If Jack Good had never existed, it’s unlikely that anyone would have had the temerity to make him up. The thoroughly British, Oxford-educated TV and music producer and actor was never part of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but the genre would never have quite been the same without him.
Good’s death on 24 September 2o17 at the age of 86, after complications from a fall, robbed us of a true original. Never knowingly unopinionated and endlessly inventive, he was instrumental in no fewer than three touchstone live performance series that were landmarks in both music and television: Britain’s Six Five Special and Oh Boy! and America’s Shindig!
His rapid emergence after his time as a BBC trainee led him in 1957 to Six Five Special, with which the Corporation dipped its toe into the now-undeniable world of rock ‘n roll. His was the revolutionary idea (years before Top Of The Pops and Ready Steady Go!) of filling the TV studio with teenagers dancing to the performers, who included such British favourites as Lonnie Donegan, Jim Dale and Petula Clark.
Refusing to meet the BBC’s demands for non-music content in the show, Good walked away from its reported audiences of 12 million and joined the commercial TV company ABC to create 1958’s non-stop music show Oh Boy! Cliff Richard was a fixture on the series, as were Marty Wilde and other early British rock ‘n’ rollers.
Good followed with such series as Boy Meets Girl and Wham!, and was behind the idea to change Gene Vincent‘s image to the iconic black leather look he became known for. As a musician, he played with Lord Rockingham’s XI, of ‘Hoots Mon!’ fame, and as a record producer, he was at the desk for Billy Fury‘s hugely-respected 1960 LP The Sound of Fury.
In the ’60s, Good wrote record reviews for music publications and followed his acting bent to appear in such series as Hogan’s Heroes and, later, The Monkees and the Elvis Presley movie Clambake. But by then he had repeated his British achievements by establishing the American pop TV series Shindig!, which ran for two series in 1964-65 and showcased such artists as Sam Cooke, the Beach Boys, Bo Diddley, Sonny and Cher and Jackie Wilson.
Good’s remarkably varied resumé also included notable achievements in musical theatre, including Catch My Soul, the rock version of Shakespeare’s Othello. The original US staging dramatically cast Jerry Lee Lewis in the role of Iago, while the British version featured P.J. Proby and P.P. Arnold among others. A film was made of it in 1974.
Good also conceived and directed the successful 1977 jukebox musical about Presley’s life, Elvis — The Musical, which brought Welsh rocker Shakin’ Stevens to a London audience and led to the record deal that helped him become the UK’s most successful singles artist of the 1980s. The popular 1992 musical Good Rockin’ Tonight was loosely based on the impresario’s life. In later years, Good became a Roman Catholic and devoted his time to painting icons, living in New Mexico before returning to Oxfordshire, where he passed away.
Always sure of his opinions and unafraid to go against the grain, he gave Disc & Music Echo the benefit of his views on the television scene of 1968, a decade after he had helped revolutionise it. “There is talent in Britain that just isn’t being projected in the right way,” he said.
“Unless an adventurous producer takes a programme into his own hands and really lets rip I can’t see anything than for things to just keep getting worse and worse. TV pop shows are geared totally to the record industry, and the record industry is geared to itself, which means breeding weaklings.”