1 9 6 3 (UK)
6 x 60 minute episodes
1 9 6 5 – 1 9 6 8 (UK)
33 x 60 minute episodes
1 9 7 0 – 1 9 7 1 (UK)
28 x 60 minute episodes
Des O’Connor, for years the butt of Morecambe and Wise‘s running gags, began in variety and toured just about every theatre in the country.
In the 1960s and 70s, he had his own TV series which featured the usual variety mixture including an “I say, I say, I say” spot in which comedians would rush on to the stage, tell a joke, and rush off again.
A six-part ATV series debuted on 19 May 1963, which was followed by five more series between 1965 and 1968 where he was assisted by Jack Douglas and Jack Parnell and his Orchestra. Des was joined on the show during this time by guests including Millicent Martin, Clement Freud, The New Faces, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, Judith Durham (of The Seekers), Margaret Nolan, Stanley Unwin, Lonnie Donegan, Engelbert Humperdinck, Frankie Vaughan, Cliff Richard, Georgie Fame, Matt Monro, Frankie Vaughan, Una Stubbs, Sandie Shaw, The Barron Knights and Roy Hudd.
In 1970-1971 (series 7 and 8) he was joined by Elke Sommer, Robert Morse, Liberace, Dusty Springfield, Terry-Thomas, Val Doonican, Julie London, Mrs Mills, Harry Secombe, Britt Ekland, Sacha Distel, Phyllis Diller, Al Martino, Connie Stevens, Phil Silvers, Dom Deluise, Jack Benny and Buddy Greco.
Ian Freeman has one very distinct memory of this show: “I worked at the time for Cyril Berlin, Des’s agent at London Management (formerly The Delfont/Grade Agency) and used to go to the tapings each week at ATV Elstree Studios (now BBC Studios, where EastEnders is made) to ensure that Des was happy . . .”
“Once, during a rehearsal, as an eager 19-year-old and anxious to help, I moved a mike stand nearer to Des. The whole studio – not just our show, but the whole studio – came out on strike, as I was not a union member! Once I apologised, they all went back to work, but I was very shaken.”
In 1977, O’ Connor began hosting Des O’Connor Tonight, a variety chat show. It began on BBC2 where it ran for five years before switching to ITV, eventually ending in 2002 after nearly 26 years on the air.
Des passed away on 14 November 2020 following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home a week earlier. He was 88.