Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Handful of Songs!....

Kathy and Alistair
Made by Granada studios in the late 1970s - early 1980s, this pre-school lunchtime programme was shown on ITV around midday (Muriel Young was the Senior Producer of Children's Programmes at the time before she became Director of Children's Television). Each episode lasted approximately ten minutes and was hosted by two presenters (one male and one female). Kathy Jones (Tricia Hopkins in Coronation Street) was the first presenter on the show partnered with a chap called Alistair Johns.
Kathy and Alistair
Kathy then partnered Keith for a while until Maria Morgan came along to replace her. Maria partnered Keith right up until the last episode (379th) was recorded. At the start of each programme, the duo (Kathy or Maria) would be perched on their seats, microphones at the ready, Keith with his guitar.

Muriel Young had got the idea for "A Handful of Songs" after working with Wally Wyton. Wally Wyton had released an album of nursery rhymes but was busy with Folk Club on Radio 2. Hence Muriel Young chose Kathy Jones and another presenter called Alistair Johns. The show was only shown in the Granada region to begin with (explains how Kathy having spent 16 years being brought up in Manchester). When it went to ITV though, Keith and Maria joined the show. Just when the show got up to programme 379, Muriel Young decided to retire and the new Director of Children's television cancelled "A Handful of Songs" as well as other classics like "Clapperboard" (long time since I have seen that one presented by Chris Kelly). Maria went off to the West End to play Evita. Keith now runs a family business building exhibition stands around the world.
Kathy and Alistair, then Kathy and Keith and then Maria and Keith would sing a variety of songs each week but the all time favourite of mine was "A windmill in Old Amsterdam." Such was the popularity of the duos, several LPs were released . The first LP title was "A Handful of Songs."
A Handful of Songs
Kathy was also the presenter on other Granada children's programs such as "Songbook" and "Kathy's Quiz." first shown in 1976 (see below). Most people though, may remember her from "How We Used To Live" one of ITV's classic school children's programmes as well as Coronation Street.

Song Book was similar to the other programs, but the guitarist was called Leo Dove. Kathy and Leo would have a different guest singer on for each program. Kathy informed me that if anyone carefully watched the series they would note that the actual song book differed from week to week, because they kept losing it. One week it was kept in Mu's (Muriel Young) office, then someone else would move it to props department. It never dawned on us to keep it safe, even though it was only a cover that we used to keep the scripts in!
Keith and Maria released an another "A Handful of Songs" which had classic songs such as: A Handful of Songs, Yellow Submarine, Rupert the Bear, The Owl and the Pussycat, Puff the Magic Dragon and A Windmill in Old Amsterdam.
The third LP was called "Another Handful of Songs." Maria Morgan also released a few singles, the titles being "Best Part of Breaking Up" and "Touch me Baby."
This little show was an absolute gem for young kids and is truly missed. It's a shame they do not try to resurrect such ideas for today's children instead of dishing up weakly scripted and awfully drawn animations by the dozen. "A Handful of Songs," "Stepping Stones," and "Hickory House" certainly set a mark which few other pre-school programs could ever hope to reach let alone surpass.

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