Broadcast from the spiritual home of show business in Britain. At the time of ITV’s debut in September 1955 the theatre was owned by Val Parnell who was a business associate of Lew Grade, owner of ATV, who was related to artist manager Bernard Delfont. The mass array of British and international talent in the hands of the Grade / Parnell / Delfont triad made sure that they were never short of acts to fill the show with.
The first chosen compere was Tommy Trinder, who along with introducing all the variety, comic and musical acts also had the honour of hosting the insert Beat The Clock in which members of the audience had to participate in games and complete them in under a minute to win a prize. The games had to be tested beforehand to make sure that they were winnable, and in a Daily Mirror article in January 1960 the two workers responsible, electrician Norman Stone and stage hand Fred Pearson could only speculate how much money they could have won had the rehearsals been for real. Although the format for Beat The Clock was imported from America, the games themselves were devised by ATV's Jim Smith. The original opening credits featured model Patricia Kenyon turning the theatre programme's pages, although Tommy Trinder referred to he as 'Mrs Bradshaw'.
Accompanying the artists on stage were The Skyrockets Orchestra, led by Jack Parnell, while legendary dance troupe The Tiller Girls opened each show, replacing the George Camden Dancers who were hired when the show began.
The Trinder Years (with help from other guest hosts including Robert Morley) saw appearances from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Crickets with Buddy Holly, Mario Lanza among others.
The show was initially broadcast live and when the commercial break was being shown to those at home a young woman would walk on onto the Palladium stage with a placard naming this evening's sponsor during the break.
For summer 1956 the show de-
In late 1959 singer Craig Douglas was involved in a showdown between the show's producers and his agent, the legendary Bunny Lewis. Lewis insisted that his client be given three songs and second billing, while the producer's probably felt quite rightly that since he only had one hit behind him two songs would be enough.
Despite his popularity with the public, Trinder was not a popular man within the industry and plans were afoot to replace him. Aware of his reputation he called his autobiography Ham and Ego. His eventual replacement was another comedian Bruce Forsyth who brought the show into the Cliff Richard and The Shadows era. However by September 1960 Forsyth was already performing two shows a night in Blackpool and then having to return to London to host this show. He had been told to take things easy on medical advice, so it was likely that he would drop the weekly Palladium show as a result. It was rumoured that Des O'Connor would take over as host, with fellow comedian Ted Rogers also on the short list, but instead the job went to little known comic Don Arrol who had been seen on TV appearing that summer in one of the many seaside shows. When Forsyth returned he took the show into the Mersey Beat years when he brought Beatlemania to 20,000,000 people one Sunday night, just a few weeks before their Royal Variety Performance.
Norman Vaughan took over in September 1964 after Forsyth had left to take the lead in a West End stage musical and lasted until the following summer. His script writer was Eric Merriman was also been working on Kenneth Horne's comedy radio hit Beyond Our Ken. The scripts were so fresh that Merriman would be handing them backstage to Vaughan between each act.
The show was still popular ten years' after its debut, and a show headlined by Frank
Ifield in April 1964 becoming the third most watched show that year. So successful
that in February 1965 that the Licensed Vituallers Association in south-
The show was re-
Forsyth would in turn give way to Norman Vaughan, Jimmy Tarbuck and occasionally Dave Allen who tried his best with the Rolling Stones in 1967. When in 1965 Parnell was asked why The Stones' had not played the show, he reasoned "I think they're worried because we don't have recording studio conditions here." Despite the change in hosts over the years the show was, quite rightly, seen a feather in any hosts' cap.
By late 1966 it saw a different host for each show, usually the top act that week, following the success of the version recorded for the American NBC network.
In April 1967 ATV announced that the show would return in the autumn, but it would now have to alternate with TV specials recorded at their Elstree studios. Despite ATV's apparent desire to let the show slide it was still a big ratings winner. In fact it was the third most viewed entertainment show of 1967 after the Royal Variety Show and Miss World. It was possibly the desire of many of the British acts to have their own series rather than make frequent appearances on variety shows like this that made it less attractive to appear on. An ATV spokesman told Disc in August 1967 "The reason for less Palladium shows is the large selection of variety to accommodate in the autumn schedules. There are 26 'Spotlights' and a number of Morecambe and Wise shows. The change is not because the London Palladium Show is dead or has lost its appeal."
With the ITV franchise change in July/August 1968 leading to a significant change of geography ATV no longer held the weekend contract for London, so the Palladium show disappeared from the schedules after March 1968, but returned for a final series in January 1969.
The show’s appearance and concept changed little throughout its lifetime. Despite still topping the ratings chart in 1967 the show was brought to an end in 1969.
A modern day version of the show Tonight At The London Palladium runs to this day on ITV, albeit during the week.
Notable shows include The Beatles in 1963 and 1964, The Rolling Stones who failed to appear at the traditional ‘Startime’ revolving stage finale and an ailing Judy Garland, who had to be helped on and off stage by compere Jimmy Tarbuck in January 1969.
Network released two multi-