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Popular Music on British Television

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COOL FOR CATS

Associated Rediffusion
31st December 1956 - 27th February 1961

"The She-Cats and He-Cats get together with Kent Walton to bring the best in "pop" music".

Probably the first television series in Britain to be aimed specifically at the new rock n roll audience, the teenager. Directed by ex-theatre producer Joan Kemp-Welch. It was first broadcast on a Monday evening at 7:15, then moved to Thursday.

Fleet Street journalist Ker Robertson presented the first few shows, but by the end of January 1957 Kent Walton from Radio Luxembourg had taken over with Robertson “Disc Arranging”, i.e. selecting the eight or nine discs per week. The show itself was initially only fifteen minutes long, stretching to thirty minutes later on and had very few rock n roll acts making personal appearances, relying again on visual interpretation of the lyric via dance, usually choreographed by Douggie Squires and a meagre set design. Guests would be interviewed in the studio, but no artists will be miming to their new hit.

Talking about the show before its debut Robertson said "I feel there is no need for any big presentation of lavish sets with a disc programme, which is after all, very intimate and essentially a homely pastime".

Described by TV Times as “An intimate record programme in which Ker Robertson brings viewers the hits and near hits, the songs, music and stories of the people who make discs a £25,000,000 a year business.”

By June 1957 its popularity had spread enough to warrant a network showing twice a week and would, on occasion, step outside the boundaries of the studio setting by turning up at, for example, Army and RAF camps.

In early 1958 the show extends to two shows a week and its running time extended to thirty minutes, it also increases the number of dancers to three men and three women, one of whom is Barbara Ferris, later to become an actress. In March 1958 there was talk of a touring stage show, something that The Six-Five Special and Oh Boy would later do. The show's director Brian Taylor would leave the show to take the show on the road and would be replaced by Daphne Shadwell. The live show opened at the Chiswick Empire in early May 1959 and featured a dozen or so numbers played by Derry Hart and The Heartbeats, Johnnie Lee, Billy Raymond, The Marino Marini Quartet and Janice Peters.

In April 1959 Douggie Squires leaves and Peter Darrell becomes the new choreographer, while Daphne Shadwell becomes the new director.

In December 1959 and again in Spring 1960 Labour MP Roy Mason made accusations against TV presenters who might have been involved in payola. He claimed both Robertson and Walton had direct connections with record companies, Robertson with Pye and Walton with Top Rank. Despite the allegations no proof is produced and no action is taken.

Despite being aimed at teenagers the show is sometimes puzzlingly broadcast in a late night time slot.

But by the late fifties new shows like Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girls, Wham! etc regularly featured real rock acts in its line-up, so the dance show began to look more and more pale, leading to its retirement in early 1961. However, Channel Four revived the idea in the mid-eighties, putting on a tea-time dance show Hot For Dogs, which lasted just one series.

Like many of the shows at the time Parlophone Records released a tie-in series of Cool For Cats EPs in 1959 featuring Ken Jones and His Coolmen.