ABC's Top Numbers had proved successful, despite its frivolous attitude towards the visual presentation of the songs. But the time had come to replace it.
After Jack Good’s exit from the BBC after an alleged contract infringement over The
After a two week test run in June as a part of ABC's Preview series, a series was
commissioned, albeit according to Disc with "certain minor modifications" with the
first show transmitted on 12th September 1958 positioned opposite The Six-
Advertised in the TV Times as “an explosion of beat music”, the show was broadcast
live from The Empire Theatre, Hackney in London with a very loud, animated audience
compared to the polite, respectful, well-
Four days of rehearsals were necessary for the first few shows as artists had to fly or train in from all over the country as some acts were on tour. Marty Wilde flew down from Edinburgh for two hours' of rehearsals before flying back. Apparently on one of the early shows Marty Wilde's driver takes him to the the BBC's Wood Green studios by mistake.
The show's original location at The Wood Green Empire had been set aside for ATV's Saturday Spectacular, so a new venue had to be found for the new series proper.
Hosted by Jimmy Henney and Tony Hall, it was a live stage show and probably came
as a shock to an older audience more used to appreciative applause at the end of
each number rather than the continual screaming which the producers encouraged. The
Musical Director was Harry Robinson who had selected a new group of mostly jazz musicians
who recorded for Decca under the name of Lord Rockingham’s XI, while The John Barry
Seven also shared musical duties. Also resident were the girl group from Liverpool
The Vernons Girls, along with a constant supply of Larry Parnes acts Marty Wilde,
Billy Fury, Duffy Power, Cuddly Duddly, Vince Eager, plus other acts like The Dallas
Boys, Tony Sheridan and Cliff Richard whose national debut sparked considerable sales
life into his first single, Move It. Unfortunately, the nursery rhyme lyrical approach
to rock and roll offered by The Six Five Special continued here. The script was usually
provided by Trevor Peacock, later a much-
Two of the early regulars on the show Neville Taylor and Kerry Martin were quickly signed to Parlophone Records who would also go on to release the Oh Boy! Album.
The show was also a hit with the public. The TAM rating (which took the percentage
of homes that could view the show and do so for more than six minutes) constantly
increased throughout the latter part of 1958 leading to a 51 share when Tommy Steele
appeared on the show in November. In real numbers this was over seven million people,
taking three quarters of The Six-
ABC, together with local newspapers organise trains to get kids down to the studio in London and as a bonus they get to meet their idols backstage before transmission.
In March 1959 Jack Good announces "Oh Boy is now being filmed weekly for later transmission in the United States". This suggests that nothing was being kept in the archives beforehand. But more importantly this is the first time that UK rock and roll music is sent in the other direction. Since there would be a gap of several weeks between the UK and US transmission Good has to be careful in choosing American songs for his singers for fear of sounding out of date by the time the show reaches America. The songs now chosen would have to be a mixture of brand new American songs going up the chart there and British songs.
Sometime in April 1959 a strange memo from Good appeared on the desks of many of
the senior staff of the show. (Oh Boy! was) "the most imitated show on television.
It is therefore of the utmost importance to both artists and production staff that
everything to do with the show becomes strictly confidential. Remember spies are
By April 1959 the show was holding its own as far as rating were concerned, unlike
Despite the show’s obvious appeal and success it only ran for one series. This was unknown at the time of the final show as a new series was mentioned and in May 1959 Jack Good flew to America to sign some American talent to appear on the next series of Oh Boy! due to begin in September with Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson and The Coasters among the acts he wanted to book. However, Good returned empty handed telling Disc magazine "There is no point in bringing over American artists just because they are American". He also responded to claims that the show would not return in September "That's the first I've heard of it. I can promise that the show will be back in September".
However there was one last hurrah at The Northern Royal Variety Show at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on 23rd June 1959. Oh Boy! had been invited to put on a live performance in front of the Queen Mother as a part of the festivities. Jack Good had chosen The Dallas Boys, Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Cherry Wainer, The Vernons Girls and Lord Rockingham's XI. It would be Good's last show with them.
The BBC had tried to emulate and retaliate with Dig This! and then Drumbeat on a Saturday evening, but failed. Since the BBC were copying the format Good was preparing his next move. A new series of Oh Boy! was expected and announced by Ron Rowson, programme controller of ABC in March and scheduled to begin 12th September 1959, but it never appeared. An article in the New Musical Express on the 8th May 1959 put the return date as 19th September, with Cliff Richard tentatively booked, and Gospel singer Renee Martz had been booked for the second show in the next series. It was possible that Lord Rockingham's XI would not return for the new series, so Bill Shepherd might have become the new musical director. In August 1959 an ABC representative said "It's definitely on!" Rowson, talking to the New Musical Express, said "When the programme returns in the autumn, it will not be in its present form and will probably even have changed its title. It will be as different from the present presentation as Oh Boy! was from 6.5 Special". Good however was moving on to another project, the Marty Wilde vehicle Boy Meets Girls for ABC. ABC had plans to vacate the theatre in London and move to Manchester for the first six shows which also didn't meet with Good's approval. Talking to Disc in August 1959 Jack Good said "The show will have an entirely new format, but it is our intention to keep it as fast moving and as popular as before." Marty Wilde and The Vernons Girls would be resident on the new series which gave a clue as to Good's intentions.
The show had an unexpected new lease of life in the summer of 1959 when the American ABC network bought the series as a summer replacement show. Brenda Lee, a previous guest on the UK show, was employed to film new introductions. The NME claimed that it was proposed that the new version of Oh Boy! would also be shown in the USA, as a part of the Dick Clark Show. Good had made a contact with America and was to America that he brought back the Oh Boy! format in the shape of ABC's Shindig! in 1964. Good made a return to Britain in 1968 with a reunion show, while a fully fledged revival came about in 1978 on ATV, followed by Let’s Rock! in 1981, making a star of Shakin' Stevens in the process.
Good later tells Disc magazine in June 1960 that he had been offered the chance to produce an Oh Boy styled show for German television.
For further information about this classic show go to the Oh Boy! Website.