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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Ex-teacher and radio producer Harty had initially found TV work on Humphrey Burton's weekly arts show Aquarius, and was usually to be found on location interviewing the great and the good from the contemporary arts scene. His relaxed style, occasionally cheeky manner and his Yorkshire accent made him more popular that the seemingly more academic types handling arts on TV at the time.

It was suggested by London Weekend that the Yorkshireman should host a talk show, similar in vein to BBC's resident Yorkshireman Michael Parkinson who had Saturday evenings sewn up at the time.

Starting on Sunday nights in June 1972 Eleven Plus was a late night talk show, which had found a nicer location on Friday evenings as Russell Harty Plus towards the end of the year. Russell played host to the likes of Cass Elliott, Liberace, Little Richard and Wings. In 1973 he would have legendary encounters with The Who and David Bowie, while many of the era's greats like Elton John, Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, Neil Sedaka, Wizzard, David Essex, Bryan Ferry, Slade, Gilbert O'Sullivan and Gary Glitter turned up, culminating with Russell Harty Plus Pop, a wonderful compilation broadcast on a Saturday morning in January 1974. In December 1975 London Weekend broadcast his documentary about Elton John who, in one of his more extravagant moments, flew his family and entire record company staff to see him perform live at Dodger's Stadium in Los Angeles.

Harty seemed genuinely concerned about sudden fame and what it can and will do to those who were ill-prepared or just miscalculated. His interview with David Cassidy in 1976 when the star was still in shock from the death of a fan at one of his concerts in London was perhaps one of the finest pop interviews broadcast. There was a similar encounter with Lena Zavaroni the same year.

As the seventies progressed pop acts would continue to appear, and towards the end he would play host to more eccentric new-wave people like Duffo, the world's only shrink-wrapped pop star.

The new decade saw Harty move to BBC2 where he would be given two thirty-minute shows a week on Tuesday and Thursday, but the routine would be pretty much the same apart from the odd excursion to an North Sea oil rig, accompanied by Bucks Fizz.

Harty was the man from the media that stars could trust not to make them look foolish, but his inquisitive school teacher manner never went away. He was fascinated with stars' attitudes and behaviour, even if it meant occasionally being on the receiving end, as was the case with Grace Jones who decided to take offence when none was intended and walloped him from behind.

A move to BBC1 in September 1983 saw him in an early evening slot on Tuesdays and Wednesdays where a constant slate of Britain's finest pops stars would turn up. Strangely he was given the task of reading out the top thirty chart on the Tuesday show which he never felt comfortable with, almost like a return to reading out a class attendance list. But he did get a classic sound bite from Boy George who confessed that he would rather have a cup of tea rather then have sex. His patter didn't have an agenda, but you could tell he was fascinated, even smitten with pop stars and their lives.

By the end of 1984 it was all over and he was politely asked to move to one side to allow Terry Wogan to move into his weekday spot, which he kept until he moved aside, returning to radio.

Russell returned to broadcasting on contemporary arts on BBC2 up until his death in 1988.


London Weekend 25th June 1972 - 30th June 1979

BBC2 30th June 1980 - 2nd April 1983


BBC1 20th September 1983 - 17th December 1984