Booked… for seven years
2 Feb 2017 1 comment. tbs.pm/10658
From the TVTimes Midland edition for 11-17 August 1963
Three words from Mr. Lew Grade, ATV’s managing director, changed the life of Jerry Allen. They were: “You’re definitely booked.”
That was seven years and 1,600 Lunch Box shows ago — and Jerry Allen and his TV Trio are as popular with viewers as ever.
“We’ve become part of the furniture,” said Jerry, “a four-piece layabout!”
But Jerry and the boys (“We’re pace setters, not pace makers”) — Lionel Rubin, Alan Grahame and Ken Ingarfield – have not only provided the best in musical backing, but have become an integral part of the show.
They join in sketches, sing solos, and often ad-lib. Node Gordon said: “They say the Prime Minister is unflappable, but Jerry runs him a close second.”
Eula Parker declared: “Jerry is the finest musician I know and a most sympathetic accompanist.”
Lunch Box has now been running almost as long as ITV in the Midlands, and Jerry’s association with it is one of the longest in TV.
Running the show now calls for a detailed administrative set up, and Jerry needs a full-time secretary whose main job is coping with the huge musical library built up over the years.
“To date, we have a library of 4,600 song titles,” said Jerry. “But the actual number of arrangements probably runs up to nearly 20,000.
“Take a tune like Night and Day. There are probably 10 arrangements of this song alone!”
Said Joyce Brown, Jerry’s secretary: “He will go to infinite lengths to get the right arrangement for a singer. If he doesn’t think the ones we have are suitable, he’ll sit down and scribble away, often until midnight!”
Sometimes Jerry writes special music to fit a certain scene. Bert Weedon and Eddie Calvert have both recorded tunes written by Jerry and Lionel Rubin.
Jerry’s latest pet project is the Jerry Allen Big Band, seen on TV and at dances throughout the country.
“I couldn’t get down to forming such a band until I was fairly settled,” said Jerry. “Don’t forget that until we came to Birmingham for Lunch Box, we were touring all the time in variety.
“We did have one fairly long residency, however. That was in 1943 in Strike A New Note at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. I remember an act called Morecambe and Wise in the same show. Whatever happened to them?”
That was 20 years ago, yet Jerry is still in his thirties — and he has kept the same musicians for the past 10 years.
Lionel Rubin smiled. “It’s been a long sentence without even a comma, but don’t think we’re square.” he said. ‘‘We can twist with the best of ’em, Somerset Maugham, Bertrand Russell…
“Some people think that only the more mature housewives watch the show, but there are a lot of 18-year-old wives who look in. Once a week we specialise in playing numbers from the top 30.”
Said Jerry: “Lunch Box has been a lucky show for us. Apart from any personal gain (and just look at Alan Grahame; he’s got a car, a caravan, two motor-boats and a big dog to guard them all), we’ve been happy to see so many of the singers on the show leap to success.
“Matt Monro, Sheila Buxton, Frank Ifield and Susan Maughan were all Lunch Box regulars before they hit the jackpot. Other singers, too, have found a new lease of life after appearing in the show.
“As for Lionel, Ken, Alan and me, we just hope to continue for another seven years — and we don’t want remission for good behaviour!”