Hosted by Hughie Green, the TV talent show to watch on Monday nights in the 1970s was undoubtedly Opportunity Knocks.
Hundreds of familiar names made their debut on the programme, including Collyhurst comedian Les Dawson and Oldham comic duo Cannon and Ball.
Freddie Starr, Paul Daniels, Bonnie Langford, Peters and Lee, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres, Paper Lace and even Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown all appeared on the popular ITV programme.
Hi-de-Hi star Su Pollard famously sang the Oklahoma number I Can’t Say No on the show in 1974 – but got beaten by a singing Jack Russell!
The problem for Pollard was that winners were decided entirely by public vote, even though there was a ‘clap-o-meter’ in the studio recording the strength of audience applause.
There were no such vagaries in the rival talent show New Faces, hosted by Derek Hobson and later Marti Caine. A panel of four celebrities, regularly including record producer Mickie Most and composer Tony Hatch, decided the outcome.
Manchester had its fair share of winners there too. Bury actress, composer and comedienne Victoria Wood topped the leader board in 1974 and soul group Sweet Sensation caught the eye in 1971.
Another Manchester entertainer – comedian and impersonator Aiden J. Harvey – got his big break by winning the 1974 final of New Faces. He went on to star in the TV shows Who Do You Do and Copy Cats in the 1980s.
Opportunity Knocks was first aired as a BBC radio programme on February 18th 1949 before moving to Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s.
There was a brief run on ITV in the summer of 1956, but the main programme – hosted by Green – was broadcast from July 1964 to March 1978.
Although the clap-o-meter indicated audience preference each week, postal votes always decided the winner. Green insisted that the votes had to be in the viewers’ own hand-writing to ensure fairness.
After its long run under Green, Opportunity Knocks was revived by the BBC in March 1987 with Bob Monkhouse as presenter. He lasted for three years before handing over to Les Dawson for a year in 1990.
The BBC version was the first TV show to use the now familiar telephone vote system to decide weekly winners.
Les Dawson, famous for his finely observed deadpan delivery and turning mother-in-law jokes into an art form, made his debut on Opportunity Knocks in 1967.
A talented writer and pianist as well as a comic, he went on to become one of the most familiar faces on British TV. Dawson starred in his own TV shows as well as hosting the panel game Blankety Blank.
Comedy duo Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball were welders in Oldham, working the club circuit, when they were contestants on Opportunity Knocks in the early 1970s.
Appearances on the Granada variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club and Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night Out led to the pair getting their own TV show in 1979.
After two pilot shows, New Faces began its first full series on ATV in July 1973 with Derek Hobson as host. Carl Wayne, formerly of the Move, sang the theme tune You’re a Star.
Contestants were marked out of ten in the three categories of presentation, content and star quality by a panel of four judges.
Joining Mickie Most and Tony Hatch were a host of celebrities including Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Ed Stewart, Ingrid Pitt, Lionel Blair, Lonnie Donegan and Muriel Young.
The final series aired in 1978 with singer Patti Boulaye as the eventual winner. She was the only contestant ever to achieve the maximum possible mark of 120 points.
Entertainer Les Dennis came close with 111 points, only marked down by Hatch who gave him nine points for presentation instead of the perfect 10.
It provoked a strong reaction from fellow panelist Askey who broke into a chorus of ‘Tony is a spoilsport.’
Victoria Wood never looked back after winning the show in 1974, going on to become one of Britain’s biggest entertainment stars with a string of shows, sitcoms, films and TV specials.
Eight-piece Manchester soul group Sweet Sensation were championed by Tony Hatch after appearing on New Faces, signing up with Pye records.
Their single Sad Sweet Dreamer, written by Tony Parton, went to Number One in the UK charts in October 1974 and No. 14 in the US Billboard Hot 100.
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