“Over the points, over the points, over the points…”

6-5 Main titles

At the end of the 1950’s the BBC, anxious get into the developing ‘teen telly market’, decided to create a TV programme aimed directly at teenagers. To head up the project they brought in Jack Good, a young pioneering producer with a hot idea. Why not make it a 100% rock ‘n’ roll show with non-stop music, lots of movement, teenage stars, some hip presenters and an audience of young, trendy boppers? Sound good? Mmmmm… Not for the BBC!

Jack Good directing

With less faith in the enthusiasm of teenagers than Jack Good the BBC executives dismissed the idea. They wanted a family-friendly magazine programme which would appeal to both ends of the audience - mums and dads and their children. As well as featuring trend-setting skifflers and early rockers like Lonnie Donegan, Jim Dale, Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde, they wanted petticoated and tuxedoed balladeers like Dickie Valentine, Michael Holliday and Joan Regan and jazzers like Johnnie Dankworth and Cleo Laine. To add to the fun the BBC insisted on ‘comedy’ acts like Mike and Bernie Winters, Spike Milligan and the heavy handed boxer Freddie Mills as a sporting role model! If the regular ‘informational’ film inserts on healthy and wholesome activities like rock climbing, camping and canoeing weren’t enough to put off the average teenager then the general ‘aren’t we groovy, daddio?’ style of the presenters Pete Murray and Josephine Douglas certainly was…

6 5 SPECIAL poster


Pete Murray
 : 'Welcome aboard the Six-Five Special. We've got
               almost a hundred cats jumping here, some real
               cool characters to give us the gas, so just get
               on with it and have a ball.'

Jo Douglas :   (translating for parents) 
'Well, I'm just a square
               it seems, but for all the other squares with us,
               roughly translated what Pete Murray said was:
               "We've got some lively musicians and personalities
               mingling with us here, so just relax and catch
               the mood with us.'

“Over the points, over the points, over the points…”

The ‘6-5 Special’ launched on Saturday 16th February 1957. Although the format did grate with many teenagers it managed to pick up an audience and finally ran for 96 episodes, ending on 27th December 1958.By then Freddie Mills had gone and so had Pete Murray and Jo Douglas, replaced by Jim Dale. Jack Good had gone too, taking his energy and original idea for a nonstop, constantly moving pop music show with him. Early in 1958 he joined the commercial TV station ABC. On 13th September 1958 he launched “Oh Boy” - a hi-energy format presented as a live and lively rock ‘n’ roll concert with a wild honking band, some sexy teenage stars, a bevy of attractive backing singers and a screaming audience. Overnight ‘The 6-5 Special’ was dead in the water and almost immediately axed. There were few teenage tears shed. The BBC did not return to contemporary pop music until 1st January 1964 with “Top of the Pops”.

“Over the points, over the points, over the points…”

Twickenham Studios Photo BFI

Early in 1958 the ‘6-5 Special’ steamed into St Margarets where Alliance Films based at Twickenham Studios were producing a low budget film set around the show. Starring the usual suspects like Lonnie Donegan, Dickie Valentine, Petula Clark, Jim Dale and surprisingly the veteran classic actor Finlay Currie the film ‘The 6-5 Special’, described since as a ‘classic quirky rock ‘n’ roll timepiece’, is in hindsight a corny clunker and dated before it even left the studio. ‘Timepiece’ it might have been. ‘Masterpiece’ it wasn’t. We shouldn’t be too concerned. Seven years later, in 1964, it was the Beatles who came to St Margarets to make “A Hard Day’s Night” - and as everybody knows, the Beatles were the Beatles and the film was an undeniable hit!

6 5 SPECIAL pete and jo

6 - 5 Special Storyline

Two girls from Glasgow with dreams of pop stardom (but lacking any hint of Scottish accent) board the ‘6-5 Special’ sleeper to London. The train just happens to be carrying top artists of the time like negligee wearing Joan Regan (in a sleeper), guitar strumming Jim Dale (in a corridor), avuncular Finlay Currie (behind a newspaper) and Pete Murray and Jo Douglas (in the restaurant car). Dreams come true when Pete and Jo invite the girls to join them on ‘The 6-5 Special’ TV Show’! Wow!

Eventually the girls - looking just like their mums - reach London and ‘The 6-5 Special’ studio where they enjoy seeing Dickie Valentine (in a straw hat), Jackie Dennis (in a set of tartan trews) and Lonnie Donegan (in an evening suit with bow tie) do their assorted thing. Playing the part of Studio Director is Jack Good.

Jim Dale, the Kentones and Desmond Lane getting up to what your granny got down to… with 2 star struck ‘teenagers’ in the movie ‘6-5 Special’ shot in St Margarets

– from Martyn Day