WHEN the BBC’s Six Five Special rolled into the Kelvin Hall 60 years ago, it was at the vanguard of both popular music and television for young people.

The show from Glasgow – as part of the Scottish Radio and Television Exhibition on Saturday, May 25, 1957 – was the first time the programme, which had launched three months earlier, had been broadcast from outside London.

However, a quick scan of the line-up – which featured Lita Roza, The Clyde Valley Stompers, Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group, David Hughes, The Burt Twins and Jimmy Logan – shows just how slowly rock’n’roll was being integrated on to the television schedules.

The excitement and energy of the genre was still being met with a mix of resistance and derision by journalists, venue owners and some in television. In this context, the Six Five Special, was genuinely trailblazing.

Some dancing sessions at the Locarno and the popularity of the films Blackboard Jungle and Rock Around the Clock in 1956 were the first indicators that something was afoot in Glasgow, but such congregations of young people inevitably drew disapproval from the authorities.

The dancing was a particular problem. John Dunsmore, the general manager of Glasgow Corporation’s Halls’ Department, told the Melody Maker that "this kind of dancing cannot do us any good", and duly prevented any such activity taking place in their venues.

It was left to the privately-owned ballrooms, variety theatres and cinemas to offer a platform for rock’n’roll to take hold, reaching something of a crescendo when Bill Haley and His Comets performed to some 6000 fans over two nights at the Odeon Cinema in February 1957.

On such occasions, the media found itself unsure as to how to respond. Recognising the news story, but barely grasping the context, the Evening Times sent two journalists to see Haley. Jack House proclaimed it "a second-rate affair", while another reporter, Jim Macdougall, grudgingly admitted that "the Comets are excellent musicians", but confidently concluded that "rock’n’roll will soon burn itself out".

Fortunately, Jack Good, a recently appointed BBC producer, did not share his prognosis.

In the same month that Haley played Glasgow, he launched Six Five Special in a Saturday teatime slot that had previously been known as the toddlers’ truce, when television stopped broadcasting to allow parents to put young children to bed.

Seeking to fill the time with a music magazine programme aimed at young people he was met with resistance from inside the Corporation.

Prior to this, both the BBC and ITV, which was yet to launch in Scotland, had sought to produce programmes featuring music that directly appealed to teenagers, but had done so in a tentative and unconvincing manner. For the most part, this amounted to slots on endless variety shows, with crooners, big bands and classical music making up the bulk of the music output.

As conceptualised by Good, Six Five Special would have changed all that. Yet, as the Glasgow outing illustrated, it was more conservative and traditional in both content and style than he originally envisaged.

Jeff Evans, the author of the recently published Rock and Pop on British Television, is however in no doubt as to the importance of Good’s contribution to popular music on television.

"Six Five Special was the first show to really give teenagers of the fifties the music they wanted to watch and listen to," he says. "Elvis had his first hits in 1956 and none of the excitement of that had been captured on television. Of course, it wasn’t just a rock’n’roll show, but rock’n’roll was by far the most exciting element."

The tension between the various elements that made up the show were a recurring theme during its short spell on the schedules. The final show went out on Saturday, December 27, 1958, by which time Good was long gone and had set up a more daring and successful rival, Oh Boy, for ITV that went out in the same timeslot.

Good’s exuberance and enthusiasm for rock’n’roll was, as Evans put it, "reined in" by others within the BBC, keen to uphold the Reithian values of educating and informing as well as merely entertaining. Consequently, Six Five Special featured comedy, sports, features and short films as well as musical performances of all varieties.

Good’s co-producer was Josephine (Jo) Douglas, who was also one of the two hosts of the show. "If Good broke the BBC rules and pushed things forwards," says Evans, "then Douglas was much more likely to toe the line. She got the job on Six Five Special because she was one of the youngest producers at the BBC at the time."

This meant a certain creative tension not just between producers Douglas and Good, but also between her and co-host Pete Murray, the Radio Luxembourg DJ, whose audition was deemed better than the other candidate for the job, Sean Connery.

"Good exploited the fact that Douglas was also a presenter," says Evans. "It meant that he could get away with things because it was a live show and she was tied up with the demands of being on camera."

Initially, they co-produced each show, though by the time of the 15th weekly show at the Kelvin Hall, they were taking turns to produce it, with Douglas in charge for the visit to Glasgow.

All the previous episodes had been filmed in London at either the Lime Grove or Riverside Studios, but the move towards outside broadcasts around the country was prompted by pragmatic concerns rather than a desire for geographic diversity. Quite simply, when the studios were booked for other programmes, Six Five Special had to find an alternative home.

The complex logistics of the Glasgow show were largely taken care of by Douglas and Ronnie Lane, who served both as her production assistant and floor manager on the day.

While Douglas worked with agents to procure the service of the show’s headline acts – Roza, Logan and the tenor David Hughes, Lane co-ordinated the local element of the show, notably the sports section and organised the studio audience and dancers.

For the former, Lane recruited members of the Scottish Archery Centre in Ayr for a feature on the sport, which was hosted by the former boxer, Freddie Mills. The dancers came from Glasgow Rock’n’Roll Sinners dance club, while 100 complimentary audience tickets were handed out by the production team on the day to those who had applied.

The outside broadcast created some particular problems, not least keeping within the weekly budget of £1000. This was not helped by the decision that there were no suitable bands in Scotland to act as the house band on the show.

This was resolved by calling in the 12-piece Eric Delaney Band, who were, in relative terms, broadcasting veterans.

A prior engagement on the Friday evening meant that they were not able to take the overnight train with their fellow performers and instead the band and their equipment were flown from London on the Saturday morning before a station wagon took them to the Kelvin Hall.

Those on the train went straight to breakfast at the Central Hotel at 9.30am, before they joined Delaney’s band for rehearsals at the venue.

All concerned did their best to represent the out of the ordinary surroundings to the rest of the UK. Not only did this involve Jimmy Logan and the first television appearance for the Clyde Valley Stompers, but a doubtless questionable rendition of Scotland The Brave by Delaney and the acquisition of tartan trimmings (in respective clan colours) for Douglas and Murray. Perhaps luckily for all concerned, no recordings, of either the audio or visual variety, were made for posterity.

The proceedings went out live in the show’s usual slot between 6.05pm and 6.50pm. In just 45 minutes this included eight acts, a dozen songs, some archery, a clip of Elvis performing Love Me Tender and a Jimmy Logan routine that had him dressed as a teddy boy.

If the latter were the most rock’n’roll elements of the entire event, then the aftermath of Six Five Special’s visit to Glasgow at least suggested some changes in both attitudes to the music itself and within the music and television industries.

The show was praised in the Evening Times which nationalistically proclaimed that the aforementioned "local talent more than held its own with anything that had been put on from London."

And for the Clyde Valley Stompers, it marked new-found popularity. The band’s trombonist, Ian Menzies, was reported later that week to be "opening mailbags in the mornings, answering letters in the afternoons and playing gigs at night."

Jo Douglas complimented the city and Six Five Special returned for two further shows over the next year from Warren’s Albert Ballroom on Bath Street.

Against the odds, rock’n’roll itself and as a televisual media survived. Six Five Special, and its trip to Glasgow turned out to be at the start, not the end of the journey.