At the time I was a Presenter with Roy North (of Basil Brush fame) on a teenie bop, program called ‘Get it Together’. It was a brilliant weekly light Ent TV show produced by Muriel Young at Granada studios in Manchester that had lots of the pop stars of the day all playing live, like Annie Lennox, Billie Idol, Status Quo, Chas and Dave. Interspersed with the ‘stars’ performances , Roy and I sang requests from the public and we did sketches with Ollie Beak (An owl puppet worked by Wally Whyton).
The show ran from 1977-1981 and it went through quite a few format changes during that time. Linda Fletcher was the first presenter on Get it Together but when Ollie Beak was added to the cast apparently she found it difficult to talk to ‘the Owl’ puppet without falling on the floor laughing and so with an upcoming European band tour ahead, she decided to leave the show.
This was a fabulous opportunity for me, and I was very happy to step into her shoes since the show was very popular and the house band was superb. It came under the Musical Direction of Mike Moran. The band itself included session drummer, Barry de Souza, top session bass player and Alan Jones who was also the bass player that toured with the Shadows. Guitarists Laurence Juber/Wings, Kevin Peek/Sky band, Ray Russell/top session player/song writer, organists Ritchie Close and Brian Ibbetson, percussionist Dave Hassell and the programmes Musical Arranger was Gerry Allison. The backing singers were Val Stokes, Lynn Garner, Victy Silva, Lavinia Rodgers and Susie.
For some reason talking to ‘the Owl” came easy to me and of course for Roy North it was second nature since he had spent years talking to Basil Brush.
I remember once when we were recording this sketch about Ollie Beak going to a fancy dress party, I had to hold up a small mirror so Ollie could see himself. During the rehearsal as the camera shots were being set up , I found myself practicing with the mirror and I asked Ollie Beak if he could still see himself in it , if I held it at a certain angle . Funnily enough he didn’t answer me dah….because of course Ollie Beak was a puppet and Wally Whyton his operator was drinking tea. Ollie seemed pretty real to me...
I have very fond memories of Get it Together, especially working with Roy and Ollie. One year, after filming the Christmas Special with Chaz and Dave, we did a sketch with Ollie Beak that was all about little Ollie coming to spend Christmas at my house.
I didn’t think any more about it but that year as part of my Christmas decorations I had put a stuffed toy Owl, sitting on the Tree by the window. One evening the door bell rang and there stood a group of children who were keen to meet Ollie Beak. They’d seen him up at the window. I had to think quickly and I didn’t want to disappoint them. So I explained to them that Ollie had a very bad cold and he couldn’t see anyone, but I’d get him to wave to them.
They were happy with that…. And Ollie and I did our very first improvised sketch from the window.
What fun those days were.