Drumbeat

Drumbeat

BBC
4th April 1959 to 29 August 1959

Drumbeat: Various Artists, Parlophone LP 1959

The BBC’s immediate Saturday night answer to Oh Boy! was a programme called Dig This! (also with an exclamation mark) that stumbled along for a couple of months at the beginning of 1959. But Gary Marshall and Bob Miller and the Millermen were not a big enough inducement to draw viewers away from the likes of Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury on the competing channel. 

The BBC did not give up the fight however and a month later they were back with Drumbeat cunningly timed to start now at 6.30pm. In other words directly after Oh Boy! had finished rather than head to head with it at six o’clock. Note the brightly coloured suits, exactly like ABC’s Oh, Boy!

Adam Faith Drumbeat was going to be an all-new, fast moving show, based around artists singing the latest hits. Not terribly original; Jack Good had done that with Six-Five Special; years earlier. But during the year or so I’d been back at work, all these TV pop shows had really taken off. Every teen kid in the country tuned in to them. If you became a teen favourite on a show like Drumbeat, your chances of stardom were extremely good.
Adam Faith, Acts of Faith 1996

 Drumbeat ran for 22 weeks through the spring and summer months of 1959 and was indeed a fast-paced jumpin’ jivin’ show with each song segued into the next. But it was never going to be a marathon runner probably because the BBC’s real future pop winner had started quietly on a Monday night that June with a man playing records on a juke-box. (Juke-Box Jury).

The Drumbeat shows were backed by Bob Miller and The Miller-Men, and the John Barry Seven … often in combination. The show was broadcast live, except for one episode.

Vince Eager was one of the acts, and he says that the Drumbeat LP (now on CD) was recorded in one day, just as Parlophone had recorded Six-Five Special the year before. . None of the tracks are from the actual TV show. They rehearsed in the morning at Abbey Road, then in the afternoon an audience of 99% girls was let in, and it was recorded live. Eager says the girls didn’t need encouragement to scream but had to be quietened down when need be. Yes. Well. In 1959 teenagers being put in a TV studio and allowed to make noise would scream to order, but there’s no way that Denis Lotis or Sylvia Sands incited the impassioned screams that accompany their well-worn acts. Both, like Bob Miller & The Millermen, are from another era. Ms Sands became the wife of producer Stewart Morris. 

At the root, the show’s problem was that it was like Woolworths’ Embassy records. Nearly every song was a cover of an American hit. American originals didn’t get on the air, so we have Vince Eager eagerly doing Rick Nelson and Buddy Holly; Adam Faith doing Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, but not faithfully; and Roy Young doing Little Richard, but sounding too old. All are interspersed with sax-driven large(ish) band instrumentals and the likes of Get Happy! from Denis Lotis. 

Drumbeat is remembered now (if at all) for bringing the names of Adam Faith and John Barry to the starting-point of fame, although neither would gain hit records during the five-month span of the show. Barry’s signature tune Bees’ Knees deserved to do better. Adam Faith was still working as a film editor, in spite of having done a couple of Six-Five Special appearances. He auditioned for Stewart Morris, and was in two minds what to do. He didn’t want to throw in his job. John Barry told him he would be offered three shows, with an option of their side of another twenty-three. Every time he completed three, they contracted another three, and he was working himself into a frazzle trying to juggle both roles. Eventually his boss at the film studio told him how much her kids enjoyed the show … and forced him to choose. Singing or film editing.

The Raindrops trio sang on the show, featuring Johnny Worth (aka Les Vandyke), Jackie Lee and Vince Hill; as did pianist Les Reed. Worth wanted to be a songwriter and did a demo of What Do You Want with Les Reed. John Barry liked it, and Adam Faith took it to number one. He says Roy Young, pianist on the show, advised him to do something quirky with it, an idea that made his career. Then he followed with Johnny Worth’s Poor Me to get a second number one, starting a four-year run of best-sellers for him. But these were British originals, not truly dire attempts at imitating Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. Johnny Worth had started out recording covers for Embassy, covering King Creole, I Got Stung, It’s Only Make Believe, Tom Dooley, Mean Streak , Living Doll, Sea of Love, Oh, Carol and Western Movies among others. The Embassy versions of four of Adam Faith’s hits were done by Johnny Worth, who had written them, so you could argue that these budget discs are the originals.

Others who appeared in the series, but not on the LP, were Dusty Springfield (as one of the Lana Sisters), Billy Fury (once) and Danny Williams, who carved out a decent career as a balladeer.

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