1 9 5 8 – 1 9 5 9 (UK)
38 x 25 minute episodes
Everyone knows that Cliff Richard is hardly a bad boy, but back in 1958 he was the enfant terrible of the British music scene, considered to be a corrupting influence on teenagers and definitely too hot for television.
The series that earned Cliff such an awful reputation was Jack Good‘s Oh Boy!, the ITV pop show that first blasted onto TV screens on Saturday 13 September 1958 and reflected the change in musical tastes and in youngsters generally.
Good, producer of the BBC’s teen series Six-Five Special, had tried to persuade the broadcaster to play down the show’s sports and general interest content and focus more on music, rightly believing that this was what its audience wanted.
The BBC rejected his proposal, which frustrated Good, who resigned at the start of 1958, taking his programme concept to ITV, where he met a warmer reception. Oh Boy! blew the BBC away.
In 1957 Cliff had been an unknown £4-a-week clerk called Harry Webb, but Oh Boy! rocketed him to fame and parental disapproval. But the kids worshipped him – so did some posh people. Lady Jellicoe said at the time: “I really think Cliff Richard is quite an alarmingly entertaining young man. And Oh Boy! is simply heavenly.”
Besides Cliff, other regulars on Oh Boy! – broadcast live from the Hackney Empire in London – included The Dallas Boys (who, despite their Texan name, were from Leicester), The Vernons Girls (a singing group put together by the Vernons Pools company in Liverpool), Billy Fury and Marty Wilde.
Oh Boy’s house band was Lord Rockingham’s XI, a bunch of jazz musicians and session men including saxophonist Red Price (pictured) – plus 23-year-old South African organist Cherry Wainer perched behind a white leather Hammond studded with diamantes – who combined to produce an unusually crunchy sound – heard to good effect on their debut #1 single Hoots Mon.
Kerry Martin left Six-Five Special to join Oh Boy! She was sacked from the BBC show because she wiggled too much in a dance routine, and she went to the rival channel as a singer.
Oh Boy! was revived in 1979. Broadcast from the ATV studios in Birmingham, it was a purely retro show featuring Les Gray of Mud, Alvin Stardust, Shakin’ Stevens, one-eyed piano player Freddie “Fingers” Lee, new teenage discovery Johnny Storm, compere GBH (Grievous Billy Hartman, later to play Terry Woods in Emmerdale) and Joe Brown.
The musical acts were supported by the Oh Boy! Cats & Kittens, the Oh Boy! Boogie Band and Fumble, a group Jack Good had worked with on his stage show Elvis The Musical.
The revived show wasn’t a huge success, despite lasting two series (three if you count a follow-up, which went out under the title of Let’s Rock in 1981 with Lulu and Den Hegarty of Darts added to the regular cast).