Friday, February 17, 2017

Jack Good : From Six Five Special to Shindig and beyond

Jack Good was born in 1931 in Greenford, London. He studied at the London Academy of Music and Drama and was later president of Oxford University Drama Society. In 1955, he appeared in "The Queen And The Rebels" at London's Haymarket Theatre, and the following year, he teamed up with producer Trevor Peacock to present a comedy double-act at London's famous Windmill Theatre. Aged 26, he became a television producer for BBC TV and produced the Six Five Special. The program aired in 1957, and was the first attempt at a live rock and roll program in the UK. The Six-Five Special was broadcast on a Saturday night (1957 - 1968) with Jack Good as the original producer and presenters, Josephine Douglas (co-producer) and disc jockey, Pete Murray. Murray’s catch phrase was "Time to jive on the old six five". The show opened with film of the Coronation steam train breaking the speed record at 112mph, and accompanied by the theme tune originally performed by the Bob Cort Skiffle Group. When the fad for skiffle passed the theme tune was re-recorded by the show's resident band, Don Lang and his Frantic Five. Pete Murray introducing the program with :

'Welcome aboard the Six-Five Special. We've got almost a hundred cats jumping here, some real cool characters to give us the gas, so just get on with it and have a ball.'

The program was carefully scripted by Trevor Peacock, Spike Milligan and Bernie Winters.

Unsure at first, how best to make a program specifically for adolescents, BBC executives envisaged a magazine format but Jack Good wanted a more informal atmosphere more like a club with music and a lot of movement. He arranged for special sets to be built to keep his masters happy, but just prior to going to air he had the sets removed and the floor space filled with a milling audience and performers. This gave the program an impromptu feel which worked perfectly and Six Five Special instantly became popular with a weekly viewing audience of between 8-12 million. The show was originally scheduled to run for six weeks, but the viewing figures meant the series became open-ended.

Concerned at the potential ill effects of American Rock and Roll on impressionable young minds, the BBC had a policy to promote British acts only, and whilst many emerging UK Rock and Roll stars like Tommy Steele and the Steelmen, Adam Faith and Jim Dale were given their television debut, skiffle was given a higher profile. In pre-Beatle times many younger adults enjoyed Trad Jaz and the music of the mouldy figs also featured. Pop too was promoted with regular contributions from Petula Clark, 'Little' Laurie London, and Michael Holliday.

In quick order, American acts began to feature including Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane.

There were a string of Six-Five Special regulars including the King Brothers, and The Mudlarks. The programme was influential and helped promote acts and their record sales. The Diamonds' 'Little Darlin' was an early beneficiary and Jim Dale, a singer who subsequently became the show's presenter. Marty Wilde and Adam Faith also benefited their careers from appearing on the program.

Jack Good launched the hand jive with an instruction book, Hand Jive at Six-Five. A priest in a dog-collar came in and did the hand jive to prove that the church was ‘with it’ and alive and kicking.

When the BBC started to interfere with Good's vision of the show by including educational and information elements., the relationship between Good and the BBC became strained. Jack Good was sacked as producer in 1958 and artistic differences over a stage version of the program were cited. Good promptly took his talents to rival network, ITV and created Oh Boy!. Ironically it was Oh Boy! that effectively killed-off Six-Five Special. Following Jack Good's departure, Jim Dale assumed the mantle of host, and former boxer and TV personality, Freddie Mills joined the regulars to present a sports item. Novelty features such as how to do the latest American dance crazes failed to attract attention and the show quickly lost its zest.

Sadly none of the Six-Five Special productions shows were taped, so they are lost forever. There was a low-budget film based on the show which survives.

Oh Boy! (1958 -1959) was the first teenage all-music show on British TV. Jack produced two pilot shows which were only broadcast in the Midlands. After they proved popular, Oh Boy! was given a national ITV slot on Saturday evenings, from 6.00pm – 6.30pm, in direct competition with 6.5 Special. The show was broadcast live from the Hackney Empire and featured a broad spectrum of music including ballads, jazz, skiffle and rock and roll. The house band were Lord Rockingham's XI. In the studio, Jack Good played and recorded with Lord Rockingham's XI and appeared on their hit singles "Fried Onions" and the chart topping "Hoots Mon".

Jack Good through the vehicle of Oh Boy! launched Cliff Richard to stardom. Initially Cliffs fist single was "Schoolboy Crush," but Good lobbied EMI to flip the single over to "Move It," and it became Richard's breakthrough hit.

After Oh Boy !, Jack went onto produce and appear in other teenage musical programs, Wham! and Boy Meets Girls (1959), which starred Marty Wilde and gave Joe Brown his break to stardom. When Gene Vincent appeared on the show, Good insisted the singer was dressed from head to toe in black leather with a silver chained medallion draping from his neck. He also was asked to pronounce his limp for the cameras. The image of rogue biker was right and Gene's popularity duly soared. Jack appeared in front of the cameras with different line ups in both Wham! and Boy meets girls as Jack Good's Fat Noise and Jack Good's Firing Squad respectively.

Away from the TV studio, Good temporarily managed a number of early rock and roll stars, including Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Jess Conrad and Cliff Richard. He also moved into music production with Billy Fury's extraordinary. Sound of Fury 10" LP. Many believe this to be the definitive UK rock album of the 50s.

From 1958 till February 1963, Good had a weekly column in the British music paper Disc. In 1962, Jack Good went to the US, where he worked intermittently as a stage actor and had a cameo appearance as an uptight naval officer in the comedy film, Father Goose (1964). Seeing the potential to have a US pop program, he self-funded and produced a pilot show called "Young America Swings The World", However, at the time the television executives showed no interest and Jack returned to England. There in 1964, Brian Epstein commissioned him to make a one-off program, ‘Around the Beatles’ with the Fab Four and featuring other artists.

Once the full impact of the English Invasion took hold in the US, ABC television executives, desperate to cash in, invited Jack Good to work with them and produce Shindig. The weekly show (1964-1966) was broadcast nationally and soon became the premiere, prime-time, viewing for teenagers in the States. Shindig showcased the best of English beat groups as well as featuring US new comers like, Righteous Brothers and Sonny & Cher. The program also included a range of diverse black artists from Howlin' Wolf to The Chambers Brothers. What started as a weekly half hour spot soon grew to an hour-long program, before switching to twice-weekly half-hour episodes. In 1966, Jack fell out with ABC executives and walked out and the show was cancelled to make room for Batman (TV series).

The series house band, the Shin-diggers (later renamed the Shindogs), featured a young Glen Campbell, Joey Cooper, Chuck Blackwell (drums), Billy Preston, James Burton, Delaney Bramlett, Larry Knechtel (on bass), Leon Russell (on piano) and Glen D. Hardin. Ray Pohlman was the show's musical director, and he was also a member along with, Campbell, Knechtel, and Russell of "The Wrecking Crew." The Blossoms, were an all-female vocal group featuring Darlene Love.

In 1967, he once again made a film appearance as a hotelier in Elvis' "Clambake" movie. In the same year Jack Good put together a band of musicians under the name of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a promotion for the Beatles album of the same name. The band toured venues in the UK for 5 months.

In 1968, Jack put on a rock adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello" with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago, the Devil incarnate in a Los Angeles theatre. The stage version later moved to London where P.J. Proby assumed the Lewis role and Good played Othello. Catch My Soul was later made into a film in 1974 with Richie Havens as Othello and Lance LeGault as Iago. The movie was produced by Jack Good and Richard M. Rosenbloom, and directed by Patrick McGoohan (DangerMan and The Prisoner). The film appeared at the same time as Jesus Christ Superstar. It failed as an arthouse film, was retitled "Santa Fe Satan", and reissued as a drive-in exploitation film.

Later in 1969, he worked with the Monkees on the TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee starring the Monkees. Jack Good also produced specials for Andy Williams and a network rock special that featured Jethro Tull, the Nice, and Ray Charles.

"Elvis", a biographical musical was conceived and directed by Jack Good and Ray Cooney. The West End production opened in 1977 with Presley played by by P J Proby (James Proby), Shakin' Stevens, and Tim Whitnall through the decades. The live musical accompaniment was provided by the rock and roll revival group, Fumble. The London run came to an end in 1979 before it went for a National Tour. It was later revived in London in 1996, and toured the UK until 2000.

Jack Good revived Oh Boy! For the theatre before reintroducing it to television in 1979 showcasing the retro rock and roll stars of the day, including Shakin' Stevens, Alvin Stardust (Shane Fenton), Joe Brown, Lulu, Bogdan Kominowski, Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, Les Gray, Johnny Storm (now performing with the Johnny Storm Band), the Shades and Fumble.

Let’s Rock (1981 -1983) followed the Oh Boy TV show and was broadcast across Europe and in the US in the early 1980s.

In 1992, Good was back with another musical "Good Rockin' Tonight". This was based on Good's life, and opened at the Strand Theatre in London. After the show transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre and closed after a 327 rock 'n' rolling performances. Once in his sixties, Jack Good decided to step away from show business and took up painting. He converted to Roman Catholicism and devoted his time to Christianity. He lived in New Mexico for many years, but returned to England to live in Oxfordshire.

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