JACK GOOD (By Steve Walker)
Born 7 August 1931, Greenford, Middlesex, England
In British music history only one person can claim to have played a similar role to that played by Alan Freed in America when spreading the word about Rock'n'Roll -- that person is Jack Good. Journalist, record and musical producer (Catch My Soul), the first man to put Rock'n'Roll on British TV with the legendary Oh Boy -- and who gave Howlin' Wolf his only TV appearance on Shindig with The Rolling Stones.
Jack Good studied at the London Academy of Music and Drama and was later president of Oxford University Drama Society. In 1955, he appeared in "The Queen And The Rebels" at London's Haymarket Theatre, and the following year, he teamed up with producer Trevor Peacock to present a comedy double-act at London's famous Windmill Theatre. During the same year Jack married German student Margit Tischer and was appointed as trainee-producer at BBC television.
His final test film was centred on boxer Freddie Mills, who became part of the presentation team on BBC TV's "6.5 Special", along with Josephine Douglas and Pete Murray. Jack first produced "6.5 Special" on 16 February, 1957.
While he became evangelical about rock'n'roll, Good's staid superiors obliged him to balance the pop with comedy sketches, string quartets and features on sport and hobbies. He was fired for flaunting BBC dictates by presenting a stage version of the show. Snapped up by the Beeb's fledgling commercial rival, ITV, he broke ground with "Oh Boy!", which introduced Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde and other home-grown rockers to the nation. So swiftly did its atmospheric parade of idols - mostly male - pass before the cameras that the screaming studio audience, urged on by Good, scarcely had pause to draw breath.
For a more detailed look at "Oh Boy", try these two pages:
While overseeing the less exciting "Boy Meets Girls" and "Wham!", Good branched out into publishing - and record production of such classics as Billy Fury's "Sound Of Fury" L.P. in 1960
>From 1958 till February 1963, Good had a weekly column in the British music paper DISC. Not exactly a source of reliable information, but always entertaining.
In December 1959, Gene Vincent returned to the UK to embark upon his ill-fated tour with Eddie Cochran, who would follow in January. Jack Good had booked Gene for his "Boy Meets Girls" TV shows, and was less than impressed upon meeting Gene for the first time. Contrary to the wild man image created by the scores of wrecked motel rooms across America, Gene came across as an extremely polite Southern country gentleman, who addressed Jack as "Sir". "This won't do," said Jack, and set about changing Gene's image, dressing him from head to toe in black leather and draping a silver chained medallion around his neck. Many of Gene's British followers identified with the black leather "biker" image and Gene's popularity duly soared. Even more so after his much-talked-about appearance on his first Jack Good "Boy Meets Girls" show ....Gene, attempting to disguise his dragging leg for the TV audience was memorably encouraged by Jack to "Limp, you bugger, limp!" for the cameras. Jac k has since claimed that he was attempting to produce a figure that strongly resembled Shakespeare's "Richard III".
1962 found Good in North America, where he worked intermittently as an actor - notably on Broadway in C.P. Snow's "The Affair" and, in 1967, as a hotelier in Elvis' "Clambake" movie. His self-financed pilot programme, "Young America Swings The World", fell on stony ground but, after Brian Epstein commissioned him for "Around The Beatles", he superintended the nationally-broadcast pop showcase "Shindig" which, as well as "discoveries" like the Righteous Brothers and Sonny & Cher, represented a media breakthrough for diverse black artists from Howlin' Wolf to The Chambers Brothers - and held its own in a ratings war against "The Beverley Hillbillies" on a main rival channel. Cher tells the story of how and she and Sonny first got started in the US, and how they were not well received because people thought they were weird. She went on to say, "there was a man called Jack Good who was presenting a USA show called Shindig, who loved us. He said "you've got to go to England", so we sold everything, and we were famous there first. Even the older generation would ask for our autographs, and when we got back to America we were huge, and everyone thought we were English."
Leaving "Shindig" to fend for itself, his most interesting career tangent of he late 60's was "Catch My Soul", 1968's rock adaptation in a Los Angeles theatre of Shakespeare's "Othello" with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago. For a season in London, P.J. Proby assumed the Lewis role with Good himself as The Moor. Jack had produced "Othello" as a young undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford in 1950.
Back in the USA, he ticked over with one-shot television specials concerning, among others, Andy Williams, The Monkees and 1970's Emmy award-winning classical/pop hybrid of Ray Charles, Jethro Tull, The Nice and The L.A. Philharmonic.
On an extended visit to England from his Santa Fe home, Jack put on "Elvis", a biographical musical starring, initially, Proby and Shakin' Stevens, before attempting an updated reconstruction of "Oh Boy!" (later transferred to television) at the same London West End theatre.
By the 80's, income from the inspired Good's less frequent television and stage ventures underwrote another vocational episode - as a painter. In the early 90's it was reported that Good was taking up the priesthood to become a monk, but I saw him on TV a month or so back, so I don't think this went any further.
On 28 January 1992, the musical "Good Rockin' Tonight", devised by Jack Good, opened at the Strand Theatre in London. Brilliantly staged by Good and Ian Kellgran, the story, which was loosely based on Good's life, was really an excuse to celebrate some 60 of those seminal numbers from the 50s and early 60s. After the show transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in July, the jiving in the aisles (literally) continued until November when the show closed after a 327 rock 'n' rolling performances.
Acknowledgements : Alan Clayson's book "Beat Merchants" (Blandford / Cassell, 1996) was very useful in the writing of this article.
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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