Six acts that made opportunity knock
27 Feb 2017 1 comment. tbs.pm/10888
From the TVTimes for week commencing 13 March 1971
There have been spoon players, fire-eaters, singers and comedians, even a man who impersonated a military band … but although not everyone can win, all will agree that appearing on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks! is an opportunity for stardom not to be missed
“Put it this way — I had some first-clss engagements, and then I was stricken by this terrible disease. Audiences got sick of me!”
It wasn’t really like that, but lugubrious Les Dawson’s humour is.
“But really, I wasn’t getting far, and the bits I’d done didn’t seem to mean anything either. When I did Opp. Knocks I was at the crossroads. I was an engineering rep., and if things hadn’t turned out the way they did I’d have stuck to that.
“I was auditioned in Manchester, five years ago now, and when it came to the actual show I won it according to studio audience reaction, but was beaten when it came to viewers’ votes. But the point about the show is that it’s a shop window. Instead of traipsing around agents, you only have to make one appearance on Opp. Knocks and they all know your face.”
Shortly afterwards Dawson received a phone call. He says it went this: “We need someone cheap to do a trial show of Blackpool Night Out. If we can’t get anyone else I’ll ring you back.”
That was the beginning of his.
“But of course,” he says, lapsing into his act, “you don’t know how long it can last, do you?”
Freddie “Parrot Face” Davies didn’t win when he appeared in the show — he was beaten by Bobby Bennett, now compere of Yorkshire Television’s Junior Showtime.
“But I’ll tell you what the show did for me,” says Davies. “It gave me an airing. It was a step in the right direction.”
In fact, he was auditioning for another show, Comedy Bandbox, when he was asked to appear on Opportunity Knocks!
“At the time (1964) I wasn’t sure what the show meant, but I’d just walked out of an eight-week summer season in Scotland where I was doing an outdoor show and it was nice to see the offer.
“Now, there’s no money in the show, only minimum Equity rates. But what they give you are lush sets and great musical arrangements — so forget the money. Worry about that later on in your career.
“I’m pleased I didn’t win. I didn’t have a strong enough act then.
“But I’m pleased I had the opportunity. I’ve the luxury of being able to turn down work now.”
Tony Holland, the muscle man who flexes his muscles to music, praises Opportunity Knocks! for another reason.
“Opp. Knocks,” says Holland, who once worked in a factory, “hasn’t only given me success — it has given me health.”
He appears in cabaret now, and even pantomime.
“It’s a very professional act. Before a show I oil my body and wear smart trunks, and I’ve introduced humour with the aid of a chest expander.
“My main ambition now is to get a postal body-building course started. Muscles by post.”
He was auditioned seven years ago in Manchester. “I remember when I turned up, Hughie put his face in his hands, and I must say I didn’t feel 100 per cent either. I was so nervous I got muscle tremble. My legs went out of control. But everyone liked it … they said they liked it.” Since then there’s been occasional competition.
“One chap, also a muscle dancer, was very good, but he made the mistake of painting himself gold. A great mistake, I think, because it did tend to hide his personality.”
❛ The point about the show is that it’s a shop window. Instead of traipsing around agents, you only have to make one appearance on Opp. Knocks and they all know your face ❜
Following her appearances on the show, Anna McGoldrick was voted Most Promising Opportunity Knocks! Personality for 1969 by the Variety Club of Great Britain. The previous year Mary Hopkin had won the award.
“I can tell you,” says Anna, whose home is in County Monaghan, Ireland, “that when I won, I was completely bowled over. I used to demonstrate electrical houseware, and it was my mother who entered my name. It was herself who was to blame. Up until then I’d done charity shows, and, of course, sung in the choir. I’d never earned a shilling before from singing.
“My husband owns a couple of ballrooms, and when the ’phone began to ring with the offers after the shows, he said we’d hold it a while and the offers would go up. And you know he’s shrewd because they did, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you I have a mink coat now, and even a shower in the bedroom.
“The success gave me such confidence. Before, I’d die rather than smile on stage, and now I’m all smiles.
“Bless him. Hughie, that is.”
John had to take time off from being a carpenter, Con time off from college, and Dec had to get his headmaster’s permission for time off from school when The Bachelors appeared on Opportunity Knocks!
They weren’t seen, they were heard. The time was 1956, and they were booked for the Radio Luxembourg version of the show. Though they were heard, they didn’t sing. At the time, they were an harmonica act called The Harmonichords.
Dec Clusky, now 28, says: “We turned up on the television show not long ago and Hughie was amazed that we’d done Opp. Knocks. Of course we’ve come on some since, but I remember we did do a lovely version of The Sabre Dance which is a test for any harmonica player.
“We came over from Dublin for the recording by boat, like boyos seeking their fortune. Only we didn’t find it.
“I remember we were amazed when they provided us with accompanying musicians. In fact, it threw us. There had been nothing like that before.
“In the end, a trio of singers won it, but for months afterwards, back home, we were billed as The Stars of Opportunity Knocks! As Heard On The Radio.”
Gerry Munro’s story is pure Happy Ever After stuff. He auditioned in April, 1969, sang in the show in his distinctive falsetto voice (it was Grade Fields’ Sally), and was almost immediately on the road to success.
Watching the programme was recording executive Les Reed who contacted Munro with the offer of a contract. Record hits followed. Sally sold over 178,000 copies, then Munro’s version of My Prayer sold 167,000.
“Before, it was a hobby more than anything,” he says. “I sang, every so often, for £8 a night. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’m 38, and you know I’d thought life had settled into a pattern, and suddenly this happens. I’m over the moon.
“I remember I did a very bad rehearsal. Everything went wrong. But when it came to the show it was smooth. I couldn’t put a foot out of place.
“The wife and I are looking for a house now near South Shields. After the show I celebrated with a cup of coffee. I’m a teetotaller, you see, but buying a new house is really the way to celebrate.”