29 Jun 1974 – Series Two (12)

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Coventry based singer and songwriter David F. Eastman. With thanks to Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

This episode probably ranks as the most eventful show of the whole second series due to the memorable incidents that were witnessed in the studio and on screen. For the third show in a row the panel of judges were Tony Hatch, Clifford Davis, Mickie Most and Arthur Askey who saw seven more new to TV acts;

  • The Hart Family (four-piece group)
  • Ryan and Ross (comedy duo)
  • Seventh Avenue (seven-piece group)
  • Johnny Cox (comedian)
  • David F. Eastman (vocal/piano)
  • Colin Areety (vocalist)
  • Susan Cope (vocal/ piano)

This heat was won by Susan Cope, a talented 24-year-old singer from Brighton. One day before the show was broadcast Susan released her debut single, the self-penned track ‘Love Song.’

Doncaster comedian Johnny Cox is remembered as the only performer to break down in the middle of his New Faces act. During his routine, he completely dried up and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten my next gag. Can I start again, please?” The show director refused and he was forced to carry on. Once he had completed his act, he stormed off to the dressing room, vowing never to appear again and claiming he was finished with the business for good.

ATV decided not to edit his breakdown out of the screened performance, and Johnny was shattered when it was shown. He went out the night it aired and got drunk, cancelled all his bookings and, the next day, got a job as a car salesman. Someone suggested that he go out on the road, and bill himself as “The Comic Who Dried Up In Front Of 12 Million Viewers.” Johnny took the advice and was able to cash in on his unlucky break. He soon was back in show business with a full date book, billing himself as had been suggested.

Johnny later reflected on the experience and agreed that ATV were right to broadcast his act as it was performed, breakdown included. It was director Paul Laing who decided to carry on. He is quoted as saying: “If a singer hits the wrong note we don’t stop and start again. So it should be the same for a comedian.”

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Comedian Johnny Cox. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

In 1975 Johnny joined, Les Dennis, Fresh Aire, Bracken, Michelle Fisher and Billy Moochoo, who were some of the most highly praised acts from New Faces, in a nationwide concert and cabaret tour presented by impresario Mervyn Conn. It commenced on February 23 at the Woodville Hall, Gravesend and was initially confined to a number of one-night stands at theatres and municipal halls and ended on March 8 at Corby Civic Hall. At the show at the Civic Hall, Bedworth, Nuneaton the tickets for these shows were priced at £1, 75p and 60p. After the show completed touring it played for two weeks at Sheffield’s Club Fiesta and then moved to Wimbledon on March 24 where another New Faces success, Marti Caine, joined the cast. Additionally, the show played Blackpool’s vast and prestigious ABC for a series of 13 Sundays throughout the 1975 Summer season commencing July 6 and ending on September 28.

That wasn’t the end of the drama on this event packed heat. The Oldham group Seventh Avenue claimed that the sound balance wasn’t right when they went on for their act. Having put a lot of money into their act and arranging for a record company boss to be in the audience for the recording of the programme they hoped to get a recording contract. The band were angry and annoyed and clearly felt that their big chance had been ruined by the poor balancing of four microphones. They ended up with lower marks than comedian Johnny Cox, who had forgotten his lines, and their protest to the producer fellon deaf ears. The dispute escalated further and ended with a physcial punch-up between the band bubbled and the sound technicians.

ATV maintained that the sound balance, though distorted in the studio, was perfect on transmission, but the incident did at least bring one change to the show’s technical arrangements. Following the incident the panel began to use special headphones during musical acts so that they can hear the sound which was being transmitted. This was done out of camera range and panellists had to remove the headphones by the time the camera returned to them.

20-year-old David F. Eastman‘s parents moved to Coventry from Leeds in the early 1970s. The Coventry based singer-songwriter, had ambitions of becoming a full-time musician, in the style of Gilbert O’Sullivan or Elton John, after previously working as an accounts clerk and at a plastics factory. David used to sneak into Coventry’s Queen’s Road Baptist Church, where his parents were church caretakers, long after midnight to try out his latest compositions on one of the pianos.

David had taught himself both guitar and piano and by the time he appeared on New Faces, he had already written around 180 songs, many of them recorded on tape and was just waiting for the right offer from a recording company. He had decided to change his name from David Mullins and after rejecting possibilities such as Oliver Twist and Felix Ailsah he decided on David F. Eastman, the surname being taken from Paul McCartney’s wife, Linda.

The Hart Family, were a four- group from Peterlee, County Durham, which concentrated mainly on pop and standards and was made up of George Hart, his wife Olive, his 12-year-old daughter Julie and his brother John. Prior to appearing on New Faces, they had been playing the club circuit for about two years. On the show they sang “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” which was also their first single, on the Decca label.

George had been a professional for eight years, but his only previous TV appearance was in a beer commercial. His brother John had previously made a winning appearance on “Opportunity Knocks” with the Harts Showgroup and another forerunner of the present family venture was a group known as The Hartbeats.

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Eddie Ross from the comedy duo Ryan and Ross. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Before appearing on New Faces the Liverpool comedy pair of Ryan and Ross, first names of Tommy and Eddie respectively, were well known in the North East of England. In 1971 Eddie Ross was writing for The Stage and held the post of Secretary of the Merseyside Branch of Equity, a post he later relinquished in March 1972. Tommy Ryan was becoming a regular face on the small screen, appearing in ‘The Lovers’, ‘Family at War’ and ‘Crossroads’, which was also recorded at the ATV studios in Birmingham. Together, Ryan and Ross supported The Bachelors at the Shakespeare Showbar in Liverpool.

In 1973 they performed at venues in the Chester area where they were advertised as, ‘Liverpool’s No. 1 Comedy Duo’, ‘Britain’s Great Double Act’ and a ‘Great Comedy Team.’ One of the shows at the Royalty Theatre Club, Chester had members paying 35p and guests paying 65p, which included an undisclosed supper.

In 1974 following their TV appearance before millions of viewers they certainly used the publicity to boost their potential audience when they appeared again at the Royalty Theatre Club, Chester but this time with the headline billing of ‘Another great show starring the irresistible laughter makers from TV’s New Faces

In February 1976, at the Equity AGM at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool’s City Centre Eddie Ross was elected to the post of Chairman. He later appeared in a number of movies including Rocky O’Rourke (1976), The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983) and Letter to Brezhnev (1985).

In September 1978, the Merseyside branch of Equity held their second benefit show for raising branch funds at the Evan’s Medical Supplies Sports and Social Club in Speke. Ryan and Ross made an appearance with their regular knock-about comedy routine, which had the usual effect of getting the women shouting out from the outset, with Eddie getting the cheers and Tommy receiving the boos and hisses.

The year before his New Faces appearance soul singer, Colin Areety, another Liverpool act, had supported The Equals (the group that gave the world ‘Baby Come Back’) at a show at The Grafton in Liverpool. Following his TV appearance on the show, he made a tremendous breakthrough and became the first black entertainer to break down apartheid barriers in South Africa and went on to win numerous awards and made a number of television appearances. He later took his Barry White like, soulful voice, and performed for audiences in both Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia.

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