Planned as ITV's answer to Juke Box Jury, which had been running on BBC television since 1959, Thank Your Lucky Stars arrived on British TV screens in April 1961 and soon became a hit with the nations teenagers. Along the way it set a number of notable firsts, the most famous being the first full-network appearance on television of The Beatles.
The man behind the shows initial success was producer Phillip Jones, who had previously been a programme assistant on Radio Luxembourg. In six years at the popular music station he had worked his way up to Programme Controller before switching to television for Granada and Tyne Tees and producing 'specials' for Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby. It was Jones who booked The Beatles to appear on January 19th 1963 to mime to their second single "From Me To You," and Jones too who realised early on the impact that the so called 'Mersey Sound' was to have on Britain's youth, enabling him to put on a show in June of that year featuring Liverpool's finest, accompanied by The Searchers, Lee Curtis, The Big Three, Kenneth Cope and the Breakaways, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Vernon Girls and Gerry and the Pacemakers. That show alone pulled in over 6 million viewers. "The ratings achieved by that show proved the Liverpool sound was not limited in its appeal to a local audience -obviously it had a national following." Said Jones.
The shows original presenter was Keith Fordyce who later moved on to front Ready Steady Go, and other DJ's appeared with varying degrees of regularity. Amongst these were Jimmy Saville, Pete Murray, Alan Dell, Sam Costa, Barry Alldis, Kent Walton, Jimmy Young and Don Moss. It was Moss who first cornered a weekly panel of youngsters in a segment of the show called 'Spin a Disc,' a shameless copy of the Juke Box Jury format where the latest singles were played and the panel then passed judgement on the records, giving marks out of five. This particular part of the show created its own star in the form of 16 year-old Janice Nicholls from Wednesbury, Staffs. Her broad Black Country accent made her comment "Oi'll give it foive" something of a national catchphrase, and the youngster, who had planned to become a telephonist at a light-engineering company in the same street where she lived, soon found herself in demand on television, in national newspapers and charity events. At the same time she was given a permanent place on the panel at Birmingham's Alpha Studio, where the weekly show was filmed on Sunday night's in front of a live audience, before going out the following Saturday.
Of all the shows presenters though, the one who is most closely associated with Thank Your Lucky Stars was Brian Matthew, who over the years not only introduced some of the best British acts but some of the best from the USA too, including The Ronettes, Brenda Lee, and The Supremes. Matthew, also a successful radio DJ with the popular 'Saturday Club,' had originally trained to be a serious actor before coming something of a respected authority on pop music. In 1964 ABC commissioned Lucky Stars Summer Spin as a mid-year replacement and in 1965 Jim Dale took over as presenter. However, with the British beat boom losing a little of its impetus 'TYLS' was cancelled a year later.
FREDA BROWN REMEMBERS SPIN A DISC :
Undoubtedly one of the key factors of Thank Your Lucky Stars massive success was the light-hearted, jury lead, Spin a Disc segment of the show. Television Heaven is therefore indebted to Freda Brown, who as a two-time panellist has been kind enough to share her first hand memories of appearing on the show:
"I got to know Alan Freeman (not the DJ -the producer of 'Spin a Disc'), after being chosen to go on the panel alongside the 'Oi'll give it foive' girl, Janice Nicholls. The other panellist on that particular show was Trevor Machin (where are you Trevor??) As I lived near Alan in London, he drove me down to the Aston Studios in Birmingham, where 'TYLS' was filmed, in his comfortable, dark red jag. After that first appearance he said that whenever I wanted to go to the studios to watch the show, he would arrange it for me. He also arranged for a friend of mine to appear on the panel about a year after I had been on, and whilst we were all in the studio canteen, Brian Matthew asked me if I would like to go on the panel - I told him that I'd already had my go, but he arranged for me to be on again the following week and lucky for me, my favourite singer, Craig Douglas, was also on the show, along with singer/actor Mike Sarne of 'Come outside' fame. I confess, I began to feel quite at home in that studio! I also cheated - panellists were supposed to be teenagers and I was 21!
On the show - July 21st 1963- were The King Brothers, Joe Brown, Kathy Kirby and The Clyde Valley Stompers. Pete Murray shared the presenting with Muriel Young. Alan wasn't able to take me back to London, but arranged for me to share a car with Kathy Kirby. The Clyde Valley Stompers also offered me a lift in their coach - and as I had been getting on rather well with Ian - the Bass player - I accepted their kind offer! On one occasion, I met another panellist called Dianne Vero, we became friends and used to meet up as we both lived in London, then she casually mentioned that she was the Beatle's secretary!! I look back now and I'm amazed that all these things happened to me - just an ordinary Yorkshire lass - but I was besotted with Show Biz and spent all my youth intent on meeting the 'stars' and I was very, very lucky in that I met so very many."
More of Freda's memories can be found at www.reminiscethis.co.uk/reminiscing/sheffield-girl
Although Thank Your Lucky Stars is often cited as the programme where The Beatles made their professional debut television performance, that is incorrect.
The Beatles appeared on a number of other shows, such as the TWW (Television Wales and the West) show Discs A Gogo more than a month before the Lucky Stars show.
On Go Go they mimed to Love Me Do and so the purists among you may decide that this was in fact their 'professional debut'. However, Lucky Stars had the advantage of being fully networked across the ITV regions, which Go Go was not. Neither were any of the other local shows such as the children's programme Tuesday Rendezvous where they appeared on 4th December 1962.
Only three entire shows of Thank Your Lucky Stars are known to have survived. They are:
A Merseyside special broadcast December 1963, with the Beatles topping the bill, recorded on the afternoon of Sunday 15 December 1963 at the Alpha Television Studios in Aston, Birmingham.
An edition from May 66 featuring two numbers from the Rolling Stones.
Goodbye Lucky Stars, the final edition broadcast in June 66.
Bits and pieces of Beatles appearances also survive.
Published on February 6th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus "I'll give it foive -but I won't boiy it!." (March 2002) for Television Heaven.