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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Having moved from Ireland to the UK in the early fifties to further his singing career it would take nearly seven years for Val Doonican to make his TV debut. When he did it was as a regular on BBC's Beauty Box, starting 21st May 1957. He would have to wait another six years until he would appear again, but this time he had a Decca record contract behind him. His second single, a cover version of Hank Williams' Kaw Liga saw him bag a spot on Thank Your Lucky Stars in August 1963, and then on BBC2's The 625 Show later in the month and Make A Note in October 1963.

His next gig would be his biggest so far, an invite onto Sunday Night At The London Palladium in May 1964, but instead of plugging a new 45 (their wasn't one) he sang Anthony Newley's Do You Mind impersonating British pop stars. He was invited back to the Palladium in June, and became a series regular on BBC's Singalong Saturday about the same time. There would be many other appearances for Val on shows like Barn Dance and Open House before his first British hit Walk Tall, the song that took him onto Top Of The Pops on 19th November 1964.

His relaxed and easy style would find a welcome home on many shows throughout this career, but the best place to find him would be at home in his own series. After having to wait around for years the mid sixties found him a regular face on British TV, appearing on comedy, light entertainment and music shows, showing a natural talent for all of them. It was just a matter of time before the BBC or ITV would offer him his own show and the Beeb got there first. The first Date With Doonican was broadcast 22nd February 1965 with regular singing support from The Ladybirds and The Go-Jos as the resident dance troupe. He would be backed by The Northern Dance Orchestra who would also back him up for the weekly request spot, where members of the public would suggest songs.

His second series of the year The Val Doonican show kicked off with a one-off on 5th June 1965, returning in October for the series proper with guests like Marianne Faithfull, Lulu and Julie Felix, while the next series beginning 14th May 1966 saw Lonnie Donegan, Rita Pavone and David & Jonathan as guests. To confirm his well deserved success 1966 saw him win TV Personality of the Year.

The third series which began 7th October 1967 kicked off with Cliff Richard, then Sandie Shaw, Vikki Carr, The Shadows, The Alan Price Set among others, and it was during this series that he performed at his first Royal Variety Performance. His fourth series beginning 25th August 1968 saw him play host to Matt Monro and a few others, but pretty much all MOR. Apart from a one-off on 24th May 1969 there was no no series in 1969, but he was back on 3rd January 1970 and this time it was more pop friendly with The First Edition, Clodagh Rodgers, Julie Felix and The Edwin Hawkins Singers. It was after this series that Eamonn Andrews sprung This Is Your Life on him. This would be a rare ITV appearance, other than a couple with Des O'Connor on ATV, and it would be to ATV that Val would now move on to.

Morecambe and Wise Show BBC1 8th October 1970

A man drags a rocking chair across the stage in front of Eric and Ernie

Ernie - "What's That"

Eric - "It's Val Doonican off to ATV. He'll be back."

His first show for "the other side" was broadcast on 18th November 1970, however this was not a full series, there were just a couple of shows leading up to the beginning of the first series proper on 17th April 1971. ATV had sold the show to ABC in the USA and two American script-writers had been employed to provide jokes for the American version, with the usual uncomfortable, "I don't know what the punchline means" consequence. ATV were trying to sell Marty Feldman, Val Doonican and Des O'Connor to the US market, but despite the laid back style, rocking chair, the sweaters and that velvet voice it just didn't do it for America. For this series he played host to Lulu, Petula Clark, Roger Whittaker and Jerry Reed.

By May 1975 as predicted by Eric Morecambe Val was back at the BBC. For his first show for the BBC in several years producer John Ammons wanted Val to lose the sweaters and rocking chair in favour of sharp suits and shiny shoes. The reinvention was wrong and was actually un-necessary, he was more than just a rocking chair and sweaters anyway. In 1977 it became The Val Doonican Music Show and would last until 1984, with the last of his now famous Christmas shows broadcast in 1983.

In 1985 he hosts the last of the regular Val Doonican Shows, while in 1989 Val Doonican's Homeward Bound becomes his last series overall.



1965 - 1989