A series starring Skiffle King Lonnie Donegan, joined every week by the usual musical and variety guests.
A report in Melody Maker in August 1956 suggested that negotiations were under way for Donegan to star in his own series, but it would take another three years for any contract to be signed. His musical tastes ranged from blues, gospel, country to British music hall, and they all featured in the show. However, most of the guests were of the middle of the road and trad jazz variety, many of them also recorded for Pye Records, owned by ATV.
In 1958 Donegan made a couple of appearances on ATV's Saturday Spectacular, not just
singing but playing the comic. His manager Cyril Berlin told Melody Maker about his
13th September 1958 appearance "Lonnie did a great job -
The show was originally announced as Lonnie's Party, but changed to incorporate
the title of one of his hits. The original intent was not to pre-
Donegan would also get involved in small scale comedy sketch clips at the beginning
and end of the shows, something which would become commonplace later in the decade
with Cliff, Dusty and Lulu. Talking to Disc ahead of the final series he spoke about
the comedy angle "I'm no genius and it's taken me a long time to learn, but it's
a thing I've always wanted to do and I think I've learnt now, in just the same way
as I learnt to sing." Talking to Pop Weekly at about the same time he said "There'll
be other guests popping in from time to time, but generally it will be the same formula
as before. Some singing and clowning around, and as wide a variety of songs as we
can get together..." Lonnie told TV Times ahead of the first show "I want to make
friends with my television audience. People who watch television want to see artists
who can present themselves. And that's just what I will be doing in the next six
In 1961 Donegan appeared in a summer season in Blackpool using the show’s title, with a highlights show broadcast by BBC Television. Talking to Disc in late 1961 he explained that finding new songs to perform was difficult "I can repeat one or two numbers but I've got to start looking around for others before the show and it takes a long time. It's a big problem." Disc estimate that he had performed around 80 songs so far in the series. "I think it will prove necessary to introduce more comedy than ever before in the next series. Simply because I won't be able to find enough songs."
Singing group The Raindrops joined as regular guests in 1962 and featured Jackie Lee and Vince Hill, both of whom would later have successful solo careers.
Returning for a one-
The series was back in April 1964, but this time there was a concept. In an attempt to replicate the success of Stars & Garters' it was set in 'Donegan's Bar', "it could be Las Vegas, it could be Chelsea, it could be anywhere," said producer Francis Essex in a Daily Mirror article. The first half of the show saw the cast rehearse (although it was nothing of the sort) while the second half was the actual performance. The Clark Brothers taught him some dance routines, while Lonnie ditched his guitar for all but one song. Pete Appleby, Denny Wright and Pete Oakman from Donegan's group were also "staff" at the bar. Producer Essex told TV Times "I thought about the format for this show for weeks and decided what we wanted was pace, personality and versatility. I hope we have achieved all three."
This was to be the end of Donegan's own TV series. With his contract with ATV now completed after a five year run of shows he was a free man again, but he would continue to make TV appearances for the rest of his career.