was still considered popular enough for a peak time show on ITV, which still featured comics popular with working class audiences( ITV’s bedrock then) on shows like Success and The Comedians. However, Manning and his friends were on borrowed time as an attempt to move ITV upmarket in the second half of the eighties and recognition of changing trends saw the old guard phased out or moved into daytime game shows.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    February 24, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Country music’s most successful era in Britain was the seventies. You had people like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton regularly scoring top ten hits, and the music being popular on daytime Radio 2. Then in the eighties country became niche again, and apart from the occasional revivals and country singers like Shania Twain using pop and rock influences to make the mainstream, it’s never regained its seventies popularity in Britain. Yet living in Cumbria, which is as ” country” as England can be, the music has always had a following.

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