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Probably the most enduring of all pop panel TV shows, Juke Box Jury was hosted by disc jockey David Jacobs with his famous bell and hooter for ‘Hit’ and ‘Miss’. Originally scheduled on Mondays, its popularity soon earned it a Saturday evening slot.
The 30-minute show featured Jacobs and a panel of four celebrities rendering their judgement on the latest pop releases, often in ignorance of the fact that the artist they were commenting on was sitting behind a screen listening to them.
The kids watched because they enjoyed listening to the music, and their parents watched because they would enjoy hearing the panellists knock it.
Debuting on Monday 1 June 1959, the first clean-cut panel consisted of singers Alma Cogan and Gary Miller, Pete Murray (then Britain’s number one DJ) and überbabe Susan Stranks, described in Radio Times as ‘a typical teenager’. She was so typical that nine years later she went on to host her own TV series – Magpie.
The same panel presided for the next two programmes before producer Russell Turner began to mix things up, bringing in different guests for each show.
The panel produced some bizarre combinations of guests at times – Roy Orbison once found himself sitting next to Thora Hird. Marianne Faithfull appeared as a guest panellist on Juke Box Jury on 31 October 1964. Commenting on one record she said, “I’d like it at a party if I was stoned”!
Katie Boyle was also a regular panellist and, on one occasion – Saturday 7 December 1963 – the panel was made up of the four Beatles.
This particular show came from the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and formed a two-part show – The JBJ segment was shown at 6.05 and the live concert that followed was broadcast at 8.10 under the separate title It’s The Beatles. For the record, The Beatles voted nearly everything as a ‘Miss’.
On 4 July 1964, the panel, unusually, consisted of five members – The Rolling Stones. The live show almost didn’t go to air as the group disrupted rehearsals.
Brian Jones eventually saved the day when he suddenly said “look, we’re messing up Mr Jacobs’ programme for him. We must behave”.
Juke Box Jury became an integral part of the flourishing pop music industry. Record-pluggers would go to any lengths to get a disc played. Even the dreaded sound of the klaxon, registering a ‘miss’ vote from the jury, still boosted record sales enormously.
At its peak, Juke Box Jury pulled in 12 million viewers and the show continued until 27 December 1967 – The final panel consisting of Pete Murray and Sue Stranks from the very first show, Lulu and Eric Sykes (who was deaf in his right ear – a perfect qualification for the programme).
BBC1 replaced Juke Box Jury with the Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman vehicle All Systems Freeman, which placed Fluff behind a gigantic space-age console, sporting headphones (both to make the link with his radio DJ role and to craftily relay producer’s instructions in pre-earpiece days).
There were two attempts at revivals of Juke Box Jury. One in 1979 (with Noel Edmonds in the chair) and one (with Jools Holland) in 1989 – 1990.
David Jacobs passed away in 2013.