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of the actual title sequence!
1957 Six-Five Special: Don Lang and the Frantic Five
take a break during rehearsal
Up until 1957, a closed period of television between 6-7pm called the "Toddler's Truce" was in place. This was formally ended on Saturday 16 February 1957 at 6pm, when the BBC broadcast a five minute news bulletin, followed by a new programme aimed at young people featuring live music and a live audience. This was a time when a television set was outside a family's personal budget, so live music was a special treat. "Six-Five Special" was born and a small piece of television and Rock n' Roll history was made.
Intended to run for only six weeks, the first show was presented by Pete Murray and co-producer Josephine Douglas and was played in and out by Kenny Baker and his Jazzmen. Michael Holliday contributed a couple of ballads and the Rock n' Roll was provided by Bobbie and Rudy and the King Brothers.
introduced the very first Six-Five Special like this:
'Welcome aboard the Six-Five Special. We've got almost a hundred cats jumping here, some real cool characters to give us the gas, so just get on with it and have a ball.'
Jo Douglas then translated hep cat Murray's words for 1950s parents:
'Well, I'm just a square it seems, but for all the other squares with us, roughly translated what Pete Murray said was: "We've got some lively musicians and personalities mingling with us here, so just relax and catch the mood with us.'
Six -Five Special November 1957
In studio including Jon Pertwee (three from left, back row), Josephine Douglas (striped blouse, middle row), and Pete Murray (bottom row)
Freddie Mills was later recruited to present a sports item
featuring lesser known activities and a filmed feature was
included such as bandleader Ray Anthony demonstrating the
The show developed a particularly strong association with Skiffle (Lonnie Donegan, Chas McDevitt and Willie McCormick all made regular appearances) and Tommy Steele (Britain's first native Rock n' Roller) was an early guest as was Vince Eager.
The programme was able to influence record sales and The Diamonds' 'Little Darlin' was an early beneficiary. Jim Dale, a singer who subsequently became the show's presenter, and Marty Wilde both benefited in their careers from the programme.
There were also a string of Six-Five Special regulars such as the King Brothers, The Mudlarks and Don Lang who had recorded the theme tune.
Six-Five Special Theme
Six-Five Special lyrics
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Evans does us proud. Hes listed just about every
worthwhile TV programme thats tooted its flute on
behalf of pop, and keeps everything entertaining
its a brilliant ride.
a work of scholarship with such
Rock & Pop on British TV by Jeff Evans celebrates 60 years of pop music on British television.
On 16th February 1957, the first edition of the BBCs Six-Five Special was aired. Hosted by Pete Murray and Jo Douglas, the lively Saturday night programme was the first television show to embrace rock n roll music, and it set the scene for hundreds of rock and pop shows to follow.
TV historian and music aficionado Jeff Evans has compiled the whole story of the six decades that followed, speaking to artists and presenters whose careers were shaped by music on television and providing context on how programmes fitted into the music landscape of the time.
Covering the highs and the lows of music on British television, the book recalls among many stand-out moments the Beatles playing to the planet in Our World, David Bowie's gender-fluid performance of Starman on Top of the Pops, the Sex Pistols' appearance on Today with Bill Grundy, the euphoria of Live Aid, and Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood's tragicomic night hosting The BRITs in 1989.
In more than 300 pages of lively text, the book reveals what connects The Old Grey Whistle Test to Meryl Streep, the male musician who auditioned to be presenter of The Tube dressed as a bride, and an awards show that critic Clive James described as having the lasting importance of someone breaking wind in the middle of a hurricane.
Also included are less widely remembered shows such as Discs A Gogo, Lift Off With Ayshea, Revolver, The Hitman and Her, The White Room and Popworld.
Rock & Pop on British TV is the definitive read on the importance of music on telly from its inception to the present day.
Fifties - Its Time To Jive On The Old Six-Five
An anecdote from Vince Eager
One of my favourite recollections of Six-Five Special is of the musicians having a pre-show pint! As I was a Coca Cola person, I perhaps remember more of the pre-show sessions than they did.
Directly opposite the Riverside Studios main entrance, was a pub. Immediately following the final dress rehearsal, which finished at approx 5:00pm, musicians such as Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Johnny Hawksworth, Ronnie Verrel, to name but a few, would head to the pub for a loosener.
Above the bar was a TV, tuned in and ready for the show. At the end of the news bulletin, and just as the weather report started, those musicians in the first number would stroll across to the studio leaving unfinished pints on the bar. As they reached the lobby entrance to the studio, to the strains of Don Lang singing, the titles would roll. Following the intro from Pete Murray or Jo Douglas there would always be a band number.
As the camera picked up the shot of the band, there would be sat the musicians who had two minutes earlier left the bar. Number complete, a cut to Jo or Pete for the next artist intro, and walking through the pub bar door would come the boys, ready to finish their unfinished drinks. As they strolled up to the bar it was difficult to take in that 3-4 minutes earlier they had appeared live on TV.
Sure enough they would repeat this ritual every time they had a number to play, which was sometimes three times during the show. They often received a phone call in the pub from the studio gallery reminding of some directional point. What fantastic characters, as well as musicians, they were.
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