Updated: Oct 13, 2021
The 15th episode of the first series was broadcast on 6 September 1951 and can be found on page 28 of the Radio Times.
The same issue also features a series of broadcasts from music festivals around the UK, including the Edinburgh Festival. The London Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras feature on the front cover, as do orchestras from New York and Manchester.
With music very much front of mind, let’s take a look at the musical acts that featured prominently on The Goon Show.
The Ray Ellington Quartet and harmonica virtuoso Max Geldray featured throughout the show’s run until 1960, even becoming semi-regular characters in the show. We will come back to them both at a later date, but for this blog we’ll look at the third musical act for the first two series: The Stargazers.
The Stargazers were a five-piece vocal harmony group founded in 1949 by Cliff Adams and Ronnie Milne. Adams had been in an RAF band during the Second World War, while Milne was in the Welsh Guards (although he later moved to Canada and served in the armed forces there).
Along with Marie Benson, Fred Datchler, and Dick James, they quickly became established on BBC radio. They featured on every episode of the first series of the Goon Show but left after the sixth episode of the second series in March 1952. It’s unclear exactly why, but they were getting plenty of other work elsewhere by this time.
A year after leaving the Goons behind them, the Stargazers released their first Number 1 single, ‘Broken Wings’. This, so Wikipedia says (citing The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits), was the first time a UK act had made Number 1 in the UK.
The group hit top spot again in 1953 with the novelty song ‘I See The Moon’ – the first UK act to do so with their first two charting records – and for the third time in 1954 with ‘The Finger of Suspicion’, backing Dickie Valentine. In total, according to Official Charts, they had nine top-40 hits in the UK.
Most notably, according to this 2013 article about Ronnie Milne, the Queen professed that the Stargazers were her favourite group.
Thank you to Goon fan (and obvious fellow nerd) Paul Winalski on the alt.fan.goons message board for compiling a list of every tune from every show. I have no idea how you did it, but hats off to you.
Paul’s research shows that for today’s episode the Stargazers performed a song called ‘Trucking’. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find a recording of it, so instead here is their version of ‘Close The Door’, which is suitably silly.
Incidentally, Eccles can be heard singing this song when he appears in ‘The Sale of Manhattan’ (Series 6 Episode 11).
Dick James later went on to be involved with The Beatles, helping secure a TV spot for the band to promote ‘Please Please Me’, before establishing Northern Songs with Beatles manager Brian Epstein along with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. There’s an element of circularity there as John was a self-confessed Goon fanatic, although I am stretching somewhat.