A vague announcement about a new show had been made in British weekly pop music magazine
Disc in late March 1963, "big new AR-
The show's genesis was Keith Fordyce's radio show Pop Inn, in which pop stars would
come in for an informal chat and maybe play an unrehearsed song. Elkan Allan heard
the show and thought of its possibilities as a TV series. He toured clubs to see
how the kids danced and behaved and realised that they would probably just as much
an attraction as the singers and groups. He rightly reckoned that the home audience
wanted to see how teens dressed and danced differently to each song, and that audience
would be between 13 -
AR commissioned five shows with a further run if it proved successful. The idea was
to hold the main bulk of the broadcast in Rediffusion's studio in Kingsway hosted
by radio DJ Keith Fordyce with an audience of 150, while Canadian co-
A trial show (it’s not known if this was a taped / filmed pilot) was held at The Royal in Tottenham and featured The Springfields. The pilot would give the production team an idea of what to expect when the show debuted. However, the audience had no idea what to expect as the first broadcast show not only featured Billy Fury and Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, but also featured Joyce Blair, Joe Loss, Burl Ives and Pat Boone, not exactly the way to start any weekend.
TV Times described the debut show in August 1963; “Keith Fordyce invites you to join him and David Gell to meet a host of guest stars from all sides of entertainment including Billy Fury, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, listen to hit discs, see a scene from a recent movie, dance with the teenagers in the studio, find out what's swinging this weekend.” This gave the impression of the show as some sort of youth club with elders keeping an eye on the audience. Joe Loss was the judge of a dance contest on the first show which was won by someone doing the twist. This wouldn't last long, it couldn’t.
A post of 'teenage adviser' was then advertised in a national newspaper in autumn 1963 and a £10 a week secretary from Streatham called Cathy McGowan replied and after a series of interviews and camera tests she was accepted. Talking to Disc magazine about the job in August 1965 McGowan said "I was working as a secretary on a magazine. Then I saw the ad in all the musical papers for an interviewer for a pop TV show. I said to my mum 'It must be a joke', but I went along, as I've always wanted to be a journalist."
The early shows were pre-
The show initially relied on British acts, but the word got around to agents of visiting American acts that this was the show to do. Keith Fordyce, although a reliable DJ, found it tough interviewing the guests, occasionally fluffing it (a notable example being PJ Proby), so it was left to Cathy McGowan (effectively Dusty Springfield's replacement) to chat to the acts, despite an irritating tendency to say “amazing” about anything or anyone, so much so that it wasn’t long before people were imitating and spoofing her, but not only her voice and mannerisms. Her dress sense became the standard that girls followed and not long after she found herself advertising clothes and cosmetics. Through her show was making a welcome move into the mod scene.
The original producer Francis Hitching and his production team chose an open set
which was a popular concept on British television at the time. The whole studio was
exposed to an aerial camera which the show usually started with. A typical opening
scene would have the aerial camera staring down on the dancing audience then it would
cut to a ground level camera which would be on Keith Fordyce in time for his opening
line “well, hi there!” At one time or another cameras would be in full view. The
open studio set was first used by AR-
With RSG! pop music finally had its own outlet. For the first time pop music had broken free from its variety show status into an identifiable slot of its own. No more Arthur Haynes introducing The Rolling Stones, but people who were either knowledgeable or at least used to introducing pop music for a living. The show was NOW.
The mods made the show their own, but no Parker-
The show not only made stars of pop singers and bands, but also those behind the
camera. One of the regular directors was Michael Lindsay-
The show’s opening titles used the catch-
So successful was the concept that the BBC tried to counter RSG! with its own completely networked alternative Top Of The Pops at the beginning of 1964 and The Beat Room on BBC2.
Producers decided to extend the RSG empire to radio with the Radio Luxembourg hosted
Ready Steady Radio, featuring many of the acts who would appear on the TV show, while
in March 1964 a spin-
In April 1964 a request for new teenage boy and girl interviewers drew around six thousand applications. Each application had to come with proof that they have had something published.
On April 3rd 1964 the show was extended, albeit by five minutes, now beginning at
6.10 pm. Manfred Mann's ‘Hubble Bubble’ became the theme in mid-
The producers would be given the chance to make one-
In May 1964 acts were allowed to perform live for the first time. Talking to Disc Francis Hitching, the show's editor said "This will bring more atmosphere into the studio, and give the fans a chance to hear some of the group's regular repertoire, instead of just their latest hit. The immediate problem is to find enough rehearsal time." Among those playing live were rockers Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, proving the show wasn't just a mod bunker.
All the faces in the business appeared on the show, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Yardbirds, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Donovan, plus any visiting American act sometimes performing live with their own band, or a band provided by RSG.
A complimentary Battle of the Bands contest Ready, Steady, Win! appeared in summer 1964 and offered a first prize of £1000 of equipment, with a second prize of a £750 van, a third prize of £350 of clothes. Initially nearly 5000 applications were made, so to separate the serious competitors from the chancers each group had to send in a demo' disc of which one song had to be an original song. Only less than a thousand entrants managed to do this. Each show featured six groups a week and a guest panel of judges. After the first show was broadcast two of the featured bands The Scene Five and The Falling Leaves were offered recording deals.
Writing for Pop Weekly in mid 1964 editor Francis Hitching made note of the ballads which were now becoming more commonplace and since the RSG studio was meant to represent a night club which played dance music it was having issues with this new trend. Dancers had no option but to find a partner or sit this one out, difficult for what was meant to be a dance show.
Many guests who had made previous appearances were invited back for the first anniversary show on 7th August 1964 which was seen by fourteen million viewers. Francis Hitching told Disc magazine at the time that the show had a seven year waiting list for audience members.
In September 1964 at a Variety Club luncheon Elkan Allen head of Rediffusion Light Entertainment said "When we started 'Ready Steady Go!' a year ago our's was the only programme with kids dancing on it. Now there's one every night. BBC has two copies on. If they'll take theirs off, I'll promise not to run any more beat shows." Tom Sloan of the BBC responded by saying "These remarks suggest that the BBC has deliberately followed the course set by Rediffusion. In fact, BBC began this type of programme with '6.5 Special' in 1957. This was the first show, which had youngsters dancing in the studio, and set the pattern for all its successors. Any suggestion that the BBC has copied Rediffusion's programme, is not only wrong but impertinent."
The viewing figures for the 1963 into 1964 New Year's Eve show was the largest late night viewing figure ever, apart from the General Election results, so it was inevitable that another new year show would follow. Talking about the new show to TV Times Francis Hitching said "This is a programme that wasn't really designed to be watched. We don't care whether they look in or not, so long as their sets are switched on. We hope people once again will use our programme to get their own New Year parties swinging."
The show only intended to play new record releases, but in early 1965 they give several
slots to a young singer-
In the Spring of 1965 executive producer Elkan Allan decided to change the shows' format by having all the performers sing and play live. With the change of format came a change of location from Kingsway to the larger facilities of Wembley. Along with the facelift from the 2nd April 1965 the show was given a new name, Ready Steady Goes Live! Talking to the TV Times Allen claimed 'Ready Steady Go was starting to go sour on us about six months ago.' The boss of EMI Records Sir Joseph Lockwood was said to be "horrified" by the proposition of his artists performing live and met with Elkan Allen to discuss his concerns. Acts had performed live on the show many times over the previous few months, but the decision was probably agreed to beforehand rather than imposed on them. As Elkan Allen explained to The Stage and Television Today in March 1965 "Because of my own background of working on documentaries, I am personally happier with a show in which the performances are as authentic as possible. But I am the first to recognise that show business is founded on illusion and I have no objection to miming if it is necessary to create that illusion." Record companies had agreed to let Rediffusion have copies of arrangements of each song so it could be replicated live using the studio's musical director. Talking to Rave magazine Elkan Allan said "RSG was becoming a bit samey. Bad mimers positively embarrassed me and it was clear fans felt that mime's a cheat." The magazine held a postal vote to see which the fans preferred live or mimed, but as I've not seen that edition of the magazine the outcome of reader's preference is unknown. Not only would the fans now have to travel to the outskirts of London, but artists would now have to be in attendance from 10.00 am until the live broadcast.
The decision to move to Wembley was a gamble and to many it took away the intimacy
of the previous location, but as Elkan explained to The Stage "I have felt recently
that the audience was getting predictable and boring where once it was bizarre and
compelling, so I decided that particular argument against moving to Wembley had gone.”
A new dance troupe was employed with the audience now confined to seating (with limited
room for dancing) on scaffolding to the right, but there would now be room for 250
members of the audience instead of the comparative airing cupboard studio at Kingsway.
A new RSG! Club was formed at this time with around 2000 members from which the audience
would be chosen to appear on the show. But there's no doubt that one of the most
successful aspects of the show had just been sidelined, but the truth was that mod
was fading. The musical director for the new series was Johnny Spence, later replaced
by Bob Leaper, while backing vocals were provided by The Breakaways (who later sang
back up on Jimi Hendrix’s 'Hey Joe'). The new sound equipment needed for a totally
live show costs Rediffusion £12,000 with an extra £1000 per show. The change also
saw Keith Fordyce leave the show with Cathy McGowan now co-
Despite the intent to reinvigorate the show several ITV channels decided to drop
it before the change, while others would transmit it on different days. By early
March 1965 the programme's makers Rediffusion were the only showing it at the intended
time slot, with Ulster, Southern, Scottish, Anglia and Grampian playing it on a Sunday.
So much for 'The Weekend Starts Here'. TWW ended up showing the more established
Thank Your Lucky Stars instead of RSG! in this time slot, while ATV showed an edited
Despite indifference from home broadcasters the trend-
By summer 1965 Les Reed was the musical director for both Ready Steady Go and Gadzooks.
P J Proby, who had been banned by some TV broadcasters in the UK after his on-
Explaining the decision making process about who to include on the show Vicki Wickham
told Disc magazine "As far as The Who, Stones, Animals and Dusty are concerned, we
feel they made their names on our programme. It's great the way they phone up and
say 'When are we doing another show?' Other artists are picked either by hearing
a great record and auditioning the group that made it, or by going to clubs and ballrooms
hearing a good artist and waiting for the record to come out then booking them. I
pick records with a view to either dancing or to the chart. There's nothing clever
about tipping records for chart success that are obvious -
Talking to The Stage in August 1965 about the hostess / commere Francis Hitching
explained "Cathy doesn't have a regular partner because we like to use a guest star
each week. We searched for a long time for the right partner -
Elkan Allan announced at the Variety Club luncheon that the show was to be replaced by something "much broader". He explained that "I am taking it off while it is still on top". He said this as he was receiving and award for the show from the Variety Club presented to him by former host Keith Fordyce. The show had also just won the Best TV Show category by readers of the Melody Maker for the second year running.
In September 1965 Disc magazine carried a headline "Ready Steady GOES!" Elkan Allan
talking to Disc claimed "I want to see Ready Steady Go finish while it is still at
the top. I should hate to see the programme become stale and lose its popularity,
and be forced to go because of that." It was also announced that theatre producer
Michael White (later to work with Monty Python and The Comic Strip) will help stage
a Christmas show based along the lines of RSG. Working with him will be Elkan Allan,
In the 9th October 1965 edition of the TV Times Elkan Allan was asking readers to
come up with ideas for a replacement show which would begin in the new year. Letters
were to sent to 'New Ready Steady Go' via the TV Times address. The public response
was swift. From the Daily Mirror. "Don't drop RSG plead fans. Hundreds of teenagers
throughout Britain have been protesting since it was announced that the 'Ready, Steady,
Go!' show is to be dropped in December (writes Ken Irwin)." "We have simply been
snowed under with complaints said a Rediffuision TV spokesman. But, we are not relenting
because we think we have a much better show to take the place of RSG, Elkan Allan,
Rediffusion's head of entertainment has been telling us about the plans for the new
show." “It’s going to be the swingingest thing on the screen” he said confidently
"the new show will make more use of film -
By late 1965 it was still reported that the show was on its way out. In a statement in late November Elkan Allen, head of Light Entertainment at Rediffusion claimed "The fact is that we are recording pilot programmes of several possible successors during the next fortnight and will decide our final plans when we have considered all these". The planned replacement will possibly be only broadcast once a month. Elkan Allan talking to Disc said "We haven't finally made up our minds yet about the frequency of the new show, but it will be the best pop entertainment we can put on." The Animals had been approached to appear on the first show of the new series. There were also plans in place for a new Cathy McGowan show.
On Tuesday 16th December 1965 Rediffusion call a press conference to announce that the show will now not end at the end of the year, but will be extended until February 1966, but it will be cut to 27 minutes. Elkan Allan would be replaced by American musical director Buddy Bregman, who until recently was working with the BBC.
With the axe hovering over their heads now put to one side for the time being the show celebrated Christmas 1965 in true Crackerjack fashion with a pantomime, 'Cinderella' with Cathy McGowan in the lead role and Herman (Peter Noone) as the Prince trying to save her from the wicked Stepmother, played by Pete Townshend and the ugly sisters played by Hilton Valentine of The Animals and Ray Davies.
In the new year the show was cut down to under half an hour to make way for popular,
but terrible soap opera Crossroads, and also possibly to make the show more attractive
to other ITV channels. Another possible attraction for the network was Sandy Sarjeant,
the show's first cage dancer who arrived in March. An excursion to France in April
might have been used to encourage exports by Global TV, Rediffusion's international
sales division. Although it's unlikely the show itself was sold abroad clips from
the show were used to bulk out local pop shows in West Germany. The truth was that
Rediffusion in London was the only ITV channel showing it at the appointed time of
Friday evening, with viewers in the north and north-
Even though the show had responded to the threat of Top Of The Pops by having the
artists perform live, miming and lip-
In Spring 1966 the show was on the move again. A Rediffusion spokesman talking to
Record Mirror claimed "On March 25, the programme moves to the new time of 7-
On 1st April 1966 the show was broadcast from Paris, featuring many names from the French chart. Among the local audience were a British couple "representing the best British dress and dance trends" according to Record Mirror, while Cathy McGowan had been taking French lessons especially for the show. A French technical crew were on hand as the usual UK crew were back home working on the general election coverage. After the broadcast the Yardbirds played a live show at the Locomotion.
Time slot placement for any show had always been a problem for the ITV network, resulting
in the show not always being seen nationally, if at all. So ITV's various stations
would show the programme on different days, for example a Friday evening live show
in 1966 would then be shown by Granada and Tyne Tees the following Thursday evening.
The 25th March 1966 edition was the first 7:00 to 7:30 pm show to be fully networked
at this time, replacing long-
In order to attract big names to the show several shows throughout 1966 were given over to special guests, performing live sets and introducing the other acts themselves. These included the Troggs, The Who, Otis Redding, The Walker Brothers and Ike & Tina Turner.
In June 1966 they show received a strange accolade as the German-
RSG continued throughout 1966 including a re-
The Musicians Union imposed miming ban came into effect on 1st August 1966, but RSG
were ahead of them with many acts singing live, albeit with pre-
Despite a prestigious time slot the falling audiences meant that its days were numbered,
and after re-
However, no one had told Vicki Wickham. During the Ike & Tina Turner show, recorded
late September, she told Penny Valentine of Disc Weekly "Despite rumours to the contrary
'RSG' will not fold at the end of the year. It has been scheduled for next year,
so we are working on plans to turn it into a different sort of show, rounder. Not
just one artist after the next." Referring to the live show that had just finished
she said "We're going to concentrate on these sort of shows when the artists are
good enough. Giving over the entire second half to them. This is the coming thing
as far as we're concerned -
The producers weren't exactly making themselves popular either when on the 28th October 1966 they decided to give The Dave Clark Five top billing over The Hollies, leading to a walk out by The Hollies. Talking to the New Musical Express in late October Manfred Mann told them "We don't want to offend anyone, but that business with Dave Clark topping The Hollies really got me. I don't wonder why The Hollies walked out... Knowing how aware the RSG team is, I just can't understand how it arrived at this decision."
Rediffusion were keen to keep Cathy McGowan happy by giving her a new show, but despite offers it never materialised. Talking to Disc Weekly about the upcoming demise of RSG she claimed "I'm not really sorry RSG is ending. It is the end of a way of life. It is better to end this way rather than just run down." From a business standpoint McGowan shouldn't have been bothered by the show's demise. By this time she was promoting her line of Dansette record players and had her own cosmetics line which was to be sold in Macy's and Gimbel's stores in the USA, as well as other advertising opportunities during the show's run.
Even though the TV show had gone Ready Steady Radio continued on Sundays until the end of January 1967, while Elkan Allan tried to spill the beans about the show in a series of articles for The People. In the summer months of 1967 Vicki Wickham became producer for a series of Sunday evening shows at The Saville Theatre in London before taking a job at EMI Records. In 2014 she conducted one of the last interviews given by George Michael.
The famous catch-
The show would be best remembered for breaking new acts like The Animals, Them, Lulu, The Who, The Rolling Stones, among others, and was without a doubt the most important and influential British pop music show of all time.