Originally developed by ABC as Riverboat Shuffle, but a name change was required to avoid confusion with another show called Riverboat.
ABC had hired a Mississippi riverboat, named 'Cottontail', and moored it by their London studios at Teddington Lock which would become the home for some of Britain's top jazz talent during the tapings on August 2nd, 4th, 9th and 11th.
The show had booked British traditional jazz acts like Acker Bilk, Humphrey Lyttelton, Alex Welsh, Kenny Ball, Bob Wallis, along with skifflers Chas and Shirley McDevitt, singer Matt Monro, Don Reenie and rocker Dickie Pride, with the possibility of a few folk singers added nearer recording time. Kenny Baker's Swamplanders were the resident jazz band, specially assembled for the show. Oh Boy's Peter Elliott was the featured vocalist each week.
Director Churchill told TV Times "Some of these singers are not normally associated with jazz, but they enjoy singing it whenever they get the opportunity and they are going to get it on this show. We'll provide them with various types of accompaniment, not all Dixieland. We'll have a band at both ends of the boat and there will be some movement between the bands. For example, Humphrey Lyttelton will play a duet with Kenny, and the Alex Welsh band's trombonist will have a musical battle with the Swamplanders' trombonist. The feeling we want to create is that the musicians have found an old riverboat, have painted it up and are playing on it for their enjoyment, with no attempt to make a formal TV show."
Steamboat Shuffle would be ABC's introduction to Robert Feust, a talented designer, who would later work on ABC's The Avengers, before becoming a movie director.