held the London franchise, the Palladium Show was staffed and equipped by the Elstree Studios. For the 8pm transmission, the
riggers were the first in at around 6am to install the camera cables and communication lines to the scanner and sound truck
parked at the rear in Ramilles Place. The sound crew (of 3) arrived at 6.30am to rig for the pit band and the other stage
requirements. The sound director and number two arrived around 7.30am and expected to find everything rigged and working.
The plugging was
a mystery to many, including myself. Mike lines on stage were identified as one thing, went under the stage to be re-labelled
as something else, and then out to the room backing onto Ramilles Place where they were designated as something else, then
to the scanner. For instance the main riser microphone plugged into G4 on stage, LL3 under the pit, GF2 in Ramilles Place
room then to main bay in the sound truck to C7 sub-mix - these numbers are fictitious but give an idea. With some sixty or
more lines to plug up after humping in the heavy equipment was a trial in itself. If there was a band on stage as well, the
plugging multiplied. The senior sound gentleman working backstage had the plugging list, to lose it was nothing short of a
calamity. After the arduous rig, we worked the show itself. I recollect one such occasion - Shirley Bassey
was topping the bill. Jack Parnell's band had to dash from the pit to the stage during the commercial break after Beat
the Clock. Bruce Forsyth introduced Shirley amidst lots of banging and thumping from behind the tabs. Sound assistant Dave
Millard and I were to page the loom of band microphone cables as the revolve brought the band round. To our horror, the loom
got caught in the revolve gap. Dave flung himself forward tugging at the loom but it was still stuck and he was heading for
the stage. I grabbed his legs and managed to pull him back before he was about to make an unscheduled appearance on stage
just as Miss Bassey was making her entrance from the OP side. I had previously employed Dave at Radio Luxembourg and recommended
him for an ATV sound job. Years later, he became a television director at Yorkshire TV. He is still freelancing.
in the wings was super., to see the unbelievable magician Channing Pollack manipulate playing cards from out of nowhere or
the singer from My Fair Lady breaking down in tears at the end of her act as the curtain fell was awesome. Or Norman Wisdom
and Bruce Forsyth rehearsing the wallpaper sketch; possibly funnier than seeing it from the stalls. I recollect another magician
throwing a dove intended for the tails of his coat, missing the target and the poor bird finishing up-stage as dead as a dodo.
To see Tommy Cooper ‘explaining' his tricks to the director during the morning walk-through; was infinitely funnier
than the act itself. These are memories firmed into my mind. (and a hundred others).
Val Doonican boarded the ATV ship after a successful period at the
BBC. He was extremely easy to work with and took a surprisingly great interest in the sound control room; apparently, this
did not happen at the beeb. All the shows went out ‘live' The Jack Parnell Orchestra being under the direction of
Val's own MD Kenny Woodman. One particular programme I remember used the entire facilities of the Rupert Nieve 100 channel
sound desk. The band took up some 35 channels, the audience reaction microphones another 12, floor microphones and booms another
half dozen. But on this show, Acker Bilk and his band were guest stars using another 15 channels. On this show the band would
have to dash out from the band room during the commercial break and appear on stage for the finale, another 35 channels used
up, and probably quite a few pounds lost among the orchestral members in the race to studio D from C band room, some fifty
yards, many carrying their instruments.
For a programme of this complexity, I used my number two John Bain as a sub mixer handling all vocal mics. A sound
crew consisted of seven, the number two kept in the control room with the sound director, three number 3's were designated
bona fida boom operators whilst the last two were boom trackers and/or lowly foldback speaker pushers. As previously described
the foldback speaker operator could ruin the mix for the sound director by turning the level up too high. So, not such a lowly
job! I can proudly recall pushing the foldback on the Nat King Cole Show at Wood Green Empire. He was appearing in the Royal
Command Performance that year and an audience show was put together without him being present for any rehearsal. On the night,
the legendary floor manager Billy Glaze, throughout the show walked just out of camera shot to point the way for Nat King
Cole to move. Directed by Bill Ward, the show featured three sets, London, Paris & Rome. A 30-minute recess between each
part was necessary for two scenery crews to quickly re-set. The defunct orchestra pit was used as a moonlit, foggy park for
London, a jazz club for Paris to introduce the famous Nat King Cole Trio and gondolas on fake water for Rome.
Shot mainly on a Mole crane with
senior cameraman Johnny Glenister at the sharp end, I followed the crane around the huge sets keeping within good listening
distance for the artiste without being in shot. After the show, Nat King Cole, came over, shook hands and thanked me. That
was worth more than a week's wages.
Reverting to Val, in three years of live transmissions of The Val Doonican Show, I only missed one. They planned
to do a live transmission from Warwick Castle in the Midlands. Being an outside broadcast this would be facilitated by the
ATV Birmingham based OB unit. Taking Val out of the comfort of his studio was not the best idea. Because the band were unable
to appear in the castle, the music was all pre-recorded and in some cases Val had to mime to a track Val, always prided himself
on his miming, and concerned that nobody at home would notice. But while he was introducing one item, the track started too
early and he found himself talking over his own voice singing. He was not best pleased and the experiment was not repeated.
Sometime during this lengthy run, two Americans came to Elstree to sell Val Doonican to the United States as a sort of ‘Irish'
Perry Como. Bernie Kukoff produced and Jeff Harris directed the 13 part series, featuring a lot of American stars. Val enjoyed
the experience but despite his easy-going manner, the show failed to hit the spot as a summer replacement in America. I think
they went too far with the ultra Irish sets, donkey carts abounded etc.Many years later, I was sound director on a BIRDS OF
A FEATHER Christmas Special partially shot on the Universal lot in Los Angeles. Driving past the main office building I noticed
one of the prized parking spots was assigned to Bernie Kukoff, so he'd made it! Jeff Harris, a keen sports fan, became
a committed football supporter and often attended matches of the Leyton Orient ilk and followed minor clubs even after returning
to the USA. Where are you now Jeff?
The Royal Variety Show 1977 The American duo Gary Smith & Dwight Hemion were given the 1977 Royal Variety to
cast aimed at the American market. The production from the Palladium would be crewed by the Birmingham arm of ATV, I was not
allowed in the scanner but Gary & Dwight had organized the Rolling Stones owned sound truck to be parked alongside where
I would duplicate all the microphone lines and record the entire show on sixteen tracks. This involved the cooperation of
the Birmingham crew as every line going to their scanner had to come to mine. The following day, I would go to Los Angeles
and re-mix every item after Dwight had edited it. This was a task I was quite looking forward to. The top of the bill was
Julie Andrews, but Shirley MacLaine stole her thunder closing part three with her ‘If They Could See Me Now' routine.
Cleo Laine with the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra was also featured along with a myriad of other names. The show finished around
midnight and after the usual ‘green room' congratulatory drinkies, Colin Clewes (who would edit the British version)
requested that I give him a copy of the sound tapes for their use. I got to work with Mick, the Rolling Stones sound guy to
copy something like three hours of sixteen track tapes finishing the task around 5.30am. Although I had been in the Elstree
sound effects library at seven that morning to find train effects, I didn't feel too tired. An ATV hire car picked me
up at the Palladium and we set off with the pile of tapes. By midday, I am in a 747 heading for LA. On arrival, I was booked
into a rock and roll hotel on Sunset Blvd before hiring a Ford Pinto as a runabout to and from a dubbing studio, also on Sunset.
There, it was discovered that we had the original master tapes leaving behind the copies for the UK dub (oh dear, silly me!).
Over the next five days, Dwight would edit a chunk of the show in an edit suite on Burbank, bike it to me where we would find
the segment, remix and return. . . . it to Dwight for layback. The quantity of ‘chunks' was due to the huge number
of commercial breaks they put into the Royal Variety. After the job was done I slept for twenty hours before returning via
a snow covered New York. A cabbie asked me ‘what the hell was a Limey doing here in NYC in the damned snow'- I told
him. The show had gone out the previous night and he had watched it. ‘Hey' he said, summing up the two and half
hour show; ‘I watched that programme with some other guys and that guy with the fez . . . . he really broke us up -
terrific'. I got several comments like that from the hotel staff. So, Mr. Tommy Cooper, you could have been a big star
in the States with your own show in Vegas, long before David Copperfield.
After a successful series of musical Specials made in Hollywood, Julie
Andrews came to Elstree to continue the good work. Husband Blake Edwards would string along to executively produce the new
series and possibly to further liase with Lew Grade for the continuance of the highly successful Peter Sellers Pink Panther
Christmas Show was shot perilously close to transmission date with guests Peggy Lee as the sugar plum fairy and Peter Ustinov
as a comedic Father Christmas. The Dougie Squires 2nd Generation singers and dancers added to the splendour of the beautifully
designed Christmas settings whilst the Treorchy Male Voice Choir travelled down from Wales to accompany Julie on four set
pieces. These 100 Welshmen managed to drink the bar dry in the first lunch break before gathering in Studio D band room to
record two perfectly performed tracks. Julie's previous musical conductor was the legendary Nelson Riddle, who, apparently,
was unable to do the UK series preferring to care for his un-well wife. Ian Fraser took over the baton. Musically, Ian, a
British ex-pat, had made quite a name for himself in Hollywood, and this programme was to be the start of a long running relationship
between us for some years to come. Ian is a brilliant musician, arranger and conductor. He played the harp and all the usual
keyboard instruments to perfection. Unlike some musical directors, Ian had an earnest interest in the sound aspect of our
shows and greatly admired our facilities. The orchestral arrangements were largely the work of Andre Previn. Even today, I
don't think I have ever heard better arrangements for Christmas carols. Before shooting, Ian arranged for the crew chiefs
to visit the Albert Hall, where Julie would be performing all the Previn Christmas stuff along with her usual repertoire.
After the show, Ian, acting the perfect host, took us all to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. During the meal Ian suddenly
noticed a man pushing a wheel chair leaving the restaurant. Incredibly, it was Nelson Riddle and the wheelchair occupant was
Mrs Riddle. He came to our table and Ian introduced us all. I don't think many knew who he actually was. However, Nelson
Riddle was my idol; I had admired his records and accompaniment of top stars for many years. He seemed a most charming man.
Wishing Ian all the luck in the world with the forthcoming Julie Andrews project, he left. Later, when Ian called for the
bill, the waiter explained that Mr. Riddle had settled it. Wow! What an exit!
Peggy Lee arrived complete with oxygen mask and two boy friends. One
of whom, I think, was elbowed after a couple of days! Peggy and Julie did a Sugar Plum Fairy 16-minute medley. For this we
had the casings of the C451 hand microphones jewelled. They looked terrific. Neither needed ugly windshields (my pet hate)
both artistes had perfect microphone technique and never popped once.
Engelbert Humperdinck, or ‘Enge' as he was affectionately known (precede it with ‘stone')
was from the same stable as Tom Jones and Gilbert O'Sullivan. Gordon Mills the ‘inventor' of Enge (proper name
Gerry Dorsey) was fashioned into a super star by Gordon - a role that Enge took on board with gusto. I sound directed all
eighteen Humperdinck Specials with some of the most fabulous guest stars ever. I fondly remember an ageing Phil Silvers in
his ‘Bilko' outfit, Donald O'Connor with oxygen standing by after a short dance sequence. Dionne Warwick saving
her voice for the night to Enge's consternation. There was also a hilarious rehearsal performance by the American comedian
Milton Berle, known universally as Mr Show Business. It was the custom for director Colin Clewes to walk the artistes through
the show the night before being on camera. Everybody else watched this from the side-lines making various notes in cahoots
with Colin's directions. Mr. Berle, from the outset, was not happy being directed. .. walk here, do that, walk back etc.
Instead, he took over the role and at one point even showed Enge how to descend a set of stairs with elegance. He did this
by getting Enge to watch carefully as he did it, rather exaggeratedly and talking the move the whole time. We all looked on
in wonderment. Never before had a guest star been as oddly entertaining during a walk-through. Colin, a legendary ex-BBC senior
cameraman, very kindly let Mr. Berle do his thing. He'd probably change it later to suit his pre-conceived camera plot.
Enge smiled more on that rehearsal night than I remember before. Did he take in all the suggestions by Mr Show Business? Was
it going to work on the night before an audience?
The dress rehearsal the following day still instigated verbal direction
from Mr Berle, rarely keeping to the scripted plot. It was to everybody's astonishment that ‘on the night' before
the audience Milton Berle performed to the script with perfection. His lines were delivered with utter polish and immaculate
timing. His deference to Enge was excellent. The show went so well and we all knew by now why Milton Berle was referred to
as Mr Show Business.
Enge had a problem with foldback nuff said, at
this time! The Engelbert Humperdinck series had gone out coast to coast in the States at least four times surely enabling
the success of Enge's US tours? Talking about foldback The Des O'Connor shows went well as a summer
replacement in the States sponsored by Kraft and called The Kraft Music Hall. It even extended to a 2nd series. Whether this
was due to executive producer Mort Lachman's desire for another season of golf at Carnoustie is a matter of conjecture.
A Kraft representative ensured (thankfully) that no ‘cheesy' jokes crept into the script. Des had all the advantages
of big time guest stars of the Jack Benny calibre and the ‘I say, I say' segment with the likes of Roger Moore,
Rachael Welch, Norman Wisdom and visiting superstars popping in to do a gag, certainly enhancing the show. Des had an easy-going
vocal style but if he couldn't hear his voice coming back from the PA, he was unhappy (even doomed). I gave him PA of
his voice alone belting out of loud speakers dotted around the studio, under the audience area and behind the cyclorama. He
was more than happy with that, although other sound directors throughout the industry may have considered I went too far.
They were probably being pressed for a similar rig. Keeping the talent happy again . . . . . and again!
Two guys who kept the talent perpetually happy AND the crews was the remarkable team of Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion
responsible for many great shows emanating from Elstree between 1969 and 1977* Kopykats Series Herb Alpert Specials* Burt
Bacharach Specials Julie Andrews on Sesame Street* Barbra Streisand & other musical instruments Peter Pan with Danny Kaye*
Ann-Margret Olsen Special Ann-Margret Smith Special* Bing Crosby Merrie Olde Christmas Special Sammy Davis Special* Julie
& Jackie Gleason, Peter Pan (1st stereo production from ATV Elstree)* Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme - George Gershwin
and Cole Porter Specials. Gary & Dwight were also involved with the first series (1976) of THE MUPPET SHOW.
West End Tales was a nice comedy cops & conmen caper directed
by the talented Jimmy Gatward. Jimmy was a film director and got me to operate on the floor with a floor mixer and headphones
. . . oh and a take bell, an unknown item in television broadcasting. This experience whetted my appetite for the film industry
quite a bit. He had a marvellous system of working, shooting the master shot of the whole scene in one take. Then single
shots followed by two/three shots from both angles, then the master shot once more. It may seem convoluted but in edit he'd
have everything covered to perfection. When we looked at him enquiringly after each last take, he would say (after glancing
at his shooting script) ‘Lads, you're on your wrong marks' and we'd hastily get set for the next scene.
I began to think, if this efficiency happens in films, what am I doing here in telly? Later, we did a lot of location work
in the West End, always at weekends when it would be quiet. Oh yeah! 6am is when road works start in the West End with shop
alarm bells ringing unattended for hours on end. Occasionally, we had to change venues because of this. Most times it was
freezing cold and Roger Wilkinson (my number two) and I looked forward to a lunchtime hot toddy before the afternoon shoot.
Jimmy decided to post produce after the entire series was shot. Part way through the sound relaying task of dubbing, he unexpectedly
(to say the least) won the franchise to run the new Southern Television Company, now to be called TVS. Jimmy shot up in the
world to chauffeured cars and high tech meetings. He left West End Tales to us. The show was not un-like MINDER, very light
and very enjoyable .I think Mr. Gatward went to Australia to get back into films after TVS.A touch of technicality - on WEST
END TALES locations we used the filmic Nagra tape machine to record all sound for eventual relaying onto master video tape.
It may be worth explaining this procedure at the post production stage. The 2" video tape allowed just two outer tracks
for sound storage. These tracks were far from hi-fi and after editing from master to master then copying and recopying by
other transmission stations, often ended up sixth or more generation sound. Magnetic tape was not generation friendly and
with the consequent increase in background noise the finished sound product did not fare well. By relaying, the 2nd generation
sound would be more acceptable. The importance of this will be obvious in the BOB HOPE ROYAL GALA segment (The Freelance Life;
to come) where the sound went out in the States something like 9th generation. Today, of course, with digital sound reproduction,
a hundred transfers from one source to another would not affect sound reproduction one iota.