Originally planned for a twenty-
Radio Luxemburg and Light Programme DJ David Jacobs had approached the BBC in 1956 with the idea for a series called Hit Or Miss in which a panel would cast their opinion on the week’s new releases, only to have the idea rejected by Leslie Johnson at the BBC’s Light Entertainment department. In early summer 1959 Jacobs was approached to be a member on the panel of a new series Juke Box Jury, the format of which the BBC had just bought from America. When Jacobs explained that the idea was put to them three years previously he was given the job of host to placate him. But despite Jacob's involvement it was Pete Murray who had hosted the pilot show.
The show involved a panel of four showbiz personalities passing opinion and ultimately
judgement on the week’s new releases, with a guest appearance by one of the artists
whose work was reviewed / criticised. The poor mug had to sit behind the set in what
became known as The Hot Seat. Since there was usually an even number of jurors there
could be an draw between hit and miss, so the panel was complemented by an audience
panel made up of three members of that week’s audience who also imparted their opinion
'hit' or 'miss'. The results would be displayed on a thermometer type board, called
Only fifty seconds of each song would be played, but not only singles were played, some LP tracks were also included.
The show was originally intended for a March 1959 launch and shown in the BBC schedule after Dig This in order to make it an hour of teen / pop fare on a Saturday evening, but the demise of Dig This put paid to this idea.
The show’s cheap to run format proved popular with the BBC, while the audience also got the chance to play amateur reviewer.
There would be some controversy in the first show as Pete Murray complained to the host "I can't understand why you're being so beastly to me. You've got a very big future. They need men like you in the gent's toilet in Leicester Square." To which Jacobs replied "Mention my name and you'll get a good seat." The producer spoke to the two after the show.
The original theme tune was Juke Box Fury and a version credited to Ozzie Warlock and The Wizards was released by HMV. It would later be replaced by Hit Or Miss by The John Barry Seven, at the suggestion of David Jacobs after it had been judged on the show.
In August 1959 the show is extended for a further 13 weeks and is moved from Monday
to Saturday going head-
In autumn 1959 the idea of a twice-
The show's potential to make or break a record drew the attention of critics, especially Labour MP, Roy Mason who effectively accused David Jacobs of payola in the House of Commons in December 1959, and again in Spring 1960. Jacobs was at the time also working for Pye Records and wrote a weekly column for a paper. Mason had also made similar allegations about Cool For Cats.
Johnny Stewart takes over as the show's producer in March 1960, replacing Russell Turner. In April 1961 Stewart Morris leaves his producer role, passing it over to Bill Cotton Jr who tells Melody Maker "The format will stay exactly the same." Under Morris the show had gone from seven and a half to fifteen million viewers. However as soon as Cotton took over it was suggested that the format would change with a teenager and a DJ put into the panel. Although this was never intended it lead to a denial from the show's producer Billy Cotton Jr who revealed that he would sometimes get insulting letters claiming that the panel know nothing about pop music, without realising that was the point. Johnnie Stewart told Disc in November 1961 "I like to have at least two, possibly three people on the panel who are connected with the recording industry. The third may or may not know about the business and the fourth may be a Zsa Zsa Gabor. Nobody can say that she knows anything about the business but what she has to say is interesting." Talking about having popstars themselves casting judgement on others on the show "In my opinion it hasn't worked. It hasn't improved the entertainment quality of the programme. Most of the record stars on the show have been incoherent. I must say that Cliff Richard when he was on made sense, but he was the only one so far."
By mid 1961 there were rarely any BBC shows in the TAM audience top ten ratings, but it was notable that when there was an ITV whitewash the top rated BBC show was often Juke Box Jury, sometimes with a share of just below 50%. The show would make the bottom half of the TAM ratings top twenty occasionally throughout 1962.
In December 1961 the smoke from Bunny Lewis' cigarette wafting across the other panellists leads to complaints and a subsequent smoking ban on the show.
In October 1962 rumours in the industry suggest that the show was to be cancelled. Bill Cotton Jnr tells Disc "Those reports created a wrong impression. All that is happening is that we are conducting a pilot show in private to see if it is possible to extend the present show in some way. If this happens, the length of the programme will increase. but otherwise it will be 'Juke Box Jury'." It was confirmed in late 1962 that the format of the show would not be altered.
The public's irritation with juror's getting it wrong led to then producer Neville
Wortman telling Disc magazine in December 1962 "We don't keep detailed statistics
of the voting, but the panellists are ahead on forecasting hits correctly." Adding,
"I've said it before and I'll say it again right now: Juke Box Jury is meant to be
an entertainment -
The show was cruelly labelled "joke box jury" in the media, but the jury and host would occasionally get things comically wrong. On a May 1963 show the song Foolish Little Girl by The Shirelles was played, leading Pete Murray to comment that the group had just had a hit with Sherry, to which fellow juror Andy Williams tried to correct him by claiming the hit was Big Girls Don't Cry. Host Jacobs also chipped in by saying that Big Girls Don't Cry was actually a hit for The Purcells.
Janice Nicholls' cheeky working-
Notable editions include The Beatles taking over the show in December 1963, pushing the show into the top ten ratings for the first time since February 1962, while The Rolling Stones took over the following year and in the process abandoning the traditional hit or miss board.
By 1964 the weekly audience averaged twelve million, however irritation from other
BBC programme makers at it’s space-
A later producer Barry Langford explained that he would take on average about sixty
new releases every week to youth clubs and try them out on the members, the most
popular would them be included on that week’s show. Langford had taken over the producers'
role in Spring 1964 and vowed to eliminate any potentially anti-
In Spring 1965 a new recording of the theme was made by Ted Heath and his orchestra.
In late 1966 the then producer Terry Henebery was replaced by Albert Stevenson who
promised to have a new set designed, but it would only be a cosmetic change as it
was obvious that the show was on its last legs. A new seating arrangement and a new
juke box was introduced, while a solo member of the audience became the 'casting
voter'. Adding to any worries the producer had David Jacobs was forced to deny that
he was leaving the show as he had recently left Top Of The Pops. Stephenson wished
to include ten records per show so he encourages the panel to speed up their responses,
while a new opening credit sequence replacing the spinning records intro is also
on the cards. Another change occurs with the 3rd December 1966 shows when the show's
jury changes to an all-
Another change came with the 25th February 1967 show when two of the all DJ panel were sacrificed in favour of two women "connected with the pop scene" taking their place in an attempt to give the show a fresh look. The four DJs will still appear in a duo rotation each week, similar to Top Of The Pops. However again, on the 8th April the show reverted to its celebrities only panel format. With a show in constant flux and apparent indecision it was just a matter of time before time would be called. Talking about the switch back to the old format Pete Murray told Disc "...they must have some people on the panel who know what they are talking about... otherwise, it's like having somebody discussing a book who can't read."
Despite the show's longevity the BBC still seemed be happy enough by May 1967 to
Despite the later shows exposing contemporary music like Pink Floyd and Moby Grape to a Saturday evening audience the producer's saw no problem with booking jurors like Jessie Matthews and Beatrice Lillie towards the end of the show's run.
The show was moved from Saturday to Wednesday evenings in late September 1967, which
is usually the first sign of an upcoming P45. In addition it was moved from its London
studio up to Manchester. Bill Cotton Jr explained the reasoning "It is moving to
Manchester purely because of studio availability. The demand on studios is not as
great in the north as down here (London)." The new version of the show would be transmitted
live whenever they can. Currently the show is transmitted live and pre-
Several new ideas were pitched by producer Sydney Lotterby to tie-
There was no show on 8th November 1967 despite hiring Tony Blackburn, Brenda Lee and Gene Pitney to be on the jury. A British Heavyweight boxing bout between Henry Cooper and Billy Wright was shown instead of the David Nixon Show and Juke Box Jury was replaced by the Nixon show. Further evidence that Juke Box Jury was being sidelined by the schedulers.
Jacobs had been offered a new radio show on BBC's Light Programme replacement Radio 2 and told Disc that moving to Manchester was a problem "It has hit my offers of work with Radio 2 rather badly, because Wednesday cuts right across any plans that were being made for a daily programme." It transpired that in the autumn of 1967 Jacobs had suggested that he leave the show. Talking to the Melody Maker in December 1967 Jacobs said "I felt I had done all I could and said all I could on the programme. It had been a long and lovely time but it was time to go on to something else. The BBC said they would think about it and about ten days later they told me that they had decided to take it off." Jacobs' agent, Bunny Lewis, told Disc in late 1967 "David and 'Juke Box' are parting on the best of terms. David said he wanted to be free to do other things about five weeks ago. The BBC have though for some time about ending 'Juke Box', but David's request may have toppled it over the brink." Talking to Melody Maker about the show's demise Jacobs claimed "After a time, I realised that quite a few people knew that the programme was to end. Than last week when I went to Manchester for the show, the studios were full of reporters and photographers because the story had leaked. My agent asked the BBC what I should say and they said 'nothing'. This made me look a bit of a twit because the next morning I heard the end of the programme announced on the 8.30 news in my hotel bedroom in Manchester."
The show was officially cancelled by the BBC in late November 1967, with the replacement
All Systems Freeman ready to start in the new year. However, if it wasn't ready then
the producers of Juke Box Jury would continue into 1968. David Jacobs, talking to
Disc in late 1967 said "I would be quite prepared to carry on for a short while if
they wanted me to. But I feel an eight-
The final show brought back two faces from the very first show, Pete Murray and Susan
Stranks. The show had been pre-
The show never targeted the teen audience in favour of the larger ‘family’ audience
and as a result it out-
The show was revived twice by the BBC, once in 1979, hosted by Noel Edmonds, which
included a legendary encounter with ex-
For more information about the show please visit the Juke Box Jury web site.
"... and now this is where we take our leave of you."