Thank Your Lucky Stars
ITV Network, ABC Television
April 1961 to 25 June 1966
By 1961 Saturday tea-time rock and roll had not exactly fallen into a slough of despond – you could always look forward to hearing some new records on Juke Box Jury – but where could you see any new artists performing them? Before the Musicians Union got shirty about artists miming to their own records on television (instead of making a hash of playing them live), ITV provided a welcome visual feast with Thank Your Lucky Stars. It was all mimed, but instead of just the single, artistes were often allowed to play (or rather mime) both sides, and sometimes three or four songs.
It was produced by Philip Jones, previously from Radio Luxembourg. He wanted to broaden the scope to include more up and coming acts, and he determined that miming would be the order of the day. Not even subtle miming. No fake guitar leads snaking across the stage to amplifiers that weren’t plugged in.
It was also all recorded. Sadly, that doesn’t mean much has survived. Videotape was so expensive they recorded over it many times. Only three shows are known to have survived. One is the “Merseyside Special Broadcast” recorded on 15 December 1963, plus a May1966 programme with The Rolling Stones and the last, Goodbye Lucky Stars from June 1965.
The performances were at ABC’s Birmingham studio and filmed on a Sunday for broadcast the next Saturday. It was timed to start at 17.50, ten minutes before the BBC’s Juke Box Jury, thus stealing their audience. It ended at six thirty-five. I never missed a show between the start and late 1963. It was a pattern. Have tea, get changed for youth club. Watch Thank Your Lucky Stars, leave home at six-thirty five, and walk to Winton to get to the youth club at seven.
They tried Pete Murray first as presenter, then Keith Fordyce before settling on Brian Matthew as main presenter until 1965, when Jim Dale took the final series slot. Yes, these names are familiar throughout the TV pop show section here. The miming was causing problems with the Musicians Union and with Equity.
Brian Matthew It was a bit of a strange situation – they wanted us to go on strike. Keith Fordyce was a member of Equity and went on strike. And so they asked me if I would take on the whole show. I’d been a member of Equity, but didn’t consider I was anymore. Equity hauled me in, cast all sorts of aspersions, and said ‘you don’t leave Equity unless you die’. I thought, what a stupid thing to say. The head of Equity was Dickie Attenborough, and he said he was ashamed that they’d treated me that way, and contacted me to apologise on behalf of the union. Which I thought was nice of him. Anyway, I was quite glad, and went on doing Thank Your Lucky Stars for five years! Then even I got fed up with it because of the screaming… not only at the Beatles and the Stones, it became a habit, screaming at anyone who came on, and at Billy Fury particular I remember. I started screaming at the audience – ‘Can’t you behave yourselves?’ These people are here to perform.’ But of course the management liked it, they liked all that screaming. So they asked me to leave – that was the end of my TV career. Oh well, never mind!
BBC Sounds of The Sixties online, Bob Stanley interviewed Brian Matthew
Although the programme had been running for 18 months before the Beatles had their first hit, it was fortunate in being established in time to catch the subsequent Mersey-beat and British artists’ boom. The Beatles first national networked TV appearance was on the programme, playing Please Please Me on 19 January 1963. (They had appeared on Disc A Go Go before). They were the bottom of a seven act bill.
The show rode on Merseybeat, but also attracted American artistes … Gene Vincent, Brenda Lee, Gene Pitney, The Crickets. It was also a breakout show for The Kinks, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five and The swinging Blue Jeans.
It had the Saturday night field to itself in this respect yet was still wary enough of its rival Juke-Box Jury to call a section of the show ‘Spin-a-disc’ and let a teenage panel give its scores on new records from 1 to 5.
Brian Matthews says on the back of the Golden Guinea LP, The “Brummy” fans who make up the studio audience have certainly made it a happy series with their enthusiastic response. Janice Nicholls a “Brummy” audience member became a running feature for three years, and her constant “Oi’ll give it foive” became a national catchphrase. Janice was signed to Decca in 1963 for the specially-written single I’ll Give It Five. Decca were not a label to spell it out phonetically.
The first theme tune was Lucky Stars by Peter Knight and The Knightriders. Then Johnny Hawksworth’s Lunar Walk replaced it.
There are three LP compilations of existing singles using the title Thank Your Lucky Stars. Decca’s mid-price Ace of Clubs is the best one, and they followed with a Volume 2 on the main Decca label.
Pye also used their budget label, Golden Guinea, for their 1963 compilation.
Decca returned to full-price for Volume Two.
None of the three LPs are listed in Rare Record Price Guide 2020.
However, the Rare Record Price Guide 2008-2014 agrees on a value:
Thank Your Lucky Stars, Ace of Clubs 1962 £25 mint
Brian Matthews Introduces Thank Your Lucky Stars, Golden Guinea 1963 £15 mint
Thank Your Lucky Stars Vol. 2, Decca 1963 £35 mint
Over to Discogs in August 2020:
Thank Your Lucky Stars, Ace of Clubs 1962
Thank Your Lucky Stars, Golden Guinea 1963
Thank Your Lucky Stars Vol. 2, Decca 1963
So that Volume 2 has held its price, and as their “Highest” is unlikely to be mint, I’d say it’s gone up and Rare Record Guide are remiss in deleting it, though not the other two albums. Why has it held while the others have fallen? Content. The Big Three (By The Way), The Marauders (That’s What I Want), The Dennisons (Be My Girl) The Rolling Stones (Come On), Billie Davis (He’s The One), Mickie Most (Mr Porter), Brian Poole & The Tremeloes (Twist & Shout), Heinz )Just Like Eddie). Kathy Kirby’s vocal version of The Shadows’ hit Dance On is sufficiently quirky to be collectable.