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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

If BBC2 had saved up their pennies and decided to splash out on a series starring an American singer/songwriter it would be a dead cert that Don McLean would be booking a flight to London and requesting a taxi to take him to White City. So it was with some surprise that the BBC offered it to folkie John Denver, especially if you consider his lack of success as a performer in the UK. His Leaving On A Jet Plane and Take Me Home Country Roads had been big hit songs in the UK, but for other people. Very few people would have known the name of the composer. His RCA albums had been released in the UK, but had not exactly bothered chart compilers. By 1973 his star was on a very slow ascent, but by the following year, and against all odds, he would be the America's biggest pop star, even having a UK number one single.

He was given six half hour shows with guest stars Paul Wliiams, David Essex, Roger Daltrey, Hurricane Smith, Lulu and Donovan, while Top Of The Pops favourites Pan's People were hired as the dance troupe. His regular weekly guests were Biil and Taffy Danoff, later a part of The Starland Vocal Band whose Afternoon Delight was a worldwide hit on Denver's own Windsong label. Bill Danoff had also co-written Take Me Home Country Roads with Denver.

Those expecting a masterclass in contemporary folk songwriting would be in for a shock. Denver chose many songs from his own catalogue of course, but he also indulged in rock 'n' roll numbers and novelty songs, something that would later come in useful in his specials with The Muppets.

Despite the surprise of giving him his own series BBC2 had been prepping him for stardom. His UK TV debut would be on ITV's This Is...Tom Jones in February 1971 but by the end of the year BBC2 would give him a guest spot on a Vera Lynn special. April 1972 saw him back on BBC2 as a part of the one-off Tom Paxton and Friends, while June saw him starring in his own special in the Sounds For Saturday strand. In August 1972 he was back as a guest on Mary Travers' Rhymes and Reasons, while January 1973 saw him In Concert, yet again on BBC2. In March he was Vince Hill's guest on That Sold A Million. These last two appearances had been produced by Stanley Dorfman, who would be chosen to produce Denver's series.

The following year he was a global superstar and didn't need BBC2 anymore, but they used his absence as an opportunity to repeat the series, the In Concert special and his Vince Hill appearance.



29th April 1973 - 3rd June 1973