There has been renewed interest in Hughie Green recently thanks to a B.B.C.-4 play called 'Most Sincerely' starring Trevor Eve. The ex-'Shoestring' actor gave a decent performance, if not quite capturing the sheer awfulness of the real Green. To say that I did not like him would be an understatement - the man raised verbal diarrhoea to an art form, and had an annoying habit of rolling his eyes, rather like 'Private Frazer' from 'Dad's Army' during one of his 'we're doomed!' monologues.
Each week Hughie came on to the sound of Bob Sharples' big band and in that sickly way of his introduced singers, comedians, magicians, novelty acts such as Tony Holland ( the musical muscle man ), that bald guy who whacked himself on the head with a tray while singing 'Mule Train' ( which caused untold headaches among British children when they tried to copy him ) and blokes who made plates spin on wooden sticks to the 'Pick Of The Pops' theme. Then there was the legendary Brooks Aehron, who skilfully recreated Jerry Lewis' 'Typewriter Song'. It is easy to mock these individuals now, but there was a certain fascination to be had from them, like watching a dog chasing its own tail.
Let us not forget that 'OpKnocks' was responsible for creating a great many stars, among them Freddie Starr, Les Dawson, Lena Zavaroni, Little & Large, Mary Hopkin, Freddie 'Parrot Face' Davies ( remember him? ), Peters & Lee, and Pam Ayres. You may or may not like these people, but the fact is they managed to have more enduring careers than those of the twerps thrown up by 'The X Factor' and 'Pop Idol'.
Each act would be prefaced by a 'sponsor' - a member of the public or sometimes a celebrity ( 'Emmerdale Farm' actor Fraser Hines being one ). From time to time these sponsors gave Hughie gifts. Bob Monkhouse was ordered to resign from 'The Golden Shot' after being suspected of taking bribes, yet Hughie was doing it openly on air.
Sometimes the acts had a familiar look about them. One was Adam Daye, an impressionist whose repertoire ran to Kenneth Williams and...er, that was it. Daye went on 'OpKnocks' months after being seen in L.W.T.'s quick fire comedy show 'Who Do You Do?'. Comedian Pat Tansey got nowhere on 'OpKnocks' and went on its rival, A.T.V.'s 'New Faces' - which he won. But when a tabloid newspaper pointed out he had been on Hughie's show, the 'New Faces' production team had no choice but to disqualify him.
One element of 'OpKnocks' I disliked were the child performers. As soon as you saw some freckle-faced kid dancing and singing Shirley Temple-style you knew he/she was going to win. Grannies and granddads would go "Ah, isn't he/she cute?", before writing to Hughie in their millions. One such performer was Stephen Smith, who banged drums while his Dad - Jimmy - played the organ. They originally appeared under the name 'Jimmy Smith & Son', but a week later - after the first of many wins - relaunched themselves as 'Stephen Smith & Father'. Little Stephen's facial expressions whilst drumming suggested latent psychopathic tendencies. His favourite subject was his teeth. I used to wonder how a child could lose so many choppers in one week. It had to be that bigger boys were jealous of his success and were knocking them out with their fists. I knew how they felt. Another group of precocious youngsters were collectively known as 'The Weltons', whose speciality was performing the same song every week. I felt sorry for the adult acts unlucky enough to appear on the same shows - they needed their big breaks there and then, but did not get them because of sentimental old folks voting for these brats.
At the close of each edition, the acts would be paraded for the viewers one final time as the legendary 'clap-o-meter' - a device designed to measure audience applause, not sexually transmitted diseases - came into play. "Remember, folks!", said Hughie, "The clap-o-meter is just for fun!".
But time marches on and eventually the powers-that-be ( Jeremy Isaacs and Philip Jones ) decided that Hughie should go. Not only was the show hopelessly outdated even in 1978, but what did for him was his using it as a platform for his far-right political views. In fairness he only did it twice, but that was enough. Hughie politely asked the British public not to go on strike in future, before a choir struck up with 'Stand Up & Be Counted'. All around the nation you could the collective sound of raspberries blown. Hughie's patriotism led him to do other bizarre things, such as televising 'OpKnocks' from the British submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland one week as a warning to the U.S.S.R. in case they were thinking of attacking Britain.
Though Hughie reassured fans that he had no plans to retire, he was barely on the box after 'OpKnocks' ended. A decade later, it was revived - by the B.B.C. - but without Hughie. They brought in Bob Monkhouse and later former winner Les Dawson to front the show. Hughie was given the courtesy credit of 'Consultant'. Unsurprisingly, the new-look version was better than the old, even if it did give us Rosser & Davies. And I mean that most sincerely, folks.
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