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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Starting on BBC radio in the late forties, then moving to Radio Luxembourg in the early fifties this weekly talent show transferred to TV in 1956.

Associated Rediffusion 1956

Opportunity Knocks was brought into the TV era, albeit briefly, as a half hour show, later re-titled Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks. There would be a top prize of £400 for the overall winner, or a trip to New York "with the chance of appearing on American TV", according to the TV Times. 2300 acts were auditioned for the first series, with the host seeing about three-quarters of them personally. He claimed in a TV Times interview in 1956 "Record companies have asked me to put them in

touch with singers of promise." The studio had an applause meter, that would become one of the gimmicks that made the show memorable later on. The curious credit ‘Presented by G and M Air Interests' suggested that the shows' format was bought in, or ‘G’ could have been Green himself. Green had no alternative to go to the newly created ITV as he had sued the BBC in the mid-fifties alleging a conspiracy to keep him off the air, a case which he lost.

ABC 1964 - 1968

Hughie Green was probably the only ITV veteran at the time as he had been hosting Associated Rediffusion's Double Your Money since the first week of broadcasting in September 1955 and had handled the previous attempt at the show back in 1956.

The word got around the showbiz world that a big chance to make it on TV was coming and as a result 20,000 applications were made for the first series, whittled down to 4,000 actual auditions. One of those was Gerry Dorsey, former Oh Boy occasional who auditioned for the show three years' running and despite passing the auditions never made the programme due to regional balance issues (they couldn't have too many acts from London, for example). By the fourth year he had become Engelbert Humperdinck and didn't feel the need to audition anymore.

The show ran for forty five minutes which would be the the way it stayed right until the end of the Thames era, and was broadcast on Saturday evenings from ABC's Didsbury, Manchester studios. Pop acts however, were in short supply and as a result the ABC version of the show would really only bring us Mary Hopkin.

Thames 1968 - 1978

After the ABC/Rediffusion merger into Thames the show moved down to ABC's old Teddington Lock, Middlesex studio in summer 1968, taking Green with it. However Thames had decided not to continue with Rediffusion's Double Your Money, which he also hosted.

A report in The Stage at the time claimed 13,000 acts were auditioned for the 1974/5 series, with 250 of them given a chance to appear. Sponsors would have to write in for an application form while the act could be amateur, semi professional or fully professional. They would have to describe their act, suggest one or two songs if they are singers and which audition venue they would likely attend. An audition would then be approved and they would be given three minutes to perform to three or four judges. Successful artists invited to appear on the show would be paid according to their professional status. By the mid seventies the amateur to professional split was about 50/50.

For the season beginning September 1976 10,000 auditions would lead to 140 acts making the programme. Rehearsals would be on Friday, with Hughie Green joining the show on Saturday to interview the sponsors and given a run down of the acts, with the show broadcast on Monday at 6.45 to 7.30 pm. The shows' audience would have the applause volume measured via a 'clapometer' so the show would have a winner on the night, however the deciding public vote would be on postcards sent to to Thames and the winner of that vote would be invited back to compete again the following week. On one week, the producers received 71,000 postcard votes which would need sorting by one team and calculated by another, usually old age pensioners, chosen for their integrity. Anomalies like postcards in the same handwriting or an over-representation from a particular postcode would be reported and dealt with. After the votes are counted a bundle of postcards are chosen at random and given to the Thames' head of light entertainment Philip Jones who then takes a further sample at random and those people are contacted to assure that they actually sent in the postcard.

The Thames years were the most productive as far as pop is concerned, giving us Peters and Lee, Millican and Nesbitt (later sent up as Mulligan and O'Hare by Vic and Bob), Paper Lace who would have number one singles in Britain and America, singer / songwriter Bernie Flint, folk trio New World, Liverpool legends The Real Thing, Lena Zavaroni who would later support Frank Sinatra in America and sign to Stax Records, and another hit making child singer Neil Reid. Eighties hit-makers The Christians also appeared on the show as Natural High, while seventies popsters Middle Of The Road appeared as Los Caracas. Famously in the late seventies P J Proby appeared on the show as The Masked Singer. However, his voice couldn't be masked and he was rumbled immediately by the press. An early incarnation of The Jam were supposed to have auditioned.

Green himself could barely contain his disappointment at what he considered “his” discoveries not giving him the credit. Talking to the Daily Mirror in August 1971 he claimed "My discoveries almost never keep in touch with me, but why should they? I'm just glad they get on. Real glad. But sometimes I do get a little hurt when I read some artist I gave a chance to on 'Opportunity Knocks' say something like, 'It all just happened for me'. Like hell it did! It costs around £500 and a lot of other people's talent to stage an artist well. I wonder what they think musicians and producers and people are doing there."

By 1974 Green was having trouble with his other weekly show, The Sky's The Limit for Yorkshire TV. He found that his established producer was to be replaced. He told the Daily Mirror, "... a year ago Jess Yates took over as producer. I was delighted until he wanted to put sex into my show. I protested, but he got rid of my hostesses, Monica Rose and Audrey Graham, saying they weren't sexy enough." Green and Yates' paths had already crossed before this incident and the result would be revealed by the press in the early 2000s.

However, by the mid to late seventies Hughie Green's behaviour had been giving cause for concern. His anti-union song Stand Up And Be Counted performed on one show had nothing to do with talent spotting and drew many complaints from the public, while allegations in the press about possible vote rigging tainted the show, but strangely not its competitor New Faces. Previous winners New World were brought to trial in the mid seventies for alleged vote rigging on the show in 1970. The group had won for nine consecutive weeks, and although the first win was considered genuine, later wins were not. After playing a show at a teacher training college the group gave out postcards and told the students to use names of friends and relatives when sending them in. The group were given a conditional discharge.

It was "make your mind up time" for Thames who decided to end the show after its 1977/78 run. The final run brought with it another allegation of fraud concerning a singer who had multiple postcards sent in from the pupils of a famous stage school. Its competitor New Faces finished the following month, suggesting that the public and then in turn broadcasters had enough of talent shows.

BBC 1987 - 1990

Ending as it began with the BBC. This version would be hosted by Bob Monkhouse, giving the show it's new title 'Bob Says Opportunity Knocks'. Livid at not being even considered for the hosts' job Hughie Green threatened to sue if he wasn't given a credit, and/or payment. To placate him he was given a token producer's credit. The show finished with a new host Les Dawson who had first appeared on the show back in 1967.


Associated Rediffusion 13th June 1956 - 29th August 1956

ABC 4th or 11th July 1964 - 27th July 1968

Thames 21st August 1968 - 20th March 1978

BBC1 21st March 1987 - 2nd June 1990