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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Produced by Johnny Hamp Firstimers was a locally-shown showcase for singers and groups new to television. Each act would get to perform one song per show which would be broadcast between 4.50 to 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday, following the news headlines in a spot called On Air. The show would also have an occasional omnibus edition, featuring some of the more popular acts, hosted by Chris Kelly. Hamp told Disc "We're looking for every sort of musical act, as long as it's good and original, at a time when new talent is most needed on TV." Hamp had tried with a similar format in 1965 with Granada In The North, a ten minute tea-time show.


After the first 60 acts had been seen they would compete for the Granada Firstimers Trophy, and it was hoped that one of the many artists whose careers Granada had helped launch previously would be around to appear on the twenty strong judging panel of journalists, agents, producers and show business personalities. There were three cash prizes of £150, £100 and £50.


Auditions were held three evenings a week, where each act was allowed to perform two songs. However there was one recurring problem as producer Johnny Hamp explained to The Stage "It's depressing how many girls sing Puppet On A String." On one occasion a yodeller had a sore throat, so played the harmonica instead. Talking to TV Times ahead of the first final in September 1967 Hamp claimed there were 3500 auditions to go through. "A high proportion of those 3500 would-be auditionists might be, say, male singers. Of those, many might be carbon copies of Matt Monro or Frank Ifield, virtually impersonating those stars, by singing the same songs and using the same arrangements."


The show was intended to run for one three-month series leading up to the final, but it was extended to encompass three finals. It was also the intention to launch a Granada Records label in autumn 1967 and with Firstimers acts taking three of the first six releases. It was also hoped that a Firstimer act will appear on the front of the Granada edition of TV Times in autumn 1967.


The most successful act the show had was The Amen Corner, and Hamp kept a photo of them on his desk. However a proto Jethro Tull had appeared in the first week of the show. Tull's Ian Anderson talking to Prog magazine in late 2019 said "I was so upset that they won! Andy Fairweather-Low was this insipid, limp creature who sang in this little boy voice and went down on his knee and did this praying thing. All the mums and little girls just loved this limp wimp. I remember meeting him at a gig months later and I was quite rude to him."


A list provided by Mark Dixon on the Missing Episodes message board suggests the show had a leaning towards psych and pop with many fascinating appearances gone for good as no shows are thought to exist.



FIRSTIMERS


Granada

22nd May 1967 - 4th April 1968