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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

On Friday 30th September 1955, just a few days after ITV had begun broadcasting, ITN covered the arrival of singer Johnnie Ray in London. Ray had begun his hit-making streak in the UK with Walkin' My Baby Back Home in 1952 and would continue with his campy, sobbing style until the hits dried up in the late fifties.


Making his debut at the London Palladium in March 1953 he made international headlines as he climbed onto the roof of the venue to witness the adoring crowds numbering in their thousands below. He would return to the UK several times before TV properly caught up with him. It would be in 1954 that Philips, his UK record company released the now legendary Live at The London Palladium album.


ATV invited him on to their Sunday Night at the London Palladium showcase on 2nd October 1955, with a return appearance on the 30th October. He would be back just over a year later in November 1956 where he performed his hit, a cover version of The Prisonaires' Just Walking In The Rain. ATV finally gave him his own special in their Saturday Spectacular strand on 1st December 1956 with guest, British singer Joan Regan. He would be back in front of ATV's cameras at the Palladium in April 1957, while in July 1957 his second ATV special, this time under the Val Parnell’s Star Time banner, would be broadcast, while in August he starred in another of ATV's Saturday Spectaculars. He would also be given space in ATV's Christmas Day 1957 special A Santa For Christmas.


ATV would keep him busy with more appearances throughout 1958 and into the following year and it was while he was in the UK in March 1959, appearing again on the London Palladium TV show and heading another Saturday Spectacular that he recorded six editions of his one and only UK TV series, Johnnie Ray Sings. In addition to filming the eight TV shows he had to record and album and a single. Talking to the Melody Maker about so much work he confessed "Worrying about all this television in the States would have been terrible, but all I can say about next week is that it's going to fly past far too quickly for me. I love the calm atmosphere in your studios, the feeling of enthusiasm and the way everybody pitches in to do a good show. Right now I'm tired and I ought to be feeling depressed. But I'm not."


Accompanied by Jack Parnell and his orchestra Ray’s weekly singing guest was West End and later Hollywood favourite Shanni Wallis. Ray had two singers to choose from to co-star with. Anne Shelton had already been given her own show, so Shanni Wallis was chosen. The show didn't embarrass its host by engaging him in gags, comedy skits or novelties, leaving him to do what he does best.


Another one-off edition of the show was broadcast in March 1960 followed by another Palladium appearance on TV, then it was pretty much over. It was now up to him and his management to decide when the comeback should begin.



JOHNNIE RAY SINGS


ATV

29th June 1959 - 10th August 1959, plus 5th March 1960