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Off The Record

1 9 5 5 – 1 9 5 8 (UK)

This BBC show combining elements of studio performance and behind-the-scenes documentary took to the air from Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios with bandleader and radio presenter Jack Payne as host.

Payne presented the programme from a mocked-up office, introducing and interviewing performers, who were supported by the Concert Orchestra, conducted by Stanley Black, and the George Mitchell Singers.

He also cued in outside broadcast items from venues such as theatre dressing rooms, where stars were preparing to perform, or pre-filmed sequences set in record pressing plants and the like.

Over its three series, the 30-minute programme – produced initially by Francis Essex and later by Bill Cotton Jnr and James Gilbert – offered filmed visits to Abbey Road studios and the EMI factory, clips from feature films and various documentary-style items covering issues like record sales in Scotland and the German recording industry.

It also provided an on-screen run-down of the current Top 10 records.

The show relied heavily on co-operation from the recording industry and while it was still in the planning stages Ronnie Waldman, Head of TV Light Entertainment, invited bigwigs from EMI, Decca, Philips, Oriole and Polygon to the Lime Grove studios for drinks and a chat about the project, hoping to enlist their assistance.

Not surprisingly, that assistance was readily forthcoming, the recording executives quickly grasping the value of the prime-time television exposure.

Letters flooded in from labels recommending their latest releases and pushing their artists – Petula Clark, Matt Monro, Mandy Miller and others.

There was still a big-band, middle-of-the-road feel to the earliest studio guests, among them Max Bygraves, Alma Cogan, Winifred Atwell, Hoagy Carmichael and Edmundo Ross, but later in the show’s run, skiffle and rock’n’roll had gained a foothold in the UK and artists such as Tommy Steele, Lonnie Donegan, Marty Wilde and Wee Willie Harris were featured.

In 1958, Buddy Holly & the Crickets were pre-recorded at Riverside (pictured below) for the very last show.