“In sharing enjoyment with other people you not only enjoy yourself but you make a living”
In The Media Spotlight
During his hectic schedule, Andy still found time to make – or make appearances in – many UK television shows over the years ensuring his profile was kept high at home whilst he was touring the world, including: Andy Stewart in London (1962); Christmas Night With The Stars (1962/1963/1964); The Saturday Show (1962); The Andy Stewart Show (1962/1963/1964/1965); The Good Old Days (1965); The Man Behind the Star (1965); A Song for Scotland (1966); The London Palladium Show (1967); Show of The Week: The Scottish Minstrel (1967); Andy Stewart Sings the Songs of Scotland (1968); Show of The North (1969); Stewart Style (1969); The Andy Stewart Show (1970/1971); The Scottish Minstrel: Sir Harry Lauder (1970); Stars on Sunday (1970/1971/1972); Calum’s Ceilidh (1971); Pig and Whistle (1973); Showcase (1974); This Is Your Life (1975/1978); The Andy Stewart Show (1975/1976/1977); Andy’s Party (1978/1979/1980/1981); Talking Scots (1979); Thingummyjig (1980); Hear Here (1983); Shindig (1986); Shammy Dab (1986/1987); Live at One-Thirty (1987); and of course many Hogmanay shows.
His first major high-profile TV series following The White Heather Club was broadcast from January 1965. Part-scripted by Andy himself and produced for the BBC in Scotland by Iain MacFadyen, With Andy was a thirteen week series broadcast nationally on BBC1, from a large studio setting, with the Augmented BBC Scottish Variety Orchestra, a full cast and dancers, giving Andy an opportunity to demonstrate his ability as an all-round entertainer and presenter introducing a wide range of International Variety artists such as Spanish vocal group Los Zafiros, Patsy Ann Noble from Australia, Scandinavian singer Gitte, and closer to home, Eric Sykes, Ray Alan & Lord Charles and Chic Murray.
Whilst TV “specials” provided Andy with an opportunity to reach a national audience and showcase his many talents, they also allowed him to indulge himself occasionally, as demonstrated in his tribute to one of his personal heroes, Maurice Chevalier:
“Maurice Chevalier was really another one who, as much as anybody else, inspired me to go into Variety. I thought what he’s done for France; I could maybe in my own small way do for Scotland. As students we had concession tickets for the King’s every week. When Maurice Chevalier was appearing none of my friends wanted to go so I went on my own. I’d never even seen the man on stage before, but I was already doing impressions of him going on what others had told me.
I swear as I sat in the audience I must have been blushing about the inadequacy of my impersonation. The man had magic, charisma, a special quality and from that moment on he was my hero. And though I appeared on the same bill seven years later in the 1961 Royal Variety Show, I never did get the chance to speak to him.”
A Guid Scotch Night
Andy also popped up on the 1964 edition of Christmas Night with the Stars for the BBC, visiting several hundred airmen stationed at the RAF’s most northerly home posting Saxa Vord on the far flung island of Unst. With winds regularly recorded at 100 knots, Ian Powrie recalled the making of the broadcast:
“Accompanied by a camera team we boarded an R.A.F. Transport plane at Turnhouse bound for Shetland. On arrival we were bundled into a bus and driven through the island. Then we boarded a boat and sailed to the island of Yell, where another bus was waiting. Through Yell we went and onto another boat to take us to Unst. Eventually we reached our destination and after a lengthy rehearsal taped a wonderful show. Of course, we had to travel back in exactly the same fashion. After all that our show yielded only two minutes of film for the ‘spectacular’.”
Christmas Night With The Stars (BBC 1964)
Broadcast on Friday 25 December 1964. Jack Warner introduces Andy Stewart with Ian Powrie & his Band.
Bluebells Are Ringing On Broadway
Andy was invited to appear on what was probably the most popular television show in America: The Ed Sullivan Show (Toast of the Town) from New York on February 25th 1968. Whilst making light of the kilt, his mimicry was showcased to the audience’s delight by impersonating Dean Martin, then turning in an excellent performance of his single Soldier Boy. Andy described the host as a very “remote” person, who acted more like an overseer of the action rather than the genial host. He was also surprised at the size of the studio.
The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS 1968)
“It was a very tiny theatre.
You were all glassed in with cameras surrounding you. The audience was sort of separated from you, but still it was a big thrill.”
“I remember the first time I went to Hollywood; I did see one or two well known, very famous people. I was awestruck. I met people like, Bob Hope and George Burns. I was asked to wear my kilt and play a round of golf at Hollywood’s most exclusive club with Danny Kaye. Harry Lauder’s brother-in-law George Vallance arranged the match.
That morning, I was up at the crack of dawn, dressed in the kilt and rarin’ to go… it was a perfect morning, blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Nor were my golf partners. By lunch-time they still hadn’t appeared. I finally contacted George Vallance… and found him sweltering in the sun. It was 105 degrees in the shade! I was so keyed-up about the match I hadn’t even noticed the heat… which was too great even for a game of golf!”
The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas
Another Hollywood star Andy created an impression on was the American singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality Sophie Tucker famous for her powerful delivery of comical and risqué songs:
“We were all backstage, waiting to go on for the Royal Variety finale line up.
There was Bob Hope, Sophie Tucker and a whole load of stars in between… then there was me.
Sophie Tucker drawled: “Has anyone got a cigarette?” No-one had because they were all in stage gear… but I had mine in my sporran. Only instead of gallantly passing along the packet, I delved into the sporran, extracted one solitary fag and passed it along. By the time it got through all the stars it must have been a tatty looking smoke.
I started to blush from my shoes to my neck and as Bob handed it to Sophie he said, “Well, it took it’s time but the Scotsman came through!”
Sophie asked me to compere a show she was doing in Glasgow. She gave me a lot of advice, taught me how to take my time and ‘make friends’ with the audience. Then she asked to meet my wife Sheila.
She asked how long we’d been married, how many children we had and when Sheila replied “Five”, Sophie told her “You… I can teach nothin’.”
The Maple And The Thistle
In 1976 Andy would star in a lavish Canadian production centering on the cultural connections between Scotland and Canada. Actor Jack Whyte who played Robert Burns remembered the TV “SuperSpecial”:
“CBS Television had contracted to produce a 90-minute variety show starring Andy Stewart, who would fly in from Scotland for the 10 days of production involved. Catherine McKinnon, then “Canada’s Singing Sweetheart”, would be Andy’s foil, and a young tenor from Victoria, BC, Bill Hosie, would provide local west coast support. The trouble was, they didn’t have a vehicle to build the show around, and since it needed to be Scottish – to some extent at least – Jack McAndrew thought of me and of Robbie Burns. He knew I had written Rantin’, Rovin’ Robin, but now he was wondering whether I could write a TV variety show starring the aforementioned luminaries and featuring myself somehow as the ghost of Burns in a way that would pull the entire show together.
Well, we called the show The Maple and the Thistle, and it was a celebration of the Scottish influence in and on Canada. It originally had a bare-bones budget, so there was to be nothing elaborate about it, but when the production people saw the script I had come up with, they went overboard on the set. They built a Highlands hillside, complete with running stream and a thatched cottage, on one side of the studio, and the full drawing room of a Scottish baronial mansion on the other, with a magnificent fireplace on one wall and tall widows opposite it that opened out onto the hillside. The entire rear length of the studio became a street of Scottish tenements. It was a phenomenally successful show”.
The Maple & The Thistle (CBS 1976)
A clip from the 1976 “SuperSpecial”.
The Lang Road Back Hame
Back in Britain, on the 23rd May 1970 Andy appeared on the radio as the featured “castaway” on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs presented by Roy Plomley. This long running programme asks a different celebrity each week to choose his or hers favourite records to take with them to a fictional desert island. They are also “allowed” to take with them one book and one luxury item. Andy revealed a side to himself that listeners may have been surprised about through his choice of music:
- The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- The Birth of the Blues – Frank Sinatra
- Torna a Surriento – Beniamino Gigli
- Violin Concerto in E Minor – Felix Mendelssohn
- If I Loved You – Gordon MacRae
- When I Fall in Love – Nat King Cole
- Porgi, amor (from the Marriage of Figaro) – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- The Twenty-Third Psalm (The Lord’s My Shepherd) – Glasgow Orpheus Choir
For his book he chose The Collected Works of Robert Burns and for his luxury item he chose ‘writing materials’.
In 1972 Andy began work on a half-hour TV programme Scotch Corner, a show that would in many ways mirror the earlier success of The White Heather Club. The show consisted of Andy and Jimmy Blue’s Band with selected guest stars such as Lulu, George Hamilton IV and Rolf Harris.
Produced in colour by Scottish Television and directed by Andy’s friend from drama days Clarke Tait, the show was created to fill a new lunchtime slot – created by the extension of ITV broadcasting hours – beginning in October 1972 and scheduled to run for nine weeks. STV were pleasantly surprised by the high ratings for a lunchtime show and by the large number of viewer’s letters, so they began to repeat the show again at the 6:30PM “teatime” slot. It began to be networked south of the border and was then sold to New Zealand and Australia. Scotch Corner continued from its original nine-week run, becoming Britain’s most popular lunchtime programme, eventually running from 1972-1974.
This Is Your Life
On the 31st of December 1975 Andy was presenting the Hogmanay programme with Kenneth McKellar from the STV studios in Glasgow when Eamonn Andrews pounced with the “Big Red Book” informing him that This Is Your Life. Show business colleagues, family and friends all turned out to honour Andy including, most touchingly, Marilyn Fields, who appeared to thank him for visiting her as a young girl in the early sixties as she underwent one of the first “hole-in-the-heart” operations at Mearnskirk Hospital in Glasgow.
“I was awarded the freedom of Ibrox in 1960 ….
… 600,000 Catholics said they were going to burn my records on a bonfire!”
Andy Stewart MBE
To a self-confessed “Rangers-daft” fan Andy had to joke about receiving, from Glasgow Rangers Football Club, the Freedom of Ibrox. Andy was presented with many and varied accolades and awards during his career including: ‘Scottish Show Biz Discovery of the Year 1960’; presentation discs for sales of A Scottish Soldier; and an illuminated scroll and symbolic bottle of water from Campbeltown Loch, as a thank-you from the people of Campbeltown for his part in raising the profile of the town – to name but a few.
But probably the highest accolade came in 1976. For his work in the theatre Andy was awarded the MBE from Her Majesty the Queen. He received his investiture at Buckingham Palace, and in his honour a small orchestra had been setup in the balcony and the band played a medley of his hits to the waiting families in the relative’s room. Being awarded the MBE for “services to theatre” was surely one of his proudest achievements given his obvious love of the stage:
“The stage itself is light… wonderful… beautiful… home. You, however, are in the wings. You are moving about in that darkened area, stumbling over props, tripping over scenery, bumping into each other and frightened that you have forgotten your lines. There is confusion and turmoil. But the moment you step into the light, it doesn’t matter what the scuffling was before you got to stage-centre. It only matters that you are home again.”
Royal Variety Performance (BBC 1978)
Andy Stewart with Moira Anderson, The Band & Pipes & Drums of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Scottish Ballet.
By the mid-seventies Andy had surely achieved and to an extent surpassed his hopes and ambitions. He had achieved tremendous popularity making successful television programmes, selling millions of records and filling theatres all over the world and had been awarded the royal stamp of approval, but now, at home in Scotland, a change had begun and a cold wind was blowing in from the North Sea.