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Thank Your Lucky Stars
Thank Your Lucky Stars

Probably the least well-remembered of the four 'classic' UK television pop shows of the Sixties, 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', first hit our screens in April 1961. Produced by ABC Television, it was intended as a rival show to the BBC's already well-established 'Juke Box Jury'. The original producer was Philip Jones (below left) who had previously been the programme controller at Radio Luxembourg before coming into television by way of Granada and Tyne Tees, where he had notably produced TV 'specials' for Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.

Jones had also produced a number of popular music shows for Tyne Tees including 'At The Golden Disc' and 'Request Time' and, in 1960, he was 'headhunted' by Howard Thomas the managing director of ABC television. At that time their light entertainment department was run by Brian Tesler who, with producer Jack Good, had already created teen-oriented music programmes such as 'Oh Boy!', 'Boy Meets Girl' and 'Wham!'.
Jones' brief was to broaden the viewing audience for this type of production and he became the main driving force behind the creation and success of the 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' show that boasted at least three major 'scoops'. His other ATV shows also included 'Big Night Out' (1963) and 'Blackpool Night Out' (1964-65).

The Shadows, the first British group to be awarded a Gold Disc (for 'Apache'), had it presented to them on the show of 13th April 1962. January 19th 1963 saw the first networked TV performance by The Beatles (recorded on January 13th) miming their second single, 'From Me To You' and, appearing on the show of July 7th 1963, The Rolling Stones made their very first UK television appearance, miming 'Come On' for which performance they were paid the grand sum of 143! The Dave Clark Five also made their TV debut on the show, on 20th April 1963, with 'Mulberry Bush'. Gene Vincent had already become the first American artist to appear on the show, followed by many others who included Brenda Lee, The Supremes and The Ronettes.

Jones realised, early on, the impact that the 'Mersey Beat' sound was to have on Britain's youth, inspiring him to put on a 'special' show in June 1963 featuring Liverpool's finest groups and artists. That show alone attracted over 6 million viewers, prompting his comment "The ratings achieved by that show proved the Liverpool sound was not limited in its appeal to a local audience - obviously it had a national following."
Philip Jones

The record that Pete Murray is looking at in the picture at the top       Shane Fenton TYLS       Petula Clark
TV Times - Thank Your Lucky Stars     
TYLS TV Book       Susan Maughan 8th Feb 64       The TYLS studio

Brian MatthewKeith Fordyce The original presenter of the show was Keith Fordyce who went on to greater fame as compere of 'Ready Steady Go!'. Other presenters over the show's five-year life included Jimmy Savile, Pete Murray, Barry Alldis, Kent Walton (the well-known wrestling commentator who had previously compered 'Cool For Cats'), Alan Dell, Sam Costa, Jimmy Young, Don Moss and Brian Matthew who also DJ'd the extremely popular radio show 'Saturday Club'. 'Five O'Clock Club' presenter Muriel Young also co-hosted the programme on occasion. Other producers of the show included Helen Standage, Keith Beckett, Milo Lewis and Alan Freeman (not the D.J.). Intro / Theme Music

Although Brian Matthew is the presenter most associated with the programme, it was Don Moss who was responsible for introducing 'Spin a Disc' to the show. This was the now-famous segment where a panel of 'typical teenagers' listened to the latest releases and awarded each of them 'marks out of five' in an obvious copy of the 'Juke Box Jury' format. Herein lies everyone's strongest memory of the show. Early in 1962 a 16 year-old girl from Wednesbury in the Black Country (then Staffordshire) was successful in her application to be on the teenage jury and she proved to be such a popular personality that she remained as a permanent feature on the jury for three years. The girl was Janice Nicholls and her 'Oi'll give it foive' spoken with a strong Black Country accent has since become a national catchphrase, even though comparatively few people now know or remember exactly where it came from.
Janice Nicholls eventually married Brian Meacham (of Brian Gulliver and The Travellers), who now have their own web site called 'Oi'll Give It Foive' (what else!) where you'll find some great pictures and Sixties recollections. It is with Janice and Brian's kind permission that the picture of them with The Beatles appears to the right. There are lots more pictures of them with other artists on their own site, and some great Sixties memorabilia. Janice enjoyed considerable fame as a personality in her own right during this period with appearances on chat shows, in magazine articles and adverts, even making a novelty record called 'I'll Give It Five' on Decca
At that time, the show was recorded live on a Sunday night at the ABC Alpha Studios in Aston, Birmingham, for transmission the following Saturday. Some recorded material was also used which was produced at the Teddington Studios in London. The programme introduced an all-Liverpool 'special' on June 29th 1963 called 'Summer Spin Liverpool Special', featuring The Beatles, Lee Curtis, The Big Three, Kenneth Cope and The Breakaways (remember him as 'Marty' from 'Randall & Hopkirk - Deceased'? ), Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, The Vernon Girls and Gerry and The Pacemakers. This one programme alone pulled in 6 million viewers, which persuaded ABC to introduce a regular additional seasonal replacement programme called 'Lucky Stars Summer Spin' and also led to a second 'Merseybeat Special' on December 21st 1963 called 'Lucky Stars On Merseyside' which featured The Beatles (above left), Gerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Cilla Black, Tommy Quickly, The Fourmost and The Breakaways. The 'Spin-a-Disc' segment of this particular show featured the Cavern Club's own D.J. Bob Wooler as guest compere and Billy Butler as a mop-top teenage jury member.

The summer season version of 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' was introduced in 1964 from the Teddington Studios which kept more or less to the same format and featured Billy Fury as a regular guest performer. Spin-A-Disc was replaced in July 1964 during the Summer Spin months by The Pop Shop with Janice Nicholls becoming the DJ/counter Assistant. Talking to TV Times about the summer replacement show Philip Jones said "This is a pop show featuring big name stars, so it's a natural step to use stars as comperes. Different stars will act as host each week, both boys and girls".

Talking about the Pop Shop insert Jones said "The idea is this: We'll have about twenty youngsters in the studio, listening and dancing to the week's American discs. When we've played the quota - it might be three or four - they will go to the counter of our Pop Shop, where they can pick their favourite of the releases played." After the show's Summer Spin outing the regular show returned on 3rd October 1964, but it was announced that the Pop Shop item would be dropped in favour of "a show within a show" feature, meaning Janice Nicholls would have to find new employment. However it would return a few weeks' later with Janice back in her rightful place.
Janice Nicholls and Brian Meacham with The Beatles

The show got a new look starting with the 27th March 1965 show, a week before Ready Steady Go! got its own cosmetic surgery. The theatre style stage and facing audience has now gone, replaced by a floor stage with the audience sitting in rows around them. The series now has its own resident fashion and dance expert Jackie Crier. The star act each week will start and close each show, while clips from pop movies will also be included. However, it finally means the end of Janice Nicholls, the show's only true star and like Monica Rose on Double Your Money one of the few members of the public to make it big in the pre-reality TV era. Her weekly fee of seven guineas (seven pounds, seven shillings) would later be the subject of an Equity and Variety Artistes Union enquiry as they felt it was too low. In 1965 host Brian Matthew had reprimanded the predominantly female audience for screaming too loud and as a result was asked to leave the show. He gave way to Jim Dale as the host with the introduction of the summer replacement version Lucky Stars (Summer Spin) and remained host of the regular show until the end. The summer version of the show went on location, with the ambition to record two numbers outdoors for each show.

Talking to The Stage's Television Today section an ABC source claimed "before every summer season we have discussed whether to rest Lucky Stars but in the past we have decided to continue the show - usually under the title of Lucky Stars Summer Spin. This year we came to the conclusion that we should drop it at last and start afresh. The pop music scene has changed so much recently that we felt it was better to do this than alter the format of Lucky Stars yet again". The article also claimed that two two pilot programmes for a potential replacement were about to be made. Producer Philip Jones also said at the time "I think we must just 'thank our lucky stars' for having had a good run and go all out to make a success of the new show we will be putting in its place later on in the year. There was no replacement show, just as a proposed replacement for Ready, Steady Go also never happened.

The final episode of the programme, 'Goodbye Lucky Stars', was presented by Jim Dale and broadcast on Saturday 25th June 1966 between 5:50 and 6:35 p.m. with both Janice Nicholls and Keith Fordyce making guest appearances.There had been about 2600 different sets and over 3000 artists on the show during its all too brief existence.
'Thank Your Lucky Stars' used more than one theme tune over the years but the best and most well-known of them was the second, a high-powered organ and big-band instrumental called 'Lunar Walk' which was written by Johnny Hawksworth, who also composed Thames Television's ident and theme tune. Another one used was Peter Knight & The Nightriders 'Lucky Stars'

Rolling Stones on TYLS   Thank Your Lucky Stars on Merseyside   Pete Murray with Janice Nicholls
Dave Clark Five on TYLS
Beatles on TYLS   Brian Epstein with Gerry Marsden at the Thank Your Lucky Stars Merseybeat special at Alpha Television Studios, Aston, Birmingham   Thank Your Lucky Stars

Barry Harper recalls:
"Thank Your Lucky Stars, May 1966* - I was there, in the audience at the Alpha TV studios! I remember the Koobas... very flowery trousers. The young girl on the swing was Deano and I'm sure that Tom Jones sang a couple of songs. The stuff about the 'Stones' is just as I remember it. In the break, Jim Dale was very entertaining.... " Have you got some questions for the Rolling Stones ?.... " Yes... very good... but I can't ask Mick about that....."
"Jim's warm-up before the cameras rolled was equally entertaining..... "Keep your hands on your lap.... your lap... not the person sitting next to you.... and don't pick your nose...." And then he said.... " We have to do this all in one take... so if it goes wrong we'll have to start all over again. If we're still here at 10 o'clock the Salvation Army will be here with some soup and bread rolls. If we're still here at midnight.... b***** it.... we'll just have a party...."
That's how I remember it... "

*Note: The Saturday 14th May 1966 episode still exists. Hosted by Jim Dale, guests were: The Rolling Stones (Lady Jane, Paint It Black) Tom Jones (Responsible, Once There Was A Time) The Koobas (Youd Better Make Up Your Mind) Deano (Starlight) The Morgan-James Duo (Put Your Tears Away) The Kentuckians (She Still Thinks) Lorne Lesley (Somebody) Ronnie Carroll (Wait For Me) and The Londonaires (Dearest Emma).

The Beatles 'Money (That's What I Want)' 20th October 1963           The Rolling Stones 'The Last Time' 1964           Lorne Lesley 'Somebody' 1966           The Beatles 'Rock'n'Roll Music'           Series Episode List

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