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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

The BBC chose a quick replacement for the failed Dig This!, but to give its replacement a better chance of survival it was decided not to directly compete with Oh Boy!, so it began the show just as the other show finishes at 6.30 pm. Dig This! regulars Bob Miller and The Millermen were still resident this time around, and joined by The John Barry Seven, Adam Faith, Sylvia Sands and ex-Oh Boy!'s Vince Eager. Barry's name had once been suggested as a replacement for Harry Robinson on Oh Boy, so for the BBC to bag his services was seen as a coup.


The BBC had assigned Stewart Morris, a newcomer with only four months experience in TV, as the producer. He told Melody Maker "This will be a fresh, fast-moving teenage show with the emphasis on excitement. The show - which will be different from '6.5' and 'Dig This' will be a tremendous outlet for teenage talent. And we are inviting youngsters along to the studios to watch it. In The John Barry Seven and the other residents we have the best acts of their type. The artists should have great appeal for the kids. But we will be holding auditions all the time to keep the show fresh."


The first shows were hosted by Radio Luxembourg DJ Gus Goodwin, who together with the producer and Bob Miller chose the songs for the show. Goodwin would in turn be replaced with Oh Boy's Trevor Peacock, another sign that the BBC meant business. The show was recorded at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, London in front of an audience of 200. This was the nearest the BBC would get to the fever pitch of Oh Boy!, crowding the stage with as many singers and musicians as the camera frame could catch. Musically the choice was upbeat, with only one or two ballads per week, and The John Barry Seven providing the small group numbers.


Talking to Melody Maker about the obvious comparisons to Oh Boy producer Stewart Morris defended his show "Nonsense. We use the same sort of artists because the youngsters demand them. But our production is different, the camera work is different and the performers are, I think, better." Talking about whether it was all performed live he claimed "None of the pre-recording that you get on some other programmes. And we don't feed in the screams and cheers either." Morris however shared one problem with Good "Remember they said two years ago that Presley couldn't last. I wish I could get him for the show. I tried."


Problems arose when producer Stewart Morris had taken issue with Billy Fury learning the wrong song one week and decided to let him go, causing a problem between the producer and Fury’s manager Larry Parnes who provided so many singers for shows.


To make sure that producer Morris didn't make the same mistake that Francis Essex had made with Dig This by claiming that he had never seen Oh Boy Jack Good invited Morris to The Hackney Empire to see the show live. After Oh Boy! finished it's run on 30th May 1959 Marty Wilde crossed over to Drumbeat to become a regular. Other Oh Boy! regulars Cliff Richard and The Drifters also appeared, while American one hit wonders The Poni-Tails appeared on several shows. Just as Oh Boy! made Cliff Richard's career due to his weekly appearances Drumbeat was as influential to Adam Faith's career.


In April 1959 regular vocal groups The Kingpins and The Three Barry Sisters were replaced with The Raindrops, featuring Jackie Lee and The Lana Sisters, featuring Shan Lana (aka Dusty Springfield).


In May 1959 it was announced that the show would be given a nine week extension, taking advantage of Oh Boy's absence from the screen, but by the time Jack Good returned with his next Saturday evening show it was time for Drumbeat to move on. The Daily Mirror quotes regular guest John Barry as saying "I think the teenagers will find Drumbeat is more than 'with it.'" This seemed not to be the case as the show was not commissioned for a second series. Despite its comparable unpopularity producer Stewart Morris was assured by the BBC audience research department that they were ahead by one and a half million viewers. He boasted to Melody Maker "We estimate that our show is seen in five million homes which gives us an approximate viewing figure of 15 million." While an ABC spokesman counter-claimed "We are sorry to have to shatter the BBC's dreams. We have checked very carefully on our charts and find that we have 30 per cent more viewers than 'Drumbeat'." However the show was due to finish at the end of June, but was given a reprieve in May and would continue until the end of August.


Stewart Morris announced to the press in June 1959 that he had approached Little Richard and Ricky Nelson to appear on the show. Talking to Melody Maker he said "These artists will give the show a tremendous boost. Negotiations are in progress at the moment and I hope to see them here for short series during July and August." Turner denied this was a stunt intended to cashing in while Oh Boy was on a summer break, "Not at all. I like competition. It keeps us all on our toes. I don't think that our viewing figures will jump very much now that we're the only rock show on TV. I think that most of the teenagers watched both shows anyway."


The 6th June show had a special guest in the audience, Jack Good. He was introduced to the audience by Stewart Morris and later asked for his opinion of the show Good claimed "It was a very good production."


No shows are thought to exist, however a Fontana EP released in May 1959 is taken directly from the TV soundtrack, while a Parlophone album based on the show was recorded 10th May 1959, at Abbey Road, in front of an invited audience of 150 teenagers.


For the definitive word on this series visit the Drumbeat web site.


DRUMBEAT


BBC

4th April 1959 to 29th August 1959