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Hamp, John

Producer, Director, Presenter

Main image of Hamp, John

The colourful television career of producer Johnnie Hamp - with the Granada Group for over 30 years, most of that time as Granada TV's Head of Light Entertainment - displays an impressive range of associations, from the early days of The Beatles to the later days of Spike Milligan, while taking in such illustrious names as Count Basie, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, and Lisa Stansfield along the way.

He trained as a Granada cinema manager in Kingston, moving to the Group's flagship venue at Tooting to handle a 1953 Frank Sinatra concert. He pioneered Granada's policy of putting on one-night-stand tours, featuring performers of the period such as Max Bygraves, Winifred Atwell, and Cliff Richard.

Retaining his responsibilities for film publicity and stage show management, Hamp was in at the beginning of Granada's television activity in 1956, finding celebrities for the panel game My Wildest Dream (ITV, 1956-57) and guest stars for variety showcase Chelsea at Nine (ITV, 1957-60).

Granada chairman Sidney Bernstein soon saw Hamp's potential as a producer, sending him to do quiz shows Make Up Your Mind (a guess-the-item's-value game; ITV, 1956-58), Spot the Tune (music quiz with singer Marion Ryan; ITV, 1956-63), and Criss Cross Quiz (a noughts and crosses game; ITV, 1957-67).

From 1963 he worked from Granada's new Manchester headquarters, co-producing the local news magazine programme Scene at 6.30 (Granada TV, 1963-66).

During the mid 1960s, Hamp produced a legendary series of American blues-based TV specials: Sarah Sings and Basie Swings (ITV, tx. 2/10/1963), with Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie; I Hear the Blues (ITV, tx. 18/12/1963), featuring Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Willie Dixon; It's Little Richard (ITV, tx. 8/1/1964); The Blues and Gospel Train (ITV, tx.19/8/1964), performed on a suburban station in Manchester by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Otis Spann; and A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (ITV, tx. 30/9/1964), with Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, The Animals and The Nashville Teens.

He turned to a more 'light entertainment' strand of TV special with Woody Allen (ITV, tx. 10/2/1965), the versatile comedian's second appearance on British television (after an Eamonn Andrews Show guest spot); The Bacharach Sound (ITV, tx. 14/4/1965), celebrating the work of composer-songwriter Burt Bacharach; and The Music of Lennon and McCartney (London ITV, tx. 16/12/1965, network ITV, tx. 17/12/1965), a 45-minute montage of Beatles music performed by various artists from Cilla Black to Peter Sellers.

He returned to the quiz show briefly (Criss Cross Quiz and Junior Criss Cross Quiz during 1966-67) before taking over Granada's film magazine Cinema (ITV, 1964-75) in 1969, at that time presented by Michael Parkinson.

Hamp's success with Granada Television as its Light Entertainment chief reached its peak when he produced The Comedians (ITV, 1971-85; 1992), a non-stop torrent of stand-up jokes performed by social club circuit comedians - Frank Carson, Ken Goodwin, Bernard Manning, Charlie Williams, and Mike Reid among them - many of whom went on to successful careers in their own right. The hugely popular series also spun off the Hamp-produced specials: It's Ken Goodwin (ITV, tx. 27/12/1971), It's Charlie Williams (ITV, tx. 22/7/1972), and It's Mike Reid (ITV, tx. 9/8/1973).

Extending the enormous success of The Comedians, Hamp followed with a sequel: The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (ITV, 1974-77). Preserving the ambience and the spirit of a northern working man's club (the supping of beer and general air of mateyness), and featuring Colin Crompton as the club chairman and Bernard Manning as compere, the series was (as one critic observed happily) 'the most convivial phenomenon of an unconvivial period'.

Under his production, and with Granada's blessing, other popular, middle-of-the-road variety show packages followed - Paul Daniels' Blackpool Bonanza (ITV, 1978), before the illusionist was snatched up by BBC TV; Fully Licensed for Singing and Dancing (ITV, 1980); The Video Entertainers (ITV, 1981-82); and I Feel Fine (ITV, 1986-87) - including a barely toned-down concert performance by The Outrageous Millie Jackson (ITV, tx. 30/5/1983).

In 1987, Hamp left Granada and set up his own independent production company, John Hamp Enterprises, to produce programmes for Granada and the cable-satellite Superchannel. He used this post-Granada 'retirement' to take up his love of oil painting, and his works are now in great demand.

Tise Vahimagi

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Comedians, The (1971-93)Comedians, The (1971-93)

Long-running, notoriously non-PC showcase for veteran stand-up acts

Thumbnail image of Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-77)Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-77)

Variety show modelled on the working men's club scene

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Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Granada TelevisionGranada Television

Broadcaster, Production Company