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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

"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 whose job it was to introduce a proper team of dancers and choreographer, rather than the stand alone dancers who were on the first shows. It was first broadcast on a Monday evening at 7.15, then moving to Thursdays.


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, with an occasional singer miming to their new hit. The unusual thing about the show was that none of the production team had any connection with the music business, although Kent Walton would later become a Radio Luxembourg DJ.


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." There would also be a strip cartoon interpretation of a song each week, drawn by Desmond Hennessy.


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.”


Director Joan Kemp-Welch devised a way of cutting each song down to about ninety seconds using an oscilloscope of the sound wave and choosing which section to give to the dancers. Her successor Brian Taylor also introduced ideas of his own, as would his successor Daphne Shadwell.


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 three shows a week. One was a thirty minute show on Monday, a fifteen minute show on Wednesday and a compilation show on Fridays, late night. It also increases the number of dancers to three men and three women, one of whom is Barbara Ferris, later to become a well-respected actress. The dancers are split into two teams, each working alternate weeks.


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 thirty five minute 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 May 1958 and on each Wednesday the show would be an outside broadcast from somewhere in London, while they were also promising a black-face minstrel show with Kent Walton as the white faced 'Mr Interlocutor'. While the same month the show celebrated its hundredth edition with an open ended special featuring many of the acts whose records had been played on the show.


More changes occurred in July when the show moved to Thursday only at 7.00 pm, but despite being aimed at teenagers the show is sometimes puzzlingly broadcast in a late night time slot.


In his regular column in Disc magazine in September 1958 Kent Walton introduced new dancer Mary Munro and stated that many of the show's dancers are from the Festival Ballet.


However, an announcement from AR in January 1959 came as a shock. The show was to end. A spokesman for Associated Rediffusion told Melody Maker "The final date has not been fixed and a replacement show has not been set." While host Kent Walton chimed in "It's a pity we are near the end of the road, but after all, one cannot keep on getting fresh ideas after such a run." The end of February was the likely finishing date. Thankfully, AR changed its mind but changes would be made. A spokesman told Melody Maker "All long-running programmes must obviously be reviewed from time to time, but this show has consistently held its rating and appeal. So we have decided to carry it on - indefinitely."


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


By late 1958 it had been reduced to one, weekly show on Fridays, suggesting that Rediffusion were either losing interest or had found other shows to fill the gaps.


Like so many other TV shows Cool For Cats was set for the stage in September 1959 as a tour of Granada theatres, starring Petula Clark, Tony Brent and Don Lang was being prepared. The regular dancers would also appear in the show which was due to begin 22nd September. Kent Walton would compere the show, while Ker Robertson acts as co-producer. A movie version of the show was also being considered.


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.


Three of the regular dancers left the show at the end of 1958 to appear on Rediffusion's new series The 1959 Show.


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, Cats' regulars Tony Bateman, Patsy Rowlands, Stephanie Voss and Barbara Ferris reunited for a Christmas Eve special on ATV in 1972, while Channel Four revived the idea in the mid-eighties, putting on a tea-time dance show Hot For Dogs, which lasted just one series.



COOL FOR CATS


Associated Rediffusion

31st December 1956 - 27th February 1961