Juke Box Jury

1959 | United Kingdom

It's distinctive John Barry theme tune entitled 'Hit and Miss' just about summed up the whole premise of Juke Box Jury, in which a panel of four guests would sit and listen to the latest pop single releases and then judge which were going to be a hit (signalled at the end of the panel's deliberations by a jolly ring) and which were going to be a miss (hailed with a rasping hooter). 

Introduced by genial host David Jacobs the very first panel consisted of disc jockey Pete Murray, singers Alma Cogan and Gary Miller and, representing the typical teenager, Susan Stranks (later a co-presenter of children's TV show Magpie). 

While each of the six or seven records played (nine were normally selected with the last two being held back as standbys in case the show under-ran), the viewing audience would be entertained by seeing the reaction of the panel and the studio guests, this being long before the days of the pop video. On the odd occasion the audience were treated to the novelty of the record in question being slated and then discovering that the artiste responsible for the platter was waiting in the wings to be interviewed (no the panel didn't know, either). 

The show began in 1959 and continued through to 1967 and, with a different guest panel each week, reaching a peak of twelve million viewers. When The Beatles appeared as panellists in 1964 viewers complained that the audience had been whipped up into such a state of excitement that screaming teenagers made both the records and the four Liverpudlians comments completely inaudible. And that was just to hear them discuss other people's records! 

The Beatles on Juke Box Jury
The Beatles' appearance on Juke Box Jury has sadly been wiped from the archives.

Only on one occasion was an extra chair placed on the panel and that was to accommodate the five members of The Rolling Stones, an event that saw an advanced request of 10,000 tickets. David Jacobs himself used to receive around 800 fan letters a week but says that although he had an ear for the hits he was never a big fan of many of the pop stars, preferring Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro and Petula Clark. "I was the first person to play Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and his Comets," said Jacobs. "I've never been an Elvis fan. I can see how wonderful he is, but he was never my sort of singer." 

Although the show was criticised in the early days as silly with ill-informed panellists and too much chatter between discs, it had an enduring appeal that led to two revivals, first in 1979 hosted by Noel Edmonds and the second in 1989 hosted by Jools Holland. Neither of these managed to re-capture the unique excitement though of the 1960's, an era that 'swung' like no other before or since.

Published on December 28th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.