Lift Off was spun off from the short-lived 20-minute Granada series Discotheque, which began in January 1969, hosted by Billy J. Kramer, the Remo and the Four Spots. On the March 19 edition 21-year old Ayshea Brough a former Ballet, Music, Drama and Dance student who was originally signed to the record company, Phillips Fontana, made her debut. Ayshea proved to be an instant hit with the young audience and was already making headlines and picture features in the TV Times by April.
The last edition of Discotheque was broadcast at 4.55pm on April 16 and starred Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Lift Off launched on November 5, 1969, Kramer being replaced as co-host by Graham Bonney who sang to the backing of resident group, The Pattern and adding their own interpretations of contemporary numbers were The Ken Martyne Dancers (later known as The Feet). Each week Lift Off featured popular recording artists and newcomers to the scene. Although the series failed to regularly attract the big headliners recording stars such as Jimmy Cliff, P.P. Arnold and Ray Davies stopped by in the first season.
Season Two started on 7th October 1970 with news that series producer Muriel Young was kicking the series off with a weekly "discovery" spot for teenagers. The wannabe pop stars, solo performers or pop groups had to be over 16 years and not tied into a recording contract. The age limit was intentional so the series would not clash with Granada's inter-regional talent series, Anything You Can Do. Muriel Young also introduced Ollie Beak to the series. The puppet character, who had previously appeared on The Five O'Clock Club where Young was a presenter, voiced by Wally Whyton, would interrupt interviews with his own brand of humour.
Graham Bonney disappeared from the series after a few episodes leaving Ayshea to present it on her own. When the programme returned for a fourth season in 1972 it was renamed to reflect the popularity of its star presenter. Lift Off With Ayshea continued until 1974. The final show was the Christmas edition on 17 December - Showaddywaddy sung their big hit of that year, Hey Mr Christmas. Only a few shows are believed to have survived in the archives. Ayshea would regularly turn up on TV celebrity shows such as The Golden Shot and Celebrity Squares, and also made several acting guest appearances on Jason King and had a recurring role on Gerry Anderson's U.F.O. series. She later moved to Los Angeles and appeared in the movies Demolition Man and Gotcha. Married to CBS President, Michael Levy, Beverley Hills became her permanent home.
Published on December 31st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.