For millions of Australians over the age of 35, you only need to start humming or singing a few bars of All My Loving and they will quickly join in with you, or say, “Hey, that’s from Young Talent Time!” For over 18 years, Johnny Young and Young Talent Time was beamed into our lounge rooms on a Saturday evening, making great family viewing.
As part of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Johnny Young will be here with a line-up of past performers from Young Talent Time for a 50th Anniversary Reunion Special. I recently spoke to Johnny about the show, and where the idea came from for Young Talent Time.
“I was 24 when Young Talent Time started in April 1971. The show I used to watch as a kid on the telly was The Mickey Mouse Club, and that had such a great feel about it. My business partner and I at the time were producing some programs for Channel 0-10. They were having huge problems combating the footy replays on the weekends. There was no live footy back then except for the grand finals. They asked us to pitch a show, so I dug out a rough idea I had, based on the concepts of The Mickey Mouse Club. They gave us a four-week contract and gave it a go. It was very much the opposite of footy. We had some terrific kids initially, including Jane Scali, who will be joining me in Adelaide, and Philip Gould. They were just terrific. From the very first week Young Talent Time went to air, it won the ratings. So, I wound up with a four-year contract instead of a four-week one, and then it went on for 18 years. It wasn’t part of the plan, it just kept going. We had 40 kids in total over the whole time of Young Talent Time. The kids would stay with us for 6 or 7 years. Tina Arena started with us when she was 8 or 9, then left when she turned 17. The same with Dannii Minogue. There were several generations, and this performance coming to Adelaide as part of the Cabaret Festival has performers from across the years of the show. It was just a wonderful experience for me. I was raising my own family at the time, so it was very different from my rock’n’roll years where I was writing songs and involved with that scene. I just loved it and I feel very fortunate that I still can walk down the street and people might not remember my name, but they will start singing “All My Loving” to me.”
Young Talent Time ran for over 18 years. I was curious to hear if Johnny ever thought it would be the success it turned out to be.
“No, no, we had no idea. I was working on the radio in the mornings and writing songs. In 1969 and 1970 I had five number 1 songs on the charts that I wrote, so I still had one foot in the rock’n’roll business, with songs like ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘The Girl That I Loved’ for Russell Morris and ‘The Star’ for Ross D. Wyllie. They were all number 1 hits and gold records. I was doing Young Talent Time for a bit of fun. It kept kicking on and going and going, four-year contract after four-year contract. Channel 0-10 loved it because it was reliable. We had a lot of big guests on as well, like Graham Kennedy, but the key to Young Talent Time was the closing song ‘All My Loving’. It was that getting together with all the kids at the end and it was a wonderful family feeling. That was the key. Some viewers would just tune in to watch that at the end. Once the kids turned 17, they went on to other careers, like Dannii and Tina. It was a wonderful learning experience for them all. These days you pay a lot of money to do university courses to learn the things they learned about on Young Talent Time: camera work, harmony singing, all the things that go with show business. It was then natural for those kids to go on and be in show biz, either in front of the camera or behind it.”
Here we are 50 years later, and the show still holds a special place in so many people’s lives. Audiences attending this anniversary special will be treated to a trip down memory lane.
“It’s a cross section of the kids, now adults. Sadly, we couldn’t have all 40 of them. It includes original team members up until some of the last. We have some great footage of them, which we will show. We will reminisce with them, and then they will perform with a live band. It’s going to be Young Talent Time, but with an audience. It will have the same spirit as the telly show. We’ve been working very hard to put it together. The kids are excited we are doing it. The audience will be a cross section of people who were parents when the show was on or kids who watched it with their families on Saturday nights. Lots of reminiscing, watching clips and singing songs; it’s going to be wonderful.”
Young Talent Time – 50th Anniversary Reunion Special will be part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for one night only. Saturday 19 June, 7.30pm on the Festival Theatre Stage. Tickets can be purchased through bass or the Cabaret Festival website: https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/young-talent-time-50th-anniversary-reunion-special/
Interview by Ben Stefanoff