West End!

Granada’s new variety show

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 7 October 1962

THERE are no down-the-bill acts in West End, a Granada series of smooth, slick, swinging variety shows which begins on Wednesday.

No introductory acts pave the way for the star performers. Instead, the show is top-of-the-bill from start to finish.

It takes big names, big performers, to do this kind of show. And West End has them.

The first show is built round Della Reese, the great coloured jazz and Gospel singer. Another has George Sanders — and no women in it — while a third spotlights Alan King, the American comedian who, on his first visit to Britain, shared a bill with Judy Garland and even managed to steal some of her sweet thunder.

Della Reese has appeared only once on British television – three years ago in a Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the Palladium.

Della has been singing since she was six. Now she is 31 and has a contract to appear 16 weeks a year at the Flamingo, Las Vegas.

It may not be the kind of place approved of by the elders of the New Liberty Baptist Church, Detroit, where she started her career, nor the ideal spot for a girl who prefers to sing Gospel songs.

But Della loves working there.

And it might be suggested that Las Vegas gamblers are more in need of spiritual uplift from the Gospels.

Della was only six when Mahalia Jackson, perhaps the greatest Gospel singer of all, went to Detroit, heard her, and invited her to join her troupe.

Della stayed with them for five years and then left to go to college, as she wanted to be a psychiatrist.

But she took time off from her studies to form a Gospel group there.

When her mother, who had been a domestic servant, died and her father, a factory hand, became ill, Della left college to earn a living, first as a taxi-driver, then as a switchboard operator, and finally as a lift attendant.

But she still sang whenever she could, and at 21 chopped off her last name — Taliaferro — which most night-club managers and patrons would have found unpronounceable.

Then she cut her first name, Dellareese, in half, and she became a full-time singer.

Quickly she became known, first in the clubs of her home town of Detroit, then throughout America, and finally wherever good jazz singing is welcomed.

Della still says that Gospel, which she describes as “dramatic pop singing,” is the closest thing to her heart. Exactly how close it is and how dramatic she can make it sound, will be heard as soon as the show opens with her version of Lonesome Road.

A girl who also had a dramatic start is Barrie Chase.

One moment she was one of the girls in a Hollywood chorus line. The next she was Fred Astaire’s dancing partner in his first TV spectacular.

After the Astaire show, the slim, elfin-faced red-head, now 26, became one of the most sought-after girls in American show-business and was put under long-term contract by 20th Century-Fox.

She is, says Astaire, “the most beautiful mover I have ever seen.”

West End gives viewers the chance to test Astaire’s judgment.

Comedian Johnny Carson does a roving reporter-type interview with Barrie as she dances.

In America he has his own television show, called Who Do You Trust? which has been running for half an hour a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, for five years.

He was able to get to Britain for West End only by taping several shows in advance.

Another comedian in the show is George Kirby, making his first British television appearance.

He was a barman in a Chicago club and, watching rehearsals one day, he asked the producer to let him go on.

He gave some of his impressions and so started on the road that led him to the Copacabana club in New York, the first negro comedian to play there.

Completing the bill for the first show are The Oranim Zabar Trio, in which — in the words of the Irving Berlin song — Geula Gill has her sergeant working for her now, or at least, working with her.

When Geula went into the Israeli army, Dov Seltzer was her sergeant, and Michael Kagan was in the same unit. They teamed up.

Since then they have taken their folk music all round the world.

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