Boy Meets Girls

Boy Meets Girls

ITV network (ABC Television)

12th September 1959 to 5th March 1960

Musical direction by Bill Shepherd
Dance direction by Leslie Cooper
Script by Trevor Peacock
Episodes 1-13: Directed by Rita Gillespie
Episodes 14-26: Directed by Ben Churchill
Produced by Jack Good

Marty Wilde, TV Times cover 15-21 November 1959

The ‘boy’ in question here was Marty Wilde, now acting as host and performer; the ‘girls’ were the Vernons Girls (one of whom Marty Wilde married). The Vernons Girls had started out as a large group of singers, drawn from Vernons Football Pools in Liverpool, but gradually whittled down to a smaller group. Lynn Cornell later left for a solo career.

The Vernons Girls appeared in all twenty-six episodes, and Marty Wilde, as both singer and presenter, appeared in all but one. It was an extension of Oh, Boy! in all but name. Lord Rockingham’s XI became Jack Good’s Firing Squad. Cherry Wainer was retained on Hammond organ, Roy Young on piano. Andy White was on drums. Joe Brown led on lead guitar.

And all were returning to ITV after a summer break with other stalwarts from Oh Boy! like Joe Brown, Cherry Wainer, Red Price, Little Tony and American guests whenever possible. In press releases ABC described the show as:

The new-name, new-look Oh, Boy! series

The Jack Good theme song was more suited to a romantic comedy film, and The Vernons Girls had the sense to relegate it to the B-side of the Pomus-Schuman song We Like Boys.

New Musical Express 18 October 1959

Larry Parnes, the legendary manager and agent, had very strong connections to Boy Meets Girls. He managed both Marty Wilde and Billy Fury, and his other artists dominated the sho… Vince Eager, Dickie Pride, Duffy Power and Johnny Gentle, plus Georgie Fame in some of the backing groups. He managed Tommy Steele and Lance Fortune. Joe Brown was also managed by Parnes, and unlike the others, had refused to change his name to something daft chosen by Parnes.

Parnes had stumbled across Joe Brown in August ’59 when he needed a guitarist in a hurry to deputise for Kenny Packwood in his ‘house band’, The Beat Boys, at an audition-cum-gig at the Southend Odeon. The gig was on the Sunday evening, and Jack Good had arranged to attend the afternoon soundcheck/rehearsal, as a de facto audition for his forthcoming TV series, Boy Meets Girls. Joe had been recommended to Larry by 2I’s manager Tom Littlewood, and he’d paid him a princely 10/- for the gig (in his autobiography, Joe commented that he probably ended up a couple of quid out of pocket on the night!). Larry hadn’t given him a second thought until the audition ended, whereupon Good – who wasn’t much interested in any of the singers – asked who the spikey-headed guitarist was; as Joe recalls: “I think if Jack hadn’t have liked me, and wanted to use me on the show, then I’d never have seen him (Parnes) again. But it was like a ready made deal… ‘Who’s this boy’s manager?’… and up spake The Parnes in his best Damon Runyon, ‘Why, it is nobody but me.’ All of a sudden, I had a manager!”
Mr Parnes, Shillings and Pence, Rock History UK, 11 October 2012 (LINKED)

Larry Parnes Jack Good said ‘I want to ask you a question… who’s the guitarist?’ and I said ‘Oh, that’s Joe Brown,’ then Jack asked ‘Hmmm… can he sing?’ Now, I’ll be quite honest with you, I hadn’t got the slightest idea, but I said ‘Oh yes… Joe?… A very good voice… he can sing everything… Country & Western, Blues, Rock’n’Roll…’ And Jack said ‘I’d like to arrange for Joe to do twenty-six ‘Boy Meets Girls’… he’ll be playing with the studio band… I might sometimes put him out on his own… I’ll hear him sing, and see if he’s as good as you say…’ We left it at that, then he added ‘I want him at rehearsals in four/five days,’ and so I did a deal with Jack to pay for the rehearsals and everything. After Jack left, I called Joe over and said ‘Can you come to the office tomorrow morning?’ He asked ‘Why?’, and I said ‘I’m going to sign you up.’ He came up to the office the following day, we had the contract all typed out, he signed, and because he was under twenty-one we had to get his dear, dear, dear mother to sign also, and then I said to him ‘Well, you’ve got twenty-six television shows.’ He said ‘What?! You work quick, don’t you, mate?!’
Mr Parnes, Shillings and Pence, Rock History UK, 11 October 2012 (LINKED)

The great thing about Boy Meets Girls was they finally lost the “all British” tag. The show made a point of getting American artistes to do more than one show if they were touring the UK. Among those who appeared were Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Jerry Keller, Otis Blackwell, Pomus and Schuman, The Browns, and Freddie Cannon.Parnes organized the tours for the American artistes on the show.

 Larry Parnes and Jack Good hatched a plan. Good had a new TV show, “Boy Meets Girls”, based around one of Parnes’ artists, Marty Wilde, and also had a column in Disc magazine. They’d get an American rock star over to the UK, Parnes would stick him on a bill with a bunch of Parnes’ acts, Good would put him on the TV show and promote him in Disc magazine, and the tour and TV show would split the costs.
Andrew Hickey, A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, Episode 58, June 2020 (LINKED)

Norm Riley in the USA managed Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Ronnie Hawkins:

Ronnie Hawkins (The) money was being handled by Norm Riley. He made the deals with Larry Parnes and Jack Good. Later (Norm) got himself checked into a mental institution and said he couldn’t remember where the money was. We never got our money and he got away with it.
Interviewed by Spencer Leigh in ‘Baby That Is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ , Finbarr 2001

The shows had more time spent on them than earlier shows. The cast met Monday to Wednesday at a church hall in Islington, and moved to ABC Studios in Manchester for the recording for Saturday transmission. Unlike earlier shows, they used tele-recording to obtain the availability of American visitors.

Joe Brown led the house band, and was thrilled to find himself backing American greats like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. They appeared at the start of their UK 1960 tour on 20th February. Cochran died on 16th April 1960 in a car crash later on the same tour. Their appearances on Boy Meets Girls are extensively reported.

The shows were recorded live. No miming.

Jack Good I didn’t change Eddie (Cochran’s) act much because it was perfectly fine. My job was to sort out the camera angles and make him look his best, It’s unfortunate that the Boy Meets Girls shows were scrapped because they were so much better than the Dick Clark clips that you see nowadays. In America, they mimed to records and it was a wasteland. Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran were delighted to be let loose as they both hated miming. We in Britain knew about showbiz, they knew about rock ‘n’ roll and so it was a perfect match. A couple of years later The Beatles combined showbiz with rock perfectly and the Americans loved it.
Interviewed by Spencer Leigh in ‘Baby That Is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ , Finbarr 2001

20 February 1960. L to R:
Billy Fury, Jess Conrad, Gene Vincent, Joe Brown, Eddie Cochran, Adam Faith, Marty Wilde

 Another American star was Ronnie Hawkins. In January 1960 Ronnie flew from Toronto to England to appear on the TV show with Marty Wilde, Adam Faith, Billy Fury and The Vernons Girls. Due to musician’s union rules he was unable to take his band, The Hawks, with him, but he managed to make an exception for his drummer, Levon Helm, who accompanied him on the trip as ‘band leader / arranger’. Hawkins played with the house band that included Joe Brown. The atmosphere and cross-pollination between artistes is remembered by all.

Levon Helm In January 1960 Morris Levy flew Ronnie and me to London. Rockabilly hadn’t died in England like it did back home, and Ronnie had a following, especially, as we heard, in Liverpool. In England we appeared on an early BBC pop show, Boy Meets Girls and got to hang out and jam a little with Eddie “Summertime Blues” Cochran. Cochran who was also big in England was touring with The Shadows (sic, actually Marty Wilde’s Wildcats*), a good British band. I was astonished by Eddie’s ability to chord a guitar using his little finger as a bar. It was “Something Else.”
This Wheel’s On Fire; Levon Helm and Stephen Davies, 1993

*However Levon Helm wasn’t far wrong about The Shadows … The Wildcats included soon-to-be Shadows Brian Bennett and Liquorice Locking.

Ronnie Hawkins I didn’t think that the English cats would be able to play Memphis-style, but they were really into it. They even got the ‘boo-hoo’ in Southern Love. Joe Brown was part of the band. He was a young cockney kid with a brush haircut and I said, ‘Joe, with your accent and your looks you could be a real asset to my band. He decided to stay here (in Britain).
Record Collector, Ronnie Hawkins interview, Jan 1987

Joe Brown Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent were great. We went on tour backing them, and also a guy called Ronnie Hawkins, who’s still around, a big star in Canada. He brought a drummer with him called Levon Helm, and they asked me to go back to Canada with them and join their band. I wish I had done.
(From the Manchester Evening News, 2013)

Marty Wilde, Billy Fury. Boy Meets Girls TV Shows: Vol 1, Rockstar CD 2013

There is a CD Boy Meets Girls TV Shows – Volume 1 which has two complete live shows featuring Eddie Cochran: 16th January 1960 and 23rd January 1960. The bonus tracks from other shows include Johnny Cash on I Got Stripes, Ronnie Hawkins on Southern Love, Gene Vincent on Rocky Road Blues. Everyone is on good form. Eddie Cochran is on INCREDIBLE form. As well as the hits, his version of Money Honey is worth getting the album for. The British backing band is excellent.

I particularly like Lynn Cornell’s vocal on Smooth Operator backed by the rest of The Vernons Girls.

Eddie Cochran with Joe Brown to his right. Jack Good says that Eddie was quite short which may be why he’s on a riser.

For a sound recording from that era the audio quality is very good. The sleeve notes record the story. Joe Brown had been approached by an engineer from the old show who said that he still had tapes. Rockstar already had a re-release deal with Eddie Cochran’s Estate, and managed to make a deal with Billy Fury’s Estate. Marty Wilde was reluctant, so apologetically, Rockstar cited the 50 Year Copyright rule and put it out.

Jack Good’s level of input comes out:

Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent: Boy Meets Girls

Jack Good When Gene Vincent came down the steps of the plane, he had a leg iron on, so he hobbled a bit. I was a Shakespeare fan, so hobbling to me meant Richard III. I thought of giving him a hunchback, and I’m glad I didn’t. Then I thought, ‘He can be moody like Hamlet so we’ll dress him from head to toe in black and put a medallion round his neck. I once played a murderer, Ligtbourne, with gloves on, so I added that … I arranged some steps so he could hobble nicely on TV, but he negotiated them very well and hardly looked as if he was hobbling at all. I had to yell out, ‘Limp, you bugger. Limp!’ He didn’t mind. He limped … I never talked to him about Shakespeare. I just said, ‘This is what you’re wearing.’
Interviewed by Spencer Leigh in ‘Baby That Is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ , Finbarr 2001

If the show lacked something in comparison with its previous incarnation as Oh Boy! then that something was Cliff Richard. But Boy Meets Girls was less frenetic than Oh Boy! and it was up against another hurdle: Juke-box Jury. The BBC’s trump card had now switched to the same Saturday tea-time slot, and in those days you couldn’t record one programme while watching the other. Who would you choose – Marty Wilde and some shapely lasses in short shorts or David Jacobs and four unlikely panellists (and some new records)?

Jack Good put the difference down to the studios they used:

Jack Good: There is no comparison between Manchester and Hackney where Oh, Boy! was produced. The Hackney studio had a ready-created atmosphere. When I look back on it, I am not altogether pleased with it in the way I was pleased with the other two (Six Five Special and Oh, Boy) but I am more than pleased with the individual programmes and in no instance did any artist who appeared in the shows give me anything but complete satisfaction.

The Larry Parnes / Jack Good connection continued. See this advert for an “All Parnes artistes” show in October 1960 … produced by Jack Good.

An all Larry Parnes show, produced by Jack Good

The British artist’s hits

The Vernons Girls
We Like Boys / Boy Meets Girl 1959

Billy Fury
Colette 1960 #9

Marty Wilde
Sea of Love 1959 #3
Bad Boy 1959 #7

Dickie Pride
Primrose Lane 1959 #28

Little Tony
Too Good 1960 #19

Gene Vincent
Wild Cat 1960 #21