Friday, November 17, 2017

Juke Box Jury (1959-1967)

Growing up in the UK, Saturday nights in front of the box was an essential way to hear and see some of the biggest names in pop and show business. The BBC had Juke Box Jury which was produced by Bill Cotton Jnr and ran from 1959 until 1967. The simple format was based on an American Show (KNXT) which featured DJ Peter Potter. David Jacobs (1926 - 2013) hosted the panel of four celebrities whose task it was to judge the commercial success (hit or miss) of recent 45 releases. Once the panel had commented and voted David would register the outcome with an appropriate sound effect (a ringing buzzer for a hit, and a rasping hooter for a miss).

In the event of a panel split decision, three members of the audience sat in the front row ready to give their 'tie-breaker' vote. Just to give the program an edge performer(s) would sometimes be hidden in the studio. Once the verdict was given they would then be presented to the panel. A feature of the program whilst the music was being played for a jukebox was to pan the studio audience and panel to catch their reaction. Head nods and finger clicking were common as was the hand jive.

The original panel consisted of Pete Murray (actor and DJ), Alma Cogan (singer), Gary Miller (actor and singer) and Susan Stranks (actor and presenter), who gave a 'teenager's view' on the offerings. Despite its instant appeal to young people it was also criticised mainly because of the ill-informed panelists and too much chatter between discs. To vary the format and address these issues the panel members changed from week to week.

The Beatles made up the panel on December 7th 1963; and the only time the panel numbered five was when the Rolling Stones were the invited judges (July 4, 1964).

Juke Box Jury had a weekly audience peaking at around 12 million and was a popular ‘gig’ for visiting celebrities like Roy Orbison, Phil Spector and The Seekers. David Jacobs catchphrase was "Let's hear what the panel thinks of the next record," which would be as well known then, as “Phone a friend is today.’ The program’s theme tune was ‘Hit and Miss’ by John Barry.

Eventually Juke Box Jury was axed in 1967 due to falling ratings, the programs format was exhausted and rival teenage programs like Top of the Pops had set new barriers for pop music television.

The program was twice revived; by Noel Edmonds (BBC, 1979) and then Jools Holland (BBC, 1989-90), neither attempt recaptured the popularity of the original.

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