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Thursday, January 06, 2005:

Here's an article on Jack Good - who produced a number of great TV shows in the 60's and beyond. I got this from the Guardian. Please excuse my British pop obsession!

Oh boy!

He taught Britain how to rock'n'roll - and humble singers how to act like stars. Richard Williams salutes Jack Good

Thursday January 6, 2005
The Guardian

The coolest man in the history of British rock'n'roll is alive and well and living in an adobe chapel 7,000ft up a mountain in New Mexico. With his long grey beard and cowled habit of capuchin brown, this celebrated iconoclast now spends his days painting icons.

Unpredictability was Jack Good's hallmark. On leaving Balliol College, Oxford, in the late 1950s, he intended to forge a career as a Shakespearian actor. Instead, he became the man who gave British teenagers such groundbreaking TV shows as 6.5 Special and Oh Boy!; who turned Gene Vincent from a polite hillbilly into a leather-clad anti-hero; who brought PJ Proby to Britain; and who turned Othello into a rock musical.

All these achievements have their place in A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Greg Wise's film portrait, which is screened on BBC2 next weekend. During the course of an hour, Good is revealed as a dauntless eccentric with a penchant for walking away from success. What is harder for the film-maker to catch is the brilliance with which, at his peak, Good divined the essence of rock'n'roll and did his best to bring it to public notice.

It was in 1957 that the BBC decided to try to attract the new teenage audience with a magazine programme starting at five past six on Saturday evenings. They named it 6.5 Special and put it in the hands of two young producers, Josephine Douglas and her assistant, Good, both in their mid-20s. Keen to impose his taste on the show, which meant increasing the music content, Good persuaded Douglas to become the co-presenter. Under his guidance, rock'n'roll, in the shape of Tommy Steele and Don Lang's Frantic Five, shared the bill with the jazz of Johnny Dankworth and Humphrey Lyttelton, the skiffle of Lonnie Donegan and the Vipers, and the crooning of Denis Lotis and Rosemary Squires. Twelve million viewers, young and old, tuned in.

In 1958, barely a year after the launch of 6.5 Special, Good left the BBC, where he was earning £18 a week, and joined ITV, which gave him free rein as the producer of a weekly show called Oh Boy!, broadcast from the Hackney Empire. Out went jazz, skiffle and crooners. In came a succession of young singers explicitly inspired by the US stars whose outrageous names, costumes and singing styles Good so admired. Recipients of his advice on self-projection included a pack of sultry teenagers, including Cliff Richard, Billy Fury and Vince Eager, and the ill-fated Dickie Pride, whose alarming repertoire of ticks and shivers can be seen in Wise's film.

It was around this time that Good went to greet Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, famous for the classic Be Bop a Lula, off a transatlantic flight at London airport. Aghast to discover that the singer was not the fire-breathing rocker of his imagination but a pleasant young man in a check shirt and jeans, Good quickly persuaded him to swap his nondescript wardrobe for a set of black motorcycle leathers. Inspired by Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Richard III, he also talked Vincent into emphasising the disability that forced him to wear a calliper on one leg. "Limp, you bugger! Limp!" Good is said to have shouted as he coached Vincent from the wings.

Like many of the most interesting figures who peopled the first decade of pop music, Good was an evangelist on behalf of black American music. Writing an influential column for Disc, a pop weekly, in the early 1960s, he gave enthusiastic advance warnings of the imminent arrival of such rhythm and blues masterpieces as Gene Chandler's Duke of Earl and Stay by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. And in 1964, when he launched a new weekly show, Shindig, on US network television, he was able to fill it with such performers as Jackie Wilson, Ike and Tina Turner, the Miracles, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and the Blossoms, alongside Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers and various British guests, including the Beatles, whose first TV special, Around the Beatles, had been produced by Good.

Eventually, his television shows began to lose their magic and Good turned back to the stage. In 1968 he transformed Othello - which he had produced at Balliol 18 years earlier - into Catch My Soul, casting Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago. When the production moved from Los Angeles to London, the role was taken over by Proby. Good himself, still grasping for the career in legitimate theatre that fate had snatched away, played a heavily blacked-up Moor.

A decade later, at the Astoria Theatre in London, he produced Elvis, a musical in which the three ages of Presley were portrayed by Proby, Shakin' Stevens and Timothy Whitnall. Its finale, in which Proby majestically intoned American Trilogy against a back-projected film of Elvis's funeral cortege, epitomised Good's marvellous instinct for blending pop kitsch with high drama.

Ten years ago a musical based on his life, titled Good Rockin' Tonight, ran for more than 300 performances in London's West End, with a young Greg Wise playing the impresario himself. Those who wondered what happened next should watch Wise's film, and be grateful that Good's youthful energies went not into playing King Lear or copying Byzantine religious art but into shaping the sights and sounds of rock'n'roll.

· A Good Man Is Hard to Find is on BBC2 on Sunday January 16.

Tosh // 8:11 AM

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