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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

On Tuesday 18th August 1959 ABC announce that Oh Boy will be replaced with a new series Boy Meets Girls. The new show would again be produced by Jack Good with Rita Gillespie directing. The ‘boy’ was Marty Wilde and the ‘girls’ The Vernons Girls singing group, all sixteen of them, who would be the weekly regulars.


From the TV Times "Oh Boy meets girls When Oh Boy comes bounding back to the screen next Saturday, it will have a new title and revised format. The new title is Boy Meets Girls, and the boy is Marty Wilde, who will compere as well as sing. The Vernons Girls will be featured more. "The techniques will be about the same as for Oh Boy, but the pace will be more varied," producer-deviser Jack Good tells me. The aim is to appeal to the whole family. Bill Shepherd will be the musical director, and such stalwarts as Lord Rockingham's Xl, Red Price, Cherry Wainer and Don Storer will be back--"but this time we will have a Dixieland sound, and we are calling the band The Firing Squad," says Jack."


The show was similar in concept to Oh Boy! with a new backing group Jack Good’s Firing Squad, however organist Cherry Wainer and saxophonist Red Price were retained from the previous show. It also kept the same production team. Bill Shepherd was hired as the musical director, Leslie Cooper was the ‘dance director’ and Trevor Peacock was held over from Oh Boy as the script writer. Wainer would also bring along her miniature poodle, Lotus Lee. One of the girls, Margaret Stredder would be given a solo spot and a duet with Marty Wilde. Bill Shepherd said of her "This girl is so dedicated to the business that she must one day be a star." She would later form backing singers The Ladybirds, who appeared in every British variety show from Top Of The Pops to The Benny Hill Show.


Melody Maker quoted ABC's Ron Rowson "We shall also feature American stars each week. The show will be quieter and smoother and will not move at the same frantic pace as 'Oh Boy'." Good said "The show will be designed to appeal to the older brothers and sisters as well as the teenagers."


Talking to Disc ahead of the first show Good claimed ".. probably the most noticeable thing will be that the programme will not be a frantic bash-bash-bash affair. Wild rock n roll will still have a firm place. But the onslaught of one number on the heels of another will no longer be a feature. You will be told the names of artistes and what they are singing." Explaining the new direction Good said "There is no doubt that the balance of power in popular music has changed. Five out of the American Top Ten records have orchestrations that employ strings. Melody counts. Lyrics count. There is a much wider variety of successful records. Nowadays you have to tickle the public's fancy, not bash it into submission." Good responded to the same claims in TV Times four weeks' into the show's run. "Rock n roll is not as overwhelming as it was. But there is nothing sudden about the change. Popular music is tending to become more melodic and less frantic. The arrangements are sweeter and the whole atmosphere is different - like the new show. We are out to capture the elder brothers and sisters of the teenagers. And the mums and dads too." Wilde, talking to Melody Maker claimed "I am approaching 21 and I think it's about time that I branched out as an all round performer. I want to drop most of the rock stuff and do the real, class ballad stuff like Sinatra. On the new series I shall be singing and compereing. But I must confess that I'm worried to death. It is the biggest thing I have attempted and it could make or break me. But I don't think I will flop as I never, never admit defeat."


Good later tells Disc magazine that half of the shows are live, while the other half are video taped. The first show was broadcast from ABC's Didsbury, Manchester studios, but may move down to Teddington, Middlesex later on.


After a run-in with guest Johnny Cash house band guitarist Joe Brown was fired, only to be reinstated once Cash had found out what had happened. British rockers Adam Faith, Jess Conrad, Billy Fury were frequent guests while Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent appeared on the show as they were on a current UK tour. Other American rockers like Freddie Cannon and Ronnie Hawkins also appeared, while Jerry Keller, Bobby Darin and Frankie Avalon had been approached to appear.


Cliff Richard publishes an autobiography, It's Great To Be Young, in October 1960 and makes the claim that Jack Good resented Cliff for not wanting to appear on Boy Meets Girl. Although Good suggests to Melody Maker before the first show that Cliff wanted too much money "He wanted more money than we could afford to pay. Maybe later on we will be able to meet his terms."


By late October the first evidence that something was wrong was when the show was dropped by TWW in favour of the imported from America Nat King Cole Show. ABC Programme Controller told Melody Maker "The dropping of 'Boy Meets Girls' only applies to the TWW area and not to the rest of the country. The show has not flopped. It just happens that TWW wanted to do something different." Jack Good told Melody Maker "Current viewing figures show that it is pulling in even more viewers than 'Oh Boy!' did. There has been quite a swing in public taste. Viewers have now accepted the quieter 'Boy Meets Girls' as opposed to the faster, noisier 'Oh Boy!'"


Despite his run in with Johnny Cash the show was an important vehicle for guitarist Joe Brown. Signed to Decca as a solo act his musicianship, and cropped hair-do, made him stand out and he was kept after the mid-run putch. He also had a speaking role each week in a cross-talk routine with host Wilde. His first Decca 45 in November 1959 had both sides written by Pomus and Shuman, who both appeared on the show that month.


In mid-November 1959 the show had been given the front cover of the TV Times, suggesting that maybe the show needed an extra promotional push, but also suggesting a commitment and that ITV were not showing it the door just yet.


Halfway through the run director Gillespie left the show to be replaced by Ben Churchill who had previously worked on ABC's Top Numbers and Sunday Break. The house band was reduced in size leaving guitarists Eric Ford and Joe Baker, drummer Andy White, saxophonist Red Price, plus Cherry Wainer and Don Storer and a new bassist. The string section was also mothballed. The most drastic change was that the 300-strong audience was to be removed while a new set design was also employed. Jack Good told Melody Maker "The programme had turned out to be too much like 'Oh Boy' I intend to make it a much more intimate show. There is so much going on outside camera range. And I don't think this is a good thing. That is why I am dropping the out-of-vision string section. I've no complaints about the sound, but it gives the viewers a sense of being kidded. In future, the show will be staged from one rostrum only - instead of covering a vast studio. So I have tried to cut the Firing Squad to get them all in the picture. There will now be less dashing around the studio by all the artists. I shall group them together more so that they can create their own atmosphere rather than bask in the atmosphere generated by a teenage audience." Talking about the changes musical director Bill Shepherd told TV Times "All musicians have a desire to play other instruments and to sing. I hope with the new format I will be able to give the boys a chance to expand. Who knows, we may yet see Joe Brown taking over Red Price's saxophone." Good was also negotiating to get Little Richard and Bill Haley to appear on the show in the new year.


The rock and roll quota was toned down after the change and more ballads introduced, but Jack Good avowed to reverse the decision before the show was cancelled. Marty Wilde couldn't commit to any more shows from April onwards so Good proposed a new show and format, Wham! It was during the show's run that Marty Wilde proposed to one of The Vernon's Girls, Joyce Baker.


In September 1960 Jack Good tells readers of Disc that the tapes of the show have already been destroyed "because of the high cost of storage", however ABC engineer Ron Parker had made high quality audio recordings, several of which have been released by United Artists and Rockstar Records.



BOY MEETS GIRLS


ABC

12th September 1959 - 5th March 1960