Home Shows A to Z

Diary 1950s to 1990s Articles Credits & Links

TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

"The weekend starts here."

A vague announcement about a new show had been made in British weekly pop music magazine Disc in late March 1963, "big new AR-TV show planned for pop fans." Ready Steady Go was devised by London-based ITV franchise Associated-Rediffusion to capitalise on the emerging British beat boom and would go on to present and represent everything that was great about British pop in the sixties.

Elkan Allan, head of Light Entertainment for Rediffusion, had commissioned the show, even coming up with its now-famous catchphrase 'the weekend starts here.' However, it would be the pool of young talent, with not much, if any, experience in television that assembled the show, and one of those, future show editor Vicki Wickham, fresh from her placement with BBC radio was now working as a secretary at AR.

Both TV and radio would provide inspiration for the show. A-R had devised a new dance show in 1963, a sort of follow-up to Cool For Cats called Step Lively, but it wasn't commissioned, while Elkan Allen had been impressed by the Keith Fordyce hosted BBC radio show Pop Inn, in which pop stars would come in for an informal chat and maybe play an unrehearsed song. Allen had also toured clubs to see how kids danced and dressed, realising that they would probably be just as much an attraction to a home audience as any of 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 - 17.

In summer 1963 TV Times journalist John Gough mentioned that a new youth-aimed show was being prepared and invited any teenagers to turn up to participate in the pilot edition. "NEWS for teenagers: Associated-Rediffusion are planning a big new show for you. Its title: Ready, Steady, Go! Its stars: disc jockeys Keith Fordyce and David Gell--plus top recording and film personalities. The programme is to be tried out -- without actually being transmitted--on Friday, July 26. It will go on the screen "live" each Friday from August 9. Any teenagers who would like to he in the studios during the first or other of these swinging sessions should write to Ready, Steady, Go! (tickets), Associated - Rediffusion Ltd., Television House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2." This trial show (it’s not known if this was a taped / filmed pilot) was held at The Royal in Tottenham and featured The Springfields. It 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 in August 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. It was also the idea to catch stars just before they go to their theatrical engagements in London's west end to pop in for a chat, like BBC's In Town Tonight show from the fifties. Again, hardly the teenagers' catchment area.

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. The debut show was given a two page spread in that weeks' TV Times, so the ITV network must have had some expectations of success for the show.

A-R 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 basement studio in Kingsway hosted by radio and TV host Keith Fordyce with an audience of 150, while Canadian co-host David Gell would be in the lobby talking to the audience about their current music favourites. A member of the audience would get to play disc jockey and given a pile of new releases to take home to listen to and return the following week with their choices and predictions, while another would have a chance of winning that week’s top fifty singles. Another idea was to blindfold three members of the audience and get them to identify a current chart hit, while the title and artist was displayed on a monitor, but the idea was quickly dropped, as was a weekly piece on showbiz news. There was also a movie spot introduced by actress Polly Perkins, but this too only lasted a few weeks, despite attracting big name stars like Pat Boone and Stanley Baker. Perkins then co-hosted for a few weeks before being let go and eventually returning to acting. Dusty Springfield also helped to commere for the first few weeks, but the demands of her new solo singing career meant that was always going to be a temporary post.

Initially RSG replaced The Dickie Henderson Show in the schedules, but when it moved to an earlier slot it would be another another Keith Fordyce fronted show for AR that got the chop. Close-Up was a weekly film news and reviews show and seemed superfluous if RSG was to cover the same topics.

Despite the inclusion of Billy Fury and others from the Larry Parnes fifties era of British rock and roll the show suspected other things were about to happen, and as to underline this The Springfields, a trio of home-counties pop-folkies, had a blazing argument backstage at one of the shows in August 1963, furthering the desire of their lead singer, Dusty, to leave for a solo career and takes things further. Helen Shapiro, Eden Kane and others of the immediate past were invited on to the show, but despite looking a little staid compared to the youngsters like Lulu and Cilla, they were still having hits, and would continue to do so for another few months.

For the first eighteen months the show was either broadcast live or pre-recorded in studio nine at Rediffusion’s studio at Kingsway, London. Radio Luxembourg and BBC radio personality Keith Fordyce hosted the show for it’s first year or so, along with his co-hosts David Gell, and later Cathy McGowan and Michael Aldred, then joined by Gay Shingleton and Anne Nightingale. Although it was felt by many that Fordyce was probably too old even then to host a show so obviously targeted at teenagers A-R argued that the show needed experience out front, having hosted Jack Good's Wham! back in 1960 and more recently Thank Your Lucky Stars, so he was considered a safe pair of hands.

The show was a success, but Rediffusion quickly moved it from its prime time-hogging 7.00 - 7.30 pm slot to 6.30 - 7.00 pm from the 13th September 1963 to make way for Take Your Pick, and then extending its opening hours the following week from 6.15 to 7.00 pm. David Gell's last show appears to have been the 6th September as Keith Fordyce's name is the only one to appear over the following weeks. Despite the perceived success in the London area, by 13th September 1963 the show had already been dropped by most of the other ITV stations on Friday evenings. According to a Daily Mirror article only London and Tyne Tees are showing the programme by this time. New commere Polly Perkins and dancer Patrick Kerr would join the show on the 27th September 1963.

The original producer Francis Hitching and his production team chose an open set design 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!” Cameras would be in full view most of the time, particularly if they were ploughing through a crowd of mods to get nearer the stage. The open studio set was first used by AR-TV’s comedy series A Show Called Fred, starring Spike Milligan and directed by Richard Lester, but the style was also adopted and adapted by BBC’s That Was The Week That Was in 1962.

The show initially relied on local British acts, but the word got around to agents of visiting American acts that this was the show to do, however as some shows were broadcast live there could be little anyone could do about diva behaviour, and on one occasion singer Dion took offence at the audience dancing around him and walked out of the studio after just one song. On another occasion a friend and bandmate of presenter Polly Perkins leapt in front of the camera to kiss her, later revealed to be stunt set up by Perkins' manager without her knowledge. They also held a Beatles look-a-like contest which resulted in 200 look-a-likes infesting the studio for auditions.

In autumn 1963 the show's producers advertised for the post of 'teenage adviser' in national newspapers. A £10 a week magazine secretary from Streatham called Cathy McGowan replied and after a series of interviews and camera tests she was offered the job. 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." Both McGowan and Michael Aldred were given 'assistant' credits on the show in the TV Times for the 15th November 1963 edition, so (presumably) on the show's closing credits too. The TV Times for 1st December 1963 featured McGowan in a two page article in which she explained not only her 'teenage adviser' role, but explaining the factions of mods and rockers. Mods had their own dances as well as fashion, and one of those dances was the Hitler, which according to the article "you cavort with with the right arm held in Hitler like salute." She might have not actually appeared in front of the cameras until the following week. Michael Aldred, her new screen partner, had briefly shared a flat with The Kinks' Dave Davies, but Davies quickly had enough of Aldred's tantrums and told him to leave.

Keith Fordyce, although a reliable and experienced host, found it tough interviewing some 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 “amazin'” 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 the show was now making a welcome move into the mod scene.

With RSG! modern British 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 show had become very popular quite quickly and anyone within London Underground or bus reach could go along to Kingsway and try to get in or at least hang around outside. However, Rediffusion told the TV Times in October 1963 "Please tell your readers our waiting list is now so long we cannot accept any more applications."

Due to the inclusion of so much R&B the mods made the show their own, but no Parker-bearing slob was ever seen, only well-groomed sharp lookers with in their twin-vents or sweaters. For the first time a young audience was seen to be participating, crowding the floor-space by dancing around the edge of the stage or podiums, whereas before the audience was restricted to the seats well behind the cameras. Everyone was a star, the audience as important as the stars on the stage. Despite the usual racially motivated complaints it wasn't unusual to see black dancers in the audience as they were on Top Of The Pops and The Beat Room. Top Of The Pops later used professional dance troupes like The Go-Jos and Pan’s People to do a weekly routine, but RSG! had two professional dancers of their own, Patrick Kerr and Theresa Confrey who would create a new series of steps for whatever record was chosen that week. Once the step was demonstrated they would then rope in members of the audience to dance along on the stage. The stage itself was be so small that the guitarists had to turn the neck of their guitar to the ceiling, a new pose was born. RSG was also responsible for a minor miracle, a white audience that knows when to clap on the right beat.

On the 10th January 1964 show Keith Forsyth quite innocently requested that anyone who wanted to be on the following weeks' show should turn up at Kingsway next Monday for an audition to be in the audience. Fifteen hundred teens turned up, leading to crowding, injuries, arrests and the following day's newspaper headlines.

The show not only made stars of pop singers and bands, but also those behind the camera. One of the regular directors from 1965 onwards was Michael Lindsay-Hogg, later to direct The Beatles’ Let It Be, Adam Faith’s Budgie, Brideshead Revisited among others and cameraman Bruce Gowers, later to work as a director for Kenny Everett and making the Bohemian Rhapsody promo clip for Queen in 1975.

The show’s opening titles used the catch-phrase ‘The Weekend Starts Here’ and the accompanying theme music would change every few weeks, like fashion itself, using Stevie Wonder's 'Hey Harmonica Man', The Surfari’s 'Wipe Out', Manfred Mann’s '5-4-3-2-1' and 'Hubble Bubble', Dusty Springfield’s 'Heartbeat', The Animals’ 'I’m Crying', Wilson Pickett’s 'Land Of A Thousand Dances' among others. In late 1963 Francis Hitchin approached Manfred Mann, and requested a theme. "Can you work out a really lively new composition that we can use as a theme for the programme. Must be exciting, must be easy to recognise. Go away and think about it.. .." Tom McGuinness later told Beat Instrumental magazine in 1968 "We got '5-4-3-2-1' out as a single the week before it was used on RSG . .. that was mainly because they hadn't got the film ready to tie in for the opening credits."

So successful was the RSG concept that the BBC attempted to counter the show with its own completely networked alternative Top Of The Pops at the beginning of 1964, and also a more obvious facsimile with The Beat Room on BBC2.

The show even had its own "chat area for star" where acts would be interviewed.

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-off magazine with articles about the show and full colour photographs appeared.

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 show's theme in mid-April, while the same month 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.

Because of the show's success the producers would be given the chance to make one-off specials, the most famous of which was the Mod Ball from the Empire Pool, Wembley in April 1964 which was subsequently entered for The Golden Rose Of Montreux festival of television. Devised by Elkin Allan and Francis Hitching the idea was to hold a show similar to the Chelsea Arts Ball with the money going to the Variety Club of Great Britain. Over 25,000 applications were made for the 8000 tickets, but the media tried to stir up trouble by suggesting that rockers had applied for tickets and would try to disrupt the show and there was some disturbance outside the venue on the night. Things were predictably chaotic backstage, so if you needed access you had to give the password "okay pops". Everyone was miming on the night, but since the venue was so cavernous it was difficult to mime exactly in time with the music track. Later in the month the show pitched up at the International Contest for Television Light Entertainment at Montreux, Switzerland, despite the fact that the show had not been ITV's entry. That honour had gone to the more-established Thank Your Lucky Stars' Merseyside special from the year before.

Club favourites Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames played live on the show in March 1964, but in May other acts were allowed to perform live if they wished. 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 bunker for mods. The show also decided to get rid of the existing seating in the studio, allowing another fifty people to dance.

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 the summer of 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. The winning band would also be given a place on the regular show. 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. Only less than a thousand entrants managed to do this. Show Editor Barry Cawtheray explained to TV Times about asking for discs "We decided against tapes. For one thing they break and then on a tape you can have things like 'Mum' coming in at the beginning and apologising for 'Rover' barking a bit in the background. With so many contestants we could only spare the time to listen to the actual music." Talking about the groups' clothes he claimed "One group was dressed in ultra-violet suits. When we said we were ready for them to start - all the lights went out. We couldn't see to make any notes. In fact, we couldn't even see each other. All we could see were these suits shining at us through the darkness. We saw groups in black leather, in brown leather, in purple leather, groups in gold lame, groups in historical outfits, groups with masks and

cloaks and eye patches and crutches - there seemed to be no end to it. Wonderful!" Gay Shingleton and Michael Aldred hosted the thirteen part series, along with Keith Fordyce. 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. The finale was somewhat ruined by the inclusion of Bill Haley and Georgia Brown on the judging panel, neither really modern day pop fans. Michael Aldred quit the regular show to help host the beat contest, but wouldn't return. Fifty hopefuls were auditioned to replace Aldred on the regular show, but none were considered suitable, so guest stars were recruited.

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."

RSG wasn't wholly original, it had a precident, TWW's wonderful, but now tragically non-existent Disc-A-Gogo. By late 1965 the producers had decided to give up and move onto a new project, Now!!! This is something that RSG failed to do, but it wasn't a difficult thing to do. Comedy, music and art were all spinning into a wonderful vortex in Britain and while RSG honoured all three, maybe a new pre-recorded show (and new title) without an audience would have fit the bill.

RSG only ever intended to play new record releases, but in early 1965 they give several slots to a young singer-songwriter from Scotland, Donovan. He would write songs especially for the show, including one about that week's singles chart. Elkan Allan wanted to see how an unsigned artist would be received on the show.

In the Spring of 1965 executive producer Elkan Allan decided to change the show's 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 to see the show produced, but artists would now have to be in attendance from 10.00 am until the live broadcast for rehearsals. Any spontaneous drop-in appearance by any star passing the old studio was now long-gone, no Faces like Mickey Tenner dancing right in front of the cameras, no trailing camera cables tripping up dancers. Spontaneity had been sacrificed for 'bettter' sound and freedom of movement for the cameras. The show was made to look professional, like any other light entertainment TV show of the era, but it wasn't any other type of show. The Club had shut, but a new bigger venue, a ballroom, was available across town.

The move also stirred up behind-the-scenes changes. Vicki Wickhan would become the show's Editor, Francis Hitching would become Producer, while others, like Keith Fordyce, chose to leave, and some were asked to leave. Also, Patrick Kerr now introduced a new, but short-lived, dance troupe to the show, the Kink-E-Cats. It was obvious that the show which started off aping Discs-A-Gogo was now visually morphing into Top Of The Pops.

Cathy McGowan picks up another presenting job as she begins to host Pye Records' show on Radio Luxemburg, Spin In The New, which begins 23rd March 1965, and for the first Wembley show Cathy McGowan gets the coveted colour shot front cover of that weeks' TV Times.

Talking to the NME in February 1965 about artists playing live Vicki Wickham claimed "We would like to have more artists performing live as as you have probably noticed, we have lately been trying to put this into effect. But our main problem is inadequate studio space. Even so, artists who actually perform on RSG only receive the same fee as those who mime." Like Thank Your Lucky Stars and Top Of The Pops Ready, Steady, Go! was a 'Special Fee' show, which meant that artists accepted a lower than normal fee in order to come on and plug their new record. Lower than, for example, the London Palladium show where they always would be expected to play live. However, the move to Wembley had to be approved, and to that end a new pilot show was made. It was also assumed that Cathy McGowan would now have her own male on-screen assistant now that Fordyce was leaving. There was good news for fans of the show in the Midlands as ATV restored the show to its schedules, but a few days' later on Tuedays at 7.00 pm.

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.” 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. Talking to TV Times McGowan said "If they don't arrive at the studio looking smart and up-to-the-minute, they won't be allowed on the show and they will lose their club membership." But there's no doubt that the club feeling, one of the most successful aspects of the show, had just been sidelined, but the truth was that mod was fading anyway.

An orchestra was now employed at the side of the stage, but far away enough not to be able to be heard properly, so a monitor was put on the stage so that the singer could hear, or that was the idea. The musical director for the first three weeks was Johnny Spence, then Les Reed for three weeks, later replaced by Bob Leaper, while backing vocals were provided by female trio 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. Most of the backing tracks would be recorded in-house, but sometimes the producers would use Pye Records studios in the West End of London.

Speaking to Record Mirror about the change over to playing live Andrew Oldham said "What strikes me as particularly silly in all this talk about the superiority of a live show to a mimed one is the implication that there is something more Truthful about being live. What's truth got to do with it?"

The new look meant Cathy McGowan now effectively led the show with a new co-host, David Goldsmith, but he wouldn't last long, eventually returning to his previous job behind the camera. McGowan took sole control when the show reverted back to its original title on 4th June 1965. However, Patrick Kerr would still demonstrate dances and conduct interviews. Despite it's new by-line 'The All-Live Pop Show' the show by now looked like a circus compared to the more intimate, almost cabaret approach of the previous set up. The new stage had the act playing on the ground level, with equipment on the next level up and what looked like Dansette-type record players with ther lids up on an upper level when The Byrds appeared. Now the grown-ups had gone, it was now down to a much younger production and front-of-camera team to make it their own. Although dancers were still there the original mods were all but gone and in were the next wave of Mod bands like The Who, The Small Faces and pre-psych Byrds, Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan suede jacket with fringes types.

Despite the intent to reinvigorate the show several ITV channels decided to drop it before the change, leading to a loss of viewers, while others would transmit it on different days. By early March 1965 the programme's makers Rediffusion were the only channel 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 thirty-minute version the following Thursday. ATV had actually dropped the show in late January, only to bring it back in March. A spokesman for RSG told Disc magazine "We had dozens of petitions when the show was cut. One came from a girls' school with 500 signatures." However, it would now be transmitted by ATV on Tuesdays.

In April 1965 the producers try to find another Donovan by hiring Dana Gillespie to appear on several shows, but proved unsuccessful and was dropped after her second appearance. The same month saw Hollywood come to Wembley as the Bunny Lake Is Missing movie production team turned up to film The Zombies in a sequence on the RSG set which, in the finished film, would be shown on a TV set in a pub.

Despite indifference from home broadcasters the trend-setting show from London was now getting noticed by broadcasters from other countries, and in the summer of 1965 Gary Smith, producer of NBC's Hullaballoo sees the show and suggest that they swap clips. Whether he was told that Rediffusion had plans to replace the show isn't known.

By summer 1965 Les Reed was the musical director for both ITV's Ready Steady Go and the BBC's Gadzooks.

Controversy hit the show on 23rd July 1965, courtesy of P J Proby, who had been banned by some TV broadcasters in the UK after his on-sage trouser splitting incident. Proby had made RSG appearances after that, but this time it was he who decided it was time for a ban. Talking to Disc magazine Proby's manager Tony Lewis explained "Proby was contracted to sing three numbers. He even paid for the coach to take his band along for the rehearsals. Then, he had just got through one number and was halfway through the second, when the credits came up on the screen. This is unforgivable. I was furious - and so was Proby when I told him about it afterwards. He didn't know about it at the time. He just went on singing. He has now refused any more shows for Rediffusion." The show's producer Francis Hitching claimed "Proby was not contracted to do a specific number of songs. But we had planned for him to sing three. It was just one of those things. When an artist is the star of the show, he goes on last - and occasionally the show overruns. We are quite happy to have Proby back anytime."

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 - like the Beatles. We'd rather be wrong." However, by summer 1965 The Beatles made it clear that they would not be making another appearance on the show anytime soon. Attempting to book the group to promote Help! Elkan Allan told the NME "Naturally we were disappointed, too, when Brian Epstein said The Beatles were not doing any of the pop programmes on this record. It is their decision and we can do nothing about it. We like to feel an appearance on RSG is mutually beneficial to the artist and the programme, but if The Beatles don't wish to take advantage of the system, it is their prerogative to decline our invitation." In fact, The Beatles appeared live on Blackpool Night Out to promote Help!

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 - without realising they were already on the show - as artists, just waiting to be discovered as comperes!" Guest comperes included Michael Crawford, Woody Allen, Eric Burdon, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. However, it was suggested by the Melody Maker in August 1965 that DJ Pete Brady might be invited to audition for the show. On the 20th August show legendary Sheffield nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow co-hosted with Cathy. Stringfellow would continue as a warm-up man for the rest of the show's life.

Elkan Allan announced at the Variety Club luncheon in September 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." However, only a few weeks before he told Melody Maker "Pop is, an will remain, an important part of every television company's schedules, and there is no question of our dropping the pop shows. Certainly RSG will go on, and it will develop. It may not get the embarrassingly high ratings it got for a period, but it will remain an important part of our programming and an important part of the lives of teenagers of all ages." 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, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Vicki Wickham. The show was expected to run for a fortnight in "a big London theatre" and have the words "ready steady" in the show's title.

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 Rediffusion 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 - we will shoot a lot of it out of doors and we will be using cartoons”. It is unlikely that the show will have a regular compere. “Unless we get a lot of complaints after the new show begins - on 7 January – there is no chance of RSG coming back.” Pete Brady's name came up again, this time as a co-host on the replacement show. There was in fact every chance that the show was coming back, but it's reprieve still couldn't convince more ITV stations to transmit it. Talking to the NME in September 1965 Rediffusion's Francis Hitchin explained "The new show will be a lavish production and is more likely to be pre-recorded than shown live. There will be a little audience participation but it will be very incidental compared with the important role teenagers in the studio play in RSG."

By late 1965 it was still being 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 pilot of a potential replacement 'One-Two-Three' was filmed in December 1965 with Cathy McGowan's involvement. The planned replacement will possibly be only broadcast once a month, with the acts miming. 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 filmed material between 18th to 21st December for the first show of the new series to be broadcast Friday 7th January 1966, while The Walker Brothers and The Small Faces were mentioned for inclusion in the pilot show. There were also plans in place for a new Cathy McGowan show. The reality was RSG had already become a different show, so maybe it would have been more appropriate to continue into 1966 with a new name.

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. The three pilots that had been commissioned were not to Reduiffusion's taste, so the show was given a reprieve, much to Allan's disappointment, and probably leading to his replacement.

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. During rehearsals Mick Avory trips up the pantomime horse sending it crashing into a kitchen unit on set, while Keith Moon falls through scenery. The glass from an arc lamp explodes, showering everyone in glass, while Pete Quaife shoots ball bearings from a toy gun at the cast. The New Year's Eve show saw the show return to Kingsway along with guest host Keith Fordyce. Interview clips with some of the stars were played between the programmes on ITV all evening, while the show's producers used 'vidicons', shoebox-sized cameras for more intimate, informal shots of the guests around the studio. They were referred to by director Robert Fleming as "creepie-peepies."

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. She would now the focus of attention since Patrick Kerr had left the show. 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-east seeing it nearly a week later on Thursdays. No other ITV channels would show it anymore. Putting a brave face on it a spokesman for Rediffusion told Disc magazine "Although only three areas are now taking the programme, it does not affect the possible viewing public by more than 20 per cent."

Discussing the idea that pop television had become stale Francis Hitching told Melody Maker in January 1966 "RSG is not unimaginative, because it is a live programme it gives more chance for artists to do something out of the ordinary, not bound by what's happening in the Pop Fifty or what the record companies decide what's best for them. It's a programme doing its best to recreate the best of what happens in a club. For example, we have had numbers that last six minutes which you never get on a single." When asked about the audience participation in the show he replied "Regarding audience participation you can do a show and put on artists in a dramatic way, with lights and scenery, presenting the artist visually with no other element. You can do that for a number of weeks, but the whole spectrum of these dramatic pop shows can't develop. On our show there are no sets and very little scenery, and week by week it changes, because the kids change. RSG now, compared to two years ago is unrecognisable."

Vivki Wickham pulled off something of a coup by booking James Brown for the 11th March 1966 show. Ahead of the transmission Rediffusion promoted the show by playing a 17 minute film of James Brown live in America to journalists at Television House in Kingsway. This possibly might haven been his TAMI Show appearance in 1964.

Even though the show had responded to the threat of Top Of The Pops by having the artists perform live, miming and lip-synching eventually made a return only to have the Musicians’ Union threaten to block the show if the lip-synching didn’t stop by 31st March 1966.

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 7-7.30 pm. This will give it a larger network." This actually meant returning the show to its very first time slot, back in summer 1963. 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, resulting in ITV's various stations showing 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 new time slot meant it had a better chance of being seen by the whole ITV network. The 25th March 1966 edition was the first 7:00 to 7:30 pm show to be fully networked at this time, replacing long-running quiz show Take Your Pick.

By this time the deal that ITV had with the Performing Rights Society meant that any songwriter who had a song performed on RSG or any other networked show would receive £50 per song, compared to £17 per song for the non-commercial BBC.

On 1st April 1966 the show was broadcast from La Locomotion club, 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 La Locomotion.

Despite the noose of cancellation hanging over them the show's producers continue to strive to bring the best new talent to a wider audience. This often meant listening to all new releases sent to them by the record companies. Talking to Beat Instrumental in June 1966 Vicki Wickham claimed "There's an awful lot of listening in fact, between 60 and 70 new releases every week. Everyone involved with the programme gets together to decide which are the best and we spend the rest of the time including weekends putting the show together. We often listen to B sides too, so there are quite a few hours of playing time before we actually get down to the show. We get millions of pluggers coming along with piles of records but we always listen - you never know what might come up".

In order to continue 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-Dutch magazine Musik Parade awards RSG their Golden Arrow as best TV show, despite the fact that only clips of the programme had been shown there.

RSG continued throughout 1966 including a re-launch as 'new style RSG' in June. The new set design looked like a vacated building site with scaffolding and ladders. There were also groups of lights with the show's and artist's names illuminated. However, dancers were still allowed near the stage. Producer Francis Hitching told Record Mirror "The show made a name for itself in the early days by launching new faces. Then came a period when audiences were mostly interested in seeing the established faces. Now we seem to have reached a phase where there is less call for the standard beat and more interest in complicated and unusual backings. This is giving a chance to the young solo singers."

The Musicians Union imposed miming ban came into effect on 1st August 1966, but RSG were ahead of the game with many singers already performing live, albeit with pre-recorded backing tracks.

Mid-August 1966 saw the possibility of devoting an entire show to The Pop Crusade, a package of acts from the Green and Stone management stable from the USA and featuring Bob Lind, Sonny & Cher, Buffalo Springfield and The Daily Flash. A camera crew was to film them from the airport into London. Despite the hype it never happened.

Despite a prestigious time slot the falling audiences meant that its days were numbered, and after re-scheduling by Rediffusion it was announced in early November that the show was to be cancelled with the final edition to be broadcast in December. Cathy McGowan's show contract ended on 30th November, so that also might have been used by Rediffusion as a reason to end it when it did.

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 - it's the obvious way for the show to progress." When the penny dropped that the show was not returning Vicki Wickham, talking to Record Mirror's Tony Hall said "All the excitement's gone. It's just not happening the way it used to."

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."

The show had its own backstage secrets, like legendary guitarist Vic Flick from The John Barry Seven, who played on practically every show since the orchestra was introduced. Flick had played the guitar on The James Bond Theme, the Juke Box Jury theme among others.

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.

By late-1966 music was fragmenting in Britain. The Who, the Yardbirds and The Animals were no longer covering R&B and blues songs, they were either writing their own songs or covering contemporary folk-song writers. The truth was that The Beatles had stopped coming to the show, but would happily appear on Top Of The Pops, and if the show had continued into 1967 the Stones would stop coming too, and then the Yardbirds, and then The Who and on and on. It had to stop. The party was over. However, the show left us a parting gift, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Marc Bolan all made notable appearance on the last few shows. The final show saw many RSG favourites playing medleys or shortened versions of their hits an an attempt to get as many acts on as possible.

Even though the TV show was over Ready Steady Radio continued on Sundays until the end of January 1967, while about the same time Elkan Allan was spilling 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 and running the indie label Toast Records in 1968. By the early seventies she was in New York managing Patti LaBelle / LaBelle and writing for Melody Maker in 1972 as their New York correspondent. She would become a regular feature of pop archive shows and documentaries throughout the 2000's, and in 2014 conducted one of the last interviews given by George Michael. Polly Perkins had a brief singing career in 1968 with Smith - Bown & Polly Perkins. Cathy MacGowan faded from view, only occasionally popping up, notably hosting one edition of Supersonic in 1975. She later became a showbiz interviewer on BBC1's London early evening news show in the late 1980s, but then took to retirement, choosing not to participate in any of the RSG documentaries on Channel 4 or the BBC.

As the show was finishing Rediffusion's in-house magazine 'Fusion' summed it up, "It was the first pop programme to show teenagers as they really were, acne and all."

When the idea of a new Friday night pop show for Channel Four was suggested in 1982 Tyne-Tees TV's Malcolm Gerrie was contacted for ideas. Gerrie had been a fan of Ready Steady Go and Channel Four's chief executive Jeremy Isaacs who, when working at Rediffusion in London, had to regularly fight through the RSG crowd every week just to get into the building, so was well aware of the attraction and impact a show like that could have. When making up his first Channel 4 schedule Isaacs included a Friday night slot for such a show. The Tube was the only successor that came close to RSG's legend.

The famous catch-phrase was later re-used by London Weekend Television to announce their opening line-up of programmes in 1968 and in 2019 was being used by BT Sport. In 1975 and a for a few years' after The Old Grey Whistle Test played clips of the show, as did Yorkshire's Pop Quest and ATV's Revolver in 1978. Dave Clark made enquiries to Global TV (Rediffusion's distribution company) and bought the few remaining films and a few other pop specials and began to release them through home video, Channel 4 TV in Britain in the mid eighties and in late 1989 through the Disney Channel in America. A second series of seven shows were planned for the summer of 1986 in the UK but RSG didn’t materialise again until 1993. The sale of the show to BMG in 2016 gives hope that a new initiative to find remaining clips will result in more being shown, alongside possible DVD releases. In March 2020 BBC4 gave over two hours to a superb new documentary and compilation show. Both shows involved Malcolm Gerrie, Geoff Wonfor, Jools Holland and Chris Cowey, all familiar names and faces from The Tube. Sadly, no compilation can't ever cover the fact that the vast majority of the shows were not kept, and the majority of the paperwork proving guest appearances etc were also trashed when Rediffusion lost its contract in 1968. Thankfully, photographic evidence from Getty Images and Alamy's websites give us a glimpse of what it could have been like. Privately made audio recordings uploaded to You Tube also offer further evidence.

In autumn 2020 the book Ready, Steady, Go! The Weekend Starts Here: The Definitive Story of the Show That Changed Pop TV by Andy Neill, told the full story and is thoroughly recommended.

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.


Associated Rediffusion / Rediffusion

9th August 1963 - 23rd December 1966